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New roles created by the remote work movement

"Only a third of remote workers reported that their organization does a solid job of alligning work across projects. This shows that there is deep sattisfaction in what the future could be in terms of added freedom, flexibility and autonomy on an individual level, but the organizations haven't cought up. They're still embracing an older way of working, with the infrastructure still there to support primarily co-located, more rigid and a more linear type of workday." - Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab
Particularly over the last year, we’ve seen the emergence of key new roles in remote companies, whose main responsibilities revolve around the remote working environment. These changes have only been catapulted by the recent pandemic that forced companies working in a more traditional manner to join, at least temporarily, this new way of working.
In this week’s article, we’ve decided to pay homage to the remote work movement and take a closer look at some of the jobs that might not be here without it.

Head of Culture

When GitLab conducted their 2021 Remote Work Report, it showed that 34% of remote workers are concerned about their ability to collaborate effectively in a distributed environment. A lot of these worries come down to company culture and how well it helped employees feel like they are a part of the workplace community, despite being hundreds of miles away from other team members.
A lot of this responsibility filters down to the Head of Culture, the person who needs to make sure that strategies, ideas, and initiatives align with a company’s overall mission while also ensuring employees feel a sense of belonging and connection in their role. 

What does a Head of Culture do?

The Head of Culture role varies from company to company; some solely focus on the team's well-being and development, while others might work more with brand development and design. Here’s a quick look at what a Head of Culture might be aiming for in their everyday tasks:
  • Defining and maintaining a company’s culture and values
  • Contribute to the creation of an environment that fosters happiness, creativity, and productivity
  • Promote a positive working environment and effectively communicate the company culture to new and existing employees
  • Learn from the past and plan for the future by identifying strengths and weaknesses in current processes.
We chatted with Adrian Salazar, the Head of Culture at SafetyWing, about the work he's doing with our fully remote team (or as he likes to say: "Help every bird fly where they want to go"):
"In my opinion, there are three critical aspects to creating and maintaining ideal company culture:
- Focus on truly meaningful work - have a mission that resonates with people by presenting a higher purpose and working towards a good cause. - To distill our worldview into a set of fundamental, truthful, implementable values to shape our environment and relationships so they are conducive to happiness, creativity, and productivity. - Hire people that are naturally and comfortably a good fit - candidates that believe in the mission and values of the company.
My job is to make sure that the path from person to meaning is accessible, clear, and well lit. It's fantastic to experience how our shared mission - and purpose - connects everyone and predisposes us to be open and positive with each other. The biggest challenge when creating company culture is not to fear being idealistic, but at the same time, to be able to live up to those ideals. The only meaningful way to spread culture is by leading by example."
Recommended reads from Adrian: "What you do is who you are" by Ben Horowitz, 'Originals" by Adam Grant and "The Infinite Game" by Simon Sinek.

Head of Remote 

Coined by Gitlab’s Darren Murph, Head of Remote has become a trending role for remote companies in the last couple of years. While its exact responsibilities are hard to pin down, a Head of Remote is responsible for ensuring that a company’s remote operations run smoothly. The position covers anything from improving the hiring process for a distributed team to designing a framework for effective communication within the company. You might also find this role referred to as “Director of Remote Work”, “Remote Communications Manager”, or sometimes “Remote Operations Manager.
Let’s take a quick look at some responsibilities you might expect to have as a Head of Remote:
  • Implementing remote work strategies, policies and standards to ensure a remote-first work structure
  • Cultivating a healthy remote company culture 
  • Implementing appropriate feedback mechanisms with the team
  • Define and deliver a new workplace experience in a remote working or hybrid environment
  • Hire and onboard the best remote talent
  • Update business processes to reflect a remote working environment, addressing key areas such as hiring processes, employee benefits and company culture.

What skills do you need to become Head of Remote?

The Head of Remote role combines the ability to ensure the internal workings of a remote team are running as they should while also supporting employees. You might see some of these essential skills on a job advert:
  • Effective communicator both in-person and online
  • Compassionate and understanding (check out this article on Compassion vs. Empathy)
  • Ready to take feedback and solve new and un-heard of problems
  • A visionary who is innovative, versatile and can successfully improve the workplace environment.
It seems like many of the big tech companies have adopted the role of Head of Remote since 2019. Just a few you may have heard of include Facebook, GitLab, Quora, Stripe and AngelList.

Head of Global Benefits

The recent pandemic concretely pointed out the support systems lacking for remote teams that traditional companies are naturally able to offer: health insurance, pension, maternity leave and more. As more companies switch to remote, we need to make sure that remote work is truly available to everyone, and that the employees are treated equally.
Distributed teams need the same essential benefits as traditional employees. However, remote companies operate differently and there isn't always a clear solution to providing them with benefits, which is why many companies are choosing to bring in a Head of Global Benefits to help.
For example, Bruce Gilbert, Global Compensation and Benefits Manager at Remote, shared how much thought it went into providing health insurance to everyone in their distributed team:
Our theory was, if we provide X amount of dollars as a stipend, we're treating everybody equally. But we’re actually not, because that $700 doesn't go as far if they live in the US vs. somewhere cheap, and it doesn't go nearly as far for me if I'm not in my thirties. So in an attempt to find equality, what we had was a very unequal system. And the first thing I did when I got on board was say: we're not going to do this. We're going to have standard group benefits. We have a large enough headcount of employees to be able to do that. We have things that are universal.
The need for these benefits to be global and accessible to everyone is extremely prevalent. This is the idea behind Remote Health that helped Bruce onboard their entire distributed team under one plan, offering them fully equipped health insurance no matter where they are in the world.
A few other things a Head of Global Benefits might be involved in include:
  • Remote training and development to aid employee progression
  • Wellness packages that range from gym membership to access to mental health therapy
  • Holiday benefits tend to change when someone works remotely, and remote companies are known for offering a better work-life balance for employees
  • Working from home stipends like a one-off grant to help employees to set up a home office or a co-working membership.

What skills do you need to become Head of Global Benefits?

Every company functions differently, but these are some key skills you might need to be a great fit for this role:
  • Ability to analyse and evaluate data and draw best practices from this for benefits programs, policies and procedures
  • Ensuring legal compliance of compensation programs in the countries that they apply
  • Supporting and working with the HR team across promotion, hires and market adjustments.

Community Designer

Since the popularity of online communities has surged in recent years, so too have the job roles that come along with this new space. Brands have been using online communities as an extra marketing tool, giving customers a better user experience and using feedback from these communities to lead product growth.
So, where does a Community Designer come in?
A Community Designer helps you structure your online community to keep engagement high and user-experience positive. It involves everything from the way that the community is laid out on a platform to the content that you’ll be delivering each week. A Community Designer creates the formula for setting up a community that delivers on both user and brand intent in a simple, straightforward way. 

What does a Community Designer actually do?

As a relatively new role, the exact responsibilities of a Community Designer are still up for discussion. However, if you’re the type of person who loves making a role you’re own, then this one’s for you. Here are a few things you might expect to do on a day-to-day basis:
  • Ensure that the online community aligns with the company's mission & values and serves the people it intends to
  • Provide concrete value to the members of the community
  • Plan, design, and implement the structure of the online community, so it contributes to a positive user experience while also encouraging engagement
  • Produce a yearly strategy that addresses weekly or monthly changes, including seasonal themes, important announcements or content
  • Curate member experiences like onboarding posts and community moderation. 
Gina Bianchini, the CEO of Mighty Networks reached out to tell us about their Community Designer Masterclass with 5000 graduates in the past year!
"It's not community management with a fancier name — it's about designing a community with an intention, a big purpose, and an ideal member and structure that creates self-organization in a way that's totally different from what we've seen in the past.
We've taught over 5000 students in the Masterclass over 18 live cohorts. As to what's next, we've proven that Community Design as a framework, a function, and a professional path is so much bigger than Mighty Networks alone. So we're excited to reimagine our Masterclass with that framing in mind."

Remote Consultant

The sudden switch to remote exposed a lot of the issues that come with remote work. Many companies were hoping to get by and simply survive the hardships of last year before they can go back to the office and to their previous work day structures. But the reality is, the workplace has to change.
Gitlab's 2021 Remote Work Report showed that 52% of remote workers would consider leaving their co-located company for a remote role, and 1 in 3 of them would quit their job if the company stopped supporting remote work. Simply going back to the office is not an option anymore. The employees are demanding more flexibility and autonomy. The role of a Remote Consultant can help with the mindset shift that traditional companies need from a highly supervised and rigid 9-5 structure to a system that works better for their employees.
Some companies are adopting a hybrid remote work approach, while others are switching to remote work indefinitely: some even rewriting their policies to accommodate a fully location-independent lifestyle for their employees. While many companies will go back to the office once that becomes safe, they all have the opportunity to implement what working remotely taught us about productivity, work-life balance, motivation and employee happiness.
So, how can a Remote Consultant help?
Remote consulting will be a big part of the post-pandemic consulting scene. The role will be tailored to what each company needs from the person they are hiring to help them with anything from:
  • Switching the various aspects of their operation to function remotely
  • Improving their employee's productivity and efficiency
  • Improving HR and hiring procedures
  • Evaluating data management and communication systems.
These are especially valuable for teams that are partly remote - companies need to make sure their co-located teams have systems set up to communicate with parts of the team that are working remotely.
Pilar Orti, Remote Consultant from Virtually not Distant.

What’s next for the remote work movement?

The working world has changed more than we were prepared for in the last year. More of us are embracing the idea of remote teams, companies are opening their eyes to the possibility of a wholly distributed workforce, and new and obscure roles are cropping up regularly. But the remote work revolution is only just beginning, and there’s plenty more to come our way. This newfound shift in working patterns is more than likely to create a surge of roles that simply have never been necessary before.

If you are one of the pioneers of your role created by the remote work movement, please let us know! We'd love to include you.

About the author

Lily Jones

Guest Writer
A Lil Guide to a Long Road
Lily Jones is a freelance travel writer and copywriter currently living in London, UK. Starting with a charity expedition through Mexico and Belize at the age of 16, her love for travel and exploration of different cultures only continued to grow and influence her life and work. She managed to turn her lifelong passion into a full-time job — creating travel content and publishing travel guidebooks while staying on the road and working remotely.