The rise of the Chief Remote Officer and why do you need one

In the last edition of the Office of 2023, we talked about the variety of challenges that your hybrid workplace can potentially face this year and the who, why and how of these challenges.

In this edition, we get deeper into the Who and the How.

As part one of this Who and the How, we will be looking at a profile that has surfaced and grown post-pandemic. The profile of a Chief Remote Officer or Head of Remote.

This blog is dedicated to understanding Who this new profile caters to and How it benefits the post-pandemic workplace.

Chief remote officer: necessity or just a good to have?

“The Industrial Revolution took eight years while moving to remote work was done in a month. It involved a complete transition of everything that you could possibly think of.”

  • Liam Martin, author of Running Remote: Master the Lessons from the World’s Most Successful Remote-Work Pioneers (Harper Collins, 2022)

Managing virtual teams takes a different skill set than traditional management philosophies.

Given that hybrid and remote have given birth to work equity-related issues, e.g. gauging the productivity of a hybrid versus an in-office worker etc. There is now a growing need for designated facilitators or managers who steer teams through shifting workplace norms, enlisting new tools where appropriate and ensuring an overall healthy work culture providing a level playing field to all.

There is a sociological concept called Dunbar’s number that states that 100-250 people is the maximum size of an enterprise when you can reach in which every single individual knows everyone else. Beyond that, employees are reduced to a mere number and that can be detrimental for employees – enterprise relationships.

Dunbar’s number has even greater application today from a hybrid work point of view, where for large enterprises with remote operations, a sense of personal connection with every employee can be a big challenge.

Ad-hoc measures like organizing company-wide virtual meetings, instating camera-on policies, ensuring fixed attendance hours etc. are good, but not sufficient.

Primarily because their ad-hoc measures are not stringed together under a singular approach to managing the hybrid workforce and there is the absence of a singular authority to take charge of managing the hybrid workforce.

In addition to their existing work roles, leaders in many organizations are managing hybrid with limited understanding of what it takes for it to effectively work.

Hence, many enterprises are also taking proactive measures by appointing high-ranking leaders whose role is solely dedicated to making hybrid thrive throughout the organization. These leaders are called Chief remote officers or Head of Remote.

And the need for these leaders in 2023 will become more of a necessity than a good to have given the after-effects of the pandemic are finally fading away, the changing socio-economic environment and the growing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion at workplaces.

The roles and responsibilities of a CRO: The do’s and don‘ts

Given that CROs represent the employers’ commitment to “supporting” remote work rather than merely “allowing” it, it is important to get the description of a role as critical as this, correct.

The do’s

  • It is a combination role. The role subsumes many roles that need to have a bird’s eye view of different practices, processes and requirements across the enterprise.
  • This is a senior role with executive “sponsorship”. That is, the authority to re-architect company values, culture and workflows and charters across an organization.
  • This role is the anchor for all hybrid communication within the organization. Takes charge of establishing clear methods of communication across three levels of communications – in-person, video/ instant message and email.
  • Proactively deals with existing challenges and future challenges posed by the evolution of hybrid workplaces.
  • Requires a deep familiarity with collaboration tools. Technology will be their closest alliance to ensure productivity, inclusion and equity.

Download the full E-Book here

The don’ts

  • It is not a purely HR Role or an operations role or a communications role.
  • It is not a make-shift role, which is just handed over to functional heads to carry out individual plans for their independent teams.
  • It’s not just about delegation alone. It is not about using any medium – message basis for all kinds of communication, with everyone.
  • It is not just a transformation team that works reactively i.e. limited to looking at a problem to solve for.
  • Cannot be aversive to trying new technology options that promote collaboration and cannot be ignorant of cutting-edge tech that catalyzes change seamlessly.

CRO can ensure serendipitous interactions, and purposeful events, create an environment where in-person meeting cadence is maintained at optimum intervals for different teams, foster an environment where performance is highlighted on basis of work, ensure that the promotions, appraisals and recognition is provided equitably to both remote and onsite people, as this parity is very important to retain best remote talent.

It’s also important to focus on how office interaction can be more meaningful. In larger teams

( 20+ people ) it is important to have the communications flow. Constant feedback collection and working with teams to ensure that no one is feeling left out, disconnected or distant from the team camaraderie. Typically HR is entrusted with this job, but given the major responsibility of hiring, retrenchment and appraisals, it’s important to create a CRO who just focuses on the cultural building part. Most CXOs are worried about the lack of cohesion and connection to the broader goal, once teams start working remotely.

Signs that indicate the need to bring a CRO pronto for your enterprise

Sign #1:  Hybrid hasn’t been your normal in the past. It’s relatively new, induced only because of the pandemic.

In some industries like BPO, consultancies, and advisory services etc. remote and hybrid models are not a new practice. It has been a way of working that the employees have been in tune with. However, for industries and enterprises that are deploying hybrid for the first time, the transition can be painful. Hence, the need for a designated leader who can help the enterprise to chart its course more seamlessly.

Sign #2: The existing leadership is finding it hard to manoeuvre the demands of hybrid and remote

It isn’t the best practice to assume that the senior leaders are naturally adept to handle remote and hybrid. Especially because every leader also has their individual style and preferred mode of working. In addition, if this becomes an additional task to manage when they are already operating at capacity, it won’t be easy for them to manage remote and hybrid work teams. It is their secondary consideration, unlike a CRO for whom this is the mandate.

Sign #3: Need for hybrid tech overhauling is a dominant need for your enterprise You’re not on top of the latest tools and platforms

Hybrid and remote by nature is tech-reliant and in a world where the universe of virtual office apps is expanding, to know what is the latest and what is the best, needs someone who owns this and knows about it. Putting the onus on the CRO.  

Sign #4: Your need to integrate the existing, legacy tech with the new is an important one

Hybrid is not always about overall overhauling. Sometimes, it is about someone who is not averse to risks and is willing to make tweaks and integrations to existing systems, tech and protocols that will enhance employee experience. A CRO is someone who also knows when small tweaks and integrations are enough versus big changes or adoptions.

Sign #5: The need for a leader who would stand up for hybrid and remote before the enterprise is about to give up on it

When there are many conflicting views about how to handle hybrid, an enterprise and its leadership can often reach an impasse. But if there is someone with designated authority to lead hybrid, then that person can drive, own and advocate hybrid.

Download the full E-Book here

The CRO x tech marriage is a match made in heaven: Tools that can help CROs in leading effectively

A big game changer for CROs in successfully managing hybrid is the Integrated workplace management system. There are a couple of reasons for this among others:

  1. it brings all the people, locations, and assets of a business together on one common platform, despite locational diversity.
  2. It allows teams to collaborate in interesting ways – create, distribute and host a variety of in-person events across the office locations, cafes, co-workings, gym, and outdoors to foster a sense of community even if people aren’t sitting adjacent to each other on a day to day basis.
  3. It enables cross-departmental data-sharing and functions as a central processing unit for every department across an enterprise.

An IWMS may also include specific tools and functions that are particularly useful for space and real estate purposes and enable CROs to manage everything seamlessly:

  1. Optimizing space planning: IWMS allows for automated and intuitive space planning that is ideal to develop floor plans, the option to group employees by department and  profile. Overall, helping things stay fluid in the office environment.
  2. Space reservation tools: these tools are important to ensure that employee experience stays flexible and autonomous within a hybrid workspace. Employees can access IWMS via mobile or desktop and can plan ahead, show intent and reserve for themselves and colleagues. This ensures collaboration flows naturally.
  3. Floor plans and navigation: When the workplace changes, employees will need a way to navigate it. An IWMS helps them do this real time and this again can be managed on mobile and desktop. This can also support health and safety initiatives since personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and hand sanitiser can be listed on the map for improved accessibility.
  4. Data utilization tools : In a hybrid workplace, it can be tough to know what’s happening in every physical office space. Knowing who’s using the space, when they’re using it, and how often they’re using it often turns into a guessing game. But by using space reservation data—or even badge swipe data—an IWMS can capture and organize all of this information within a single system. The numbers can then be visualized in easy-to-read dashboards and exported into simple charts and graphs.

This is just a snapshot of IWMS to showcase how IWMS can be a game changer for a hybrid set-up. The data and tools will enable CROs to identify opportunities, build rationale and identify gap areas where hybrid needs to work harder.

We have done more work in this area.

To know more about how Veris can be your partner on the IWMS click here.

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