New challenges demand dedicated leadership to drive innovation and positive change. Recent examples include Director of Digital Transformation, Chief Diversity Officer, and Director of Remote Work, which have paved the way for the newest leadership position — the Director of Future of Work.
While we are still in the early stages of what exactly this role looks like, we know one thing for certain — the way people work is changing, and it’s incumbent upon enterprise organizations to adapt to this changing workplace and mold their policies around it or be left behind.
SHRM defines the future of work as "a projection of how work, workers and the workplace will evolve in the years ahead," adding that "it’s a topic that keeps many CEOs up at night as they make decisions that enable their organizations to thrive today while they prepare for the future."
While the definition focuses on “the years to come,” most organizations are facing the reality that “the future of work” is happening now.
If uncertainty regarding hybrid work, COVID-19, employee retention, and safe return to work processes have been keeping executives up at night, the Director of Future of Work may be exactly what your organization needs. Keep reading to learn why a new leader is needed, what this person can take on, and how ReturnSafe can help.
What the Future of Work Looks Like
Today's workforces have changed dramatically from even just two years ago. While modern workplaces were slowly making the shift to digital work, the rapid shift to work-from-home practices during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically condensed the timeline.
Most companies are finding themselves somewhere in the middle of return to work: with fully remote teams, staff members who are in the office some days and working from home on other days, and some roles that rely on in-person interactions or essential workers who never left, including manufacturing and distribution jobs.
All of these different work styles are fueling the demand for successful models that optimize for flexibility, wellness, and culture. Consider these core concerns that business leaders are facing as a result of the turbulence and new demands for the workplace:
- Health and Safety: As COVID-19 is moving from a pandemic to an endemic state, outbreak risk and disruption are continuing risks that organizations and employees face. The actual virus, as well as severe stress that workers face in the new paradigm, require employers to provide access to fast testing, flexible staffing policies, and resources for work-life balance.
- Absenteeism: A potential result of health and safety neglect is the financial impact of absenteeism. Studies show that COVID-related absences cost businesses nearly $1 billion every week in the U.S. By prioritizing health and safety, you can prevent outbreaks that lead to absenteeism.
- Flexibility: The pandemic shuffled employees' schedules and responsibilities inside and outside of work. From turbulent school schedules for their children to uncertain work requirements for their partners, employees need more flexibility regarding where they work and when they work. Economic growth over the past two years indicates that remote work can be successful, and organizations need to prioritize it as 87% of workers want to work remote at least part-time.
- Culture: Lack of in-person communication, collaboration, and training can erode company culture if executives don't proactively manage employee needs. It's easier for new hires to feel under-trained and unattached and for older employees to feel overworked and undervalued. At the same time, a prioritization on health and safety as well as offering a flexible workplace are key components when building a workplace people want to be a part of. Companies need to address company cultural concerns for any new work approach, whether it's fully remote, fully in-office, or hybrid.
While employees' relationships with work are changing, the nature of work is also changing. Company processes had to digitize almost overnight, leaving teams in a race to learn new tools, recreate workflows, and ensure compliance and revenue goals were fully met.
Organizations quickly stress-tested what work needed to be completed during set hours, what work tasks were more flexible, and identified certain tasks that could be automated.
While all of these improvements do help address the needs of the modern workplace — safety and wellness, flexibility, and culture — they can quickly fall apart without a stabilizing force and a drive towards their new north star. That's where the role of a Director of Future of Work comes in.
What Is the Director of Future of Work?
The Director of Future of Work is a role solely dedicated to driving change and managing the strategies and processes for new developments within the workforce and workplace. This person often has a wide range of responsibilities and skills as they can collaborate across multiple departments, including IT, lines of business, and human resources, to develop a strategy centered around the future of work.
Per a recent Forbes article, “New data from LinkedIn provided to Forbes finds there has been a 60% increase in job titles related to the future of work and a 304% spike in titles that reference ‘hybrid work’ since the pandemic began.” Because getting this right is so important, it's crucial that businesses have a specific role to ensure any workplace changes are meeting the needs of employees and their business.
The Director of Future of Work has a wide range of responsibilities, including:
- Developing hybrid work strategies that ensure employees have flexibility while still adhering to required standards of productivity, cybersecurity, and access
- Creating return-to-work policies and guidance for organizations that are returning from remote work to an in-office or hybrid approach
- Managing, reviewing, and developing workforce communication related to health issues, such as COVID-19 safety policies; this role will focus predominantly on COVID-19 announcements currently, but this responsibility could expand or shift to other wellness concerns over time
- Developing and implementing wellness plans that meet the real needs of employees, assessing participation and results, and refining programs over time
- Creating health and safety standards that respond to community risk levels in real-time
- Modifying talent acquisition processes to facilitate remote hiring and hybrid talent acquisition
- Managing tax and payroll concerns for remote workers across states and even countries with different tax requirements
While some of these responsibilities focus directly on COVID-19 and its effects on the workplace, other responsibilities address permanent needs for workforce flexibility, hiring, managing, and listening to the needs of employees.
Because this role is both new and unique, hiring the right fit is challenging. Most new Directors of Future of Work will build and develop the role, not just fulfill it. As a result, the most important necessary skills of a Director of Future of Work will be:
- Great Communication: The director will need to be able to listen to employees at all positions throughout the organization, regardless of their preferred working environment. This is crucial for implementing workplace changes and creating official communications.
- Tech-Forward: Especially in the hybrid work and remote work era, anyone in this role will need to have a solid mastery of virtual applications, video technology, and popular tools in most businesses' tech stacks.
- Innovative: First-generation directors will be creating the role for themselves and creating new solutions to short-term and long-term challenges of shifting to hybrid work.
- Empathetic: This director role requires the ability to listen to employees' needs, create solutions that meet those needs, and accommodate confusion or frustration.
- People-Centric: Ultimately, this role is about helping applicants, new hires, and employees succeed in new workplace environments.
Examples of the New Role
To learn more about what this role really looks like, take a look at Meta’s recent job description for their Director of Future of Work:
Take Control of Your Future
The Director of Future of Work is an essential role for many Human Resources departments that are striving to resolve new workplace challenges, improve workplace conditions to reduce turnover, and plan for a resilient future. At ReturnSafe, we can help you tailor your return-to-work programs so your workforce is happier, has a sense of security as they return to work, and is just as productive as ever.
Contact us today to learn more about our COVID-19 vaccine and test solutions for proactively improving your organization's future of work.