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Pandemic Fuels Interest In 'Head Of Remote Work' Role

The COVID-19 pandemic that forced companies to require staff to work from home also may lead to more employers looking to create a new human resources role focused on remote work.

Technology firms such as Facebook, Twitter, Quora and GitLab are among the first last year to establish so-called director of remote work positions during the pandemic. The emergence of the remote workplace and its popularity among many employers and workers has led some companies to create or consider establishing leadership roles dedicated to ensuring the remote work infrastructure thrives after the COVID-19 pandemice, the Star Tribune reports.

“I report to a CEO who is asking me what other companies are doing, what benchmarking is out there,” says Becky Lauseng, human resources director at the Minneapolis-based farm-management software company Conservis.

Lauseng notes that many of her human resources peers have already taken on responsibilities that would make them solid candidates for director of remote work positions. These include:

  • HR collaborating with real estate units to talk about possibly downsizing office space
  • Becoming familiar with potential tax ramifications of hiring remote workers in different states and countries
  • Working with IT departments to ensure a smoother transition to remote work

“We've always been viewed as a support function,” Lauseng says. “I think the pandemic has given HR professionals increased job security. They have a more strategic role in how this is going to play out.”

Minneapolis-headquartered Target Corporation in March announced it was shutting down one of its downtown locations in the city, KSTP reports. It noted its employees’ success at working remotely meant it did not need as much space. “In just one year we've proven that we can drive incredible results, together, from our kitchens and basements and living rooms,” Melissa Kremer, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for the retail giant, wrote to employees in an email last month.

Steve Cramer, president of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, says that Target’s decision to leave its physical location is “the reality we're facing and downtown's all over the place are facing... I think it really reflects a reality that Target and many employers are going to embrace which is there will be a hybrid work model.” 

facebook 2429746 640 smallOther large companies that had earlier embraced remote working are shifting away as it becomes safer for employees to report back to the office. Google, for example, in March said it was preparing to have it employees come back to the office. But Facebook and other companies that have fully embraced remote work note that this arrangement is “the future,” BBC reports.

For Facebook employees, this means they can apply to work remotely on a permanent basis. In May last year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg predicted that half of his firm’s employees could end up working remotely over the next five to 10 years. Twitter head Jack Dorsey also endorsed remote work, having noted last year that his staff “can now work from home forever.”

Facebook’s vice president of People Growth, Brynn Harrington, says some workers have been "really thriving" from home. “For example, parents who are closer to their children and are happy to cut their commute time and optimise their work day, they're thrilled to work from home," Harrington says.

But Harrington also acknowledges the toll remote working has taken on other Facebook employees. “We have people juggling care giving responsibilities, we have people living in small apartments with roommates, those people desperately want to get back into offices, and we're working really hard to do that, as soon as it's safe to open our offices,” she says.

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