Do You Need a Head of Remote Work?

Whether your business needs a Head of Remote or not depends on factors like the size and culture of your company, and how ready you are to make the shift to a remote-first approach.

7 min readMay 6, 2022
Illustration commissioned for this piece and created by Voyager Illustration

As more companies consider adopting remote work permanently, the need for someone with specialized skills to lead these initiatives has emerged. This person would create and implement remote strategies within the business. They can help with anything from onboarding to team building to IT policies.

Companies that adopted remote work as a result of the pandemic may have done so in a rush. There would not have been any procedures in place. Remote work would have been adopted out of necessity with processes being ‘worked out’ along the way. For many companies, remote work was merely a temporary solution and they are now returning to the office.

But those organizations that saw the many benefits of remote work are now looking to create permanent policies and, in some cases, adopt a remote-first approach to working. Hiring a Head of Remote Work (also known as a Head of Remote, or Remote Lead) could be the solution to this problem.

What are the responsibilities of a Head of Remote Work?

GitLab defines the Head of Remote as an internal consultant responsible for setting the tone for cultural and behavioral shifts when adopting remote work permanently. Under this definition, the role is seen as transitional in nature.

Remote work comes with many potential advantages but if there is no one responsible for its effective implementation, a disjointed culture lacking clarity may be the result.

This is where the Head of Remote comes in. They can help create and implement a cohesive remote work strategy that allows employees to work effectively in distributed teams. This could include asynchronous working, policies around hybrid working, policies around hiring internationally, and even IT policies around keeping company information secure.

In practice, developing a working remote strategy includes several important aspects, such as:

  • Providing training to senior members of staff about managing remote teams and navigating hiring and promotions in a remote setting
  • Ensuring remote workers are not disadvantaged if the company still has an office and in-office teams
  • Ensuring remote workers and hybrid workers have an effective and secure workspace to conduct their work in comfort and securely

These initial bigger picture details will form the bedrock for the company’s future remote-first approach.

The Head of Remote’s role will likely progress as the company adopts remote-first or hybrid policies fully. They will need to think about developing successful onboarding and training strategies for new recruits as well as current employees and managers. Onboarding and training look different in a remote-first environment, and it will be up to the Head of Remote to implement effective policies that ensure employees do not fall behind when it comes to professional development and career progression opportunities.

What are the benefits of having a Head of Remote work in your organization?

Having a Head of Remote in your organization can bring many benefits. Firstly, having someone in charge of overseeing the company’s remote work policy ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to working remotely. Whether you have employees who work from home full-time, or those who only occasionally need to conduct meetings or complete tasks remotely, this individual can help to provide guidance and structure for remote employees.

Furthermore, a Head of Remote can be instrumental in fostering collaboration and communication within your team. By drawing on their experience and expertise with working remotely, they can create opportunities for team members to connect, share ideas, and support one another even when they are not working face-to-face.

And most importantly, having a Head of Remote ensures that the company has a dedicated resource to create a remote work strategy and steer the team through a time of transition. While switching to remote work may be seen as a positive by team members, there will always be some resistance and unconscious bias that will need to address.

So if you want your company to thrive in a rapidly changing remote landscape, having a Head of Remote Work at the helm might be a good idea.

Does your business need a Head of Remote Work?

The pandemic has forced many businesses to confront the reality of working remotely. For some companies, this transition has been relatively smooth. However, others have struggled to adapt to the new reality.

Whether your business needs a Head of Remote or not depends on factors like the size and culture of your company, and how ready you are to make the shift to a remote-first approach.

Companies that have always been remote-first, or new companies that are just starting out and are planning to adopt remote work from the outset may just need to hire a remote-friendly HR lead who can steer the company in the right direction as part of their general duties.

But if you have a deeply entrenched office culture, it might make more sense to hire someone who can work with you long-term to shift your culture to remote-first. This would be someone who can build and implement the right remote work strategy for the company.

This person would need to monitor how employees are handling the shift to remote-first and tweak the strategy as necessary, with the understanding that this is a long-term project. In effect, the Head of Remote helps companies effectively transition to a remote-first approach.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to hire a head of remote work depends on the specific needs of the company.

How to hire the right person for the job

Finding the right Head of Remote could be challenging. This is an emerging position and companies won’t always be able to hire someone who has already worked in the same role before. And, since organizations have different needs when it comes to remote work strategy, simply hiring someone who has implemented remote work elsewhere may not be enough.

Transferable skills

Companies would do well to hire for the transferable skills and experience that they need, rather than focusing on the job title. For instance, while some companies may need help with figuring out their recruitment and onboarding in the remote workspace, others may need more help with long-term strategies and operations. Both of these issues can be solved by a Head of Remote Work, but they will require different skillsets and experience.

Leadership and change management

The Head of Remote should ideally have strong leadership skills as they will be responsible for guiding other team members and directing strategy in a remote environment. A background in change management is key too, as the Head of Remote will need to oversee the transition to a remote-first approach.

They should also have some knowledge and experience with HR and operations, since these aspects may take on greater importance in a distributed setting.

Prior experience in a remote work setting

Experience in a remote work setting is desirable too, and it would be preferable for the Head of Remote to show evidence of implementing remote work strategies successfully previously.

If, for example, the Head of Remote worked in an HR position at a remote company, this could suggest they have the knowledge to create remote work strategies in their new workplace.

Intercultural competence and interpersonal skills

Intercultural competence and excellent interpersonal skills are key here too. If the company is going to be hiring globally, someone who can maintain strong relationships and build culturally sensitive policies for employees around the world would be a huge asset.

Finding a Head of Remote Work will require some creativity and willingness to take calculated risks when it comes to hiring new talent for an untested position. With the right approach, however, companies can successfully recruit someone who has the necessary skillset.

Head of Remote Work: how your company could benefit

As the growth of remote work continues and more companies embrace flexible and distributed approaches, the need for someone with specialized skills to head up remote work initiatives has emerged. This individual would be responsible for designing and implementing long-term strategies that facilitate a smooth transition from traditional office environments to remote-first cultures. Such a position may be necessary in large organizations where ingrained cultural norms can make it difficult to fully embrace remote work practices.

In addition, some companies may need to hire a Head of Remote as they attempt to optimize their operations for virtual teams. In these cases, having someone with expertise in working remotely can help design policies, procedures, and protocols that are effective across all employee groups and departments.

The Head of Remote must be an effective leader with experience in change management, and ideally, remote work. They should be able to shape and implement remote work strategies, as well as support remote workers across the globe.

Given all this, it is clear that the head of remote work position is a highly specialized role at the forefront of one of today’s most pressing workplace trends.

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