Examining the Need for a Chief Remote Officer in Changing Work Culture

A shift in work culture orchestrated by the global pandemic has wrought the need for a new role in the workplace: the chief remote officer. 

According to Liam Martin, author of “Running Remote: Master the Lessons from the World’s Most Successful Remote-Work Pioneers” and co-organizer of Running Remote, this is the largest workplace transition since the Industrial Revolution. 

“The Industrial Revolution took eight years while moving to remote work was done in a month,” he said. “It involved a complete transition of everything that you could possibly think of,” he was quoted as saying in an article.

However, as employers and global mobility specialists continue to transition employees to work from home, coupled with the rise of global mobility, new challenges begin to arise. The need for someone to fill in the role of helping companies transition to remote work started taking place. 

This is where the chief remote officer comes in. 

What does a chief remote officer do?

Like the CEO, COO, or CFO, the Chief Remote Officer is an essential position responsible for creating the best possible outcome for companies in today’s challenging climate. As companies struggle to adjust to remote work, the CRO (Chief Remote Officer) becomes a vital piece that helps the company transition to the new way of working. He or she also needs to set the cultural tone and cultural shifts when it comes to new ways of working. 

The Chief Remote Officer accomplishes these in a few ways:

Nurture productivity and introduce work methods. While working from home allows employees some flexibility, it does bring along a few challenges. A decrease in productivity is the bane of both employers and home-based employees. Human connections are one of the best ways to maintain productivity, and it’s a challenge for workers to stay focused in remote settings. This is where the Chief Remote Officer steps in to save the day. It’s their job to nurture productivity and introduce work methods that effectively ramp up productivity. 

Help people connect.  The digital age has connected people like never before, but it’s also made people feel more distant than ever before. Receiving high-fives and pats on the back has become a rarity in remote work, and individual success is not as celebrated as it used to be. IG&H, a consulting firm based in the Netherlands, believes that success should be celebrated, and that appreciation helps people remain connected. The Chief Remote Officer can do things like send a small compliment card to a colleague to make people feel appreciated at work. This tiny act of appreciation can do wonders in improving connectedness among remote teams. 

Make employees happy and healthy.  Stress is a big part of any work environment, and keeping employees happy will always be a challenge. The Chief Remote Officer strengthens employability within the organization by helping employees stay happy and healthy. They can provide, for example, advice on creating the best ergonomic home setup. This ensures that employees have optimal work settings at home. 

They can also provide tips on how to be physically, mentally, and socially healthy, before and after work hours. This is important as employers are responsible for creating healthy work environments for employees whether at home or the office. 

The Chief Remote Officer is aware of how employees experience working from home and advises management on the matter. They not only strengthen connections among peers but also between employees and supervisors. Think of them as employee advocates who take into account their human side as well. 

Will companies consider having chief remote officers in the future?

Tsedal Neely, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, believes it’s only a matter of time until this happens. 

Neely believes more organizations are likely to appoint a chief remote officer, especially as they see its success at other firms. And this is especially true for employers who’ve opted for hybrid-working patterns. 

With businesses shifting to remote work, appointing a senior-level figure to take on the various frictions and challenges of remote working will be vital in helping companies transition. However, for some, this role isn’t a permanent one. As businesses begin to adjust to remote work in the years to come, there could be no need for a chief remote officer.   

“The hope is that remote work becomes just work”, explains Chase Warrington, head of remote work for productivity-software firm Doist in an article published at BBC Worklife. “But that future may not be here for a while. For now, the playbook of work has been thrown out: having someone oversee the next version makes sense.”