Remote work has exploded since the start of 2020 and shows no sign of slowing down.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, fully remote roles accounted for just 4% of professional jobs and today make up 15% of white-collar positions. This trend isn’t going anywhere, and by the end of 2022, it’s predicted that 25% of professional jobs in North America will be remote.
The expansion of work-from-home arrangements is mainly due to the pandemic, which initially forced firms of all sizes to trial the setup for a few months due to local and national restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
Now, many companies are headed back to the office under the guise of a hybrid work schedule, meaning that employees can split their time between their formal and home offices. Other companies are becoming more adventurous and embracing an entirely remote workforce and shedding their expensive corporate real estate in favor of Zoom rooms.
A flood of change
No matter whether a company is wholly remote or pursuing a hybrid strategy, many are still hiring for remote roles. For instance, Salesforce announced in early 2021 that though most of its workforce would return to its headquarters and satellite offices, some functions would stay remote indefinitely.
“This change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” said Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”
However, newly remote employees at some of the country’s biggest companies are finding that the freedoms they enjoyed working from anywhere over the past years are changing, even if their location isn’t. Last year, Google made headlines when it announced that employees who have moved from Silicon Valley to work remotely from less costly locales would have to take a pay cut, with deductions in the range from 5% to 25%. The policy triggered a wave of outrage from employees and even led some workers to hand in their badges.
Lessons from the pros
While the adaptation to remote work has been rocky for some, it isn’t new for all. Take GitLab, which has been fully remote since its inception in 2011, and now has more than 1,500 employees teleworking worldwide.
Among Github’s advice are tips for managing a remote team, communication strategies for addressing a dispersed workforce, and establishing a new role: Head of Remote.
A new role for a new normal
According to GitLab, a Head of Remote “ensures operational agility and durability as a workforce decouples business results from physical geography.” The role also serves as a cross-functional consultant to transform a company’s internal infrastructure and operations—from onboarding and upskilling to company events and communications—to become remote compatible.
GitLab isn’t just a champion of this new role. It’s a pioneer in the space and named Darren Murph to the position in mid-2019—well before pandemic-induced work from home mandates.
It didn’t take too long before the role spread and between August 2020 and February 2021, the number of tech companies with a designated remote work leader jumped from just 2% to 15%.
The list of tech companies that have hired a remote work professional is just as diverse as what they call the role. For instance, LinkedIn has a VP of Flex Work, Meta needed a Director of Remote Work, Dropbox named a Head of Virtual First and Twitter tapped an executive to serve as its first VP of Work Transformation.
But no matter what the role is called, the burden of making the necessary infrastructure and cultural changes can’t just be tacked on as another set of HR responsibilities; it requires someone’s full attention and demands its own position.