Remote work has become the norm thanks to COVID-19, and the pivot is accelerating the adoption of a fairly new job title for several companies, including Facebook: director of remote work. The position at Facebook is designed to support CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to allow employees to continue to work from home through Summer 2021 and his pledge to have half of the company’s global workforce working remotely within the next 5 to 10 years.
The job isn’t entirely new. In 2019, before the pandemic, tech company GitLab hired Darren Murph to be its head of remote, helping manage the employee experience for its entirely remote workforce. Since the pandemic, Murph has been advising other companies on designing successful remote working arrangements, including Facebook.
“Darren Murph has been a good adviser to us,” says Brynn Harrington, vice president of people growth at Facebook. “He’s helped us consider what steps we need to take for our staff to make the shift.”
And the responsibility of executing the shift will fall into the lap of the new director. According to the job ad: “The Director of Remote Work will be a strategic thinker who understands distributed and virtual teams, an outstanding relationship builder, and a change agent. Our ideal candidate is someone who can collaboratively build on and evolve our remote workforce strategy with a passion and proven acumen for experience design, process excellence and change management.”
Requirements for the position include:
- 15+ years of experience leading people teams, remote workforce, HR business partner, or people operations
- Demonstrated results building and sustaining complex cross-functional relationships
- Experience with strategy development, program design/management, and change management
- Experience thinking creatively and prototyping new ideas
- Experience operating in a matrix and constantly changing environment
- And a BA/BS degree or equivalent HR work experience
“We expect offices to continue to be important from a talent perspective,” Harrington says. “But remote is an important part of the future, too. We’re looking for the person with influence, skills, and experience who can help us pivot the company. When we think about the transformation to remote, it’s a wholesale shift in how we run.”
Harrington expects to have someone hired by the end the year, and speed is important. “Our remote transformation is well underway,” she says. “Individual teams are working independently and determining what it looks like to work remotely. Our concern is that we’re at risk of not designing a unified connected Facebook experience.”
Designing for Inclusion
Facebook wants all employees—whether they’re on campus or working remotely—to have the same employee experience.
“The remote experience should be the Facebook experience,” Harrington says. “We need people to be successful whether they’re at the office or not. We need to be able to enable teams to work connected in a unified experience. This person will be responsible for defining what it will look like to work at Facebook, leading a broad transformation of culture.”
While employees who are working remotely may need the most guidance and help feeling connected, Harrington notes that companies need to think about those employees working on campus as well. “We know we can’t just design a remote experience and leave the office as it was,” she says. “We need to help people be successful where they are. As we define the employee experience for a remote future, we’re discovering that this approach uses a lot of the same things we use when we design for inclusion—rigorous career conversations, an understanding of what employees need, and a more structured approach.”
Will Director of Remote Work Become a Trend?
Arran Stewart, CEO of Job.com, expects it will. “I see a shift toward hiring remote specialists, those know who know how to manage and get the most effectiveness out of remote teams,” he says. “Several Silicon Valley and Bay Area tech companies are pledging to work from home until at least through next summer, and some, like Microsoft, have said their employees never have to return. It doesn’t detract from the fact that these companies need leadership to get the best out of those teams.”
Yet while the job title may be new, Stewart says that in a way, the role is not. “Many companies already manage offshore tech teams,” he says. “But the position Facebook is creating takes it to a new level of responsibility and organization and structure. I definitely expect other companies to follow suit with similar titles. It will likely cascade down into other sectors, but tech often leads the way and is the most reactive with other industries following their lead.”