A red "for hire" sign
Photo: Clem Onojeghuo/Unsplash

Make room at the virtual conference table: Here comes the head of Remote

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today: why Gusto is hiring a head of Remote Experience, how workers are still embracing van life, and findings from Glassdoor’s most recent survey about women and pay transparency.

—Amber Burton, reporter (email | twitter)

Why Gusto is hiring a head of Remote Experience

The decision to go totally hybrid is now commonplace in the tech industry. But Gusto realized early on that pulling this off would be complex. To help ease the transition, the HR software company is hiring a head of Remote Experience.

Gusto isn't the first to hire a head of Remote Work. Darren Murph, the head of Remote at GitLab, is one of the first in the industry to pioneer the role. And Twitter (which has offices, but lets most employees work where they want) is apparently hiring a whole team to figure out the future of work. Now, more companies are beginning to create new roles as they take on larger workforces spread across the globe.

Gusto currently has more than 1,800 employees spanning its home bases in New York, Denver, San Francisco and the U.S./Canada, which its chief people officer, Danielle Mastrangel Brown, calls its fourth virtual home base. Prior to the pandemic, the company was almost 100% in-office, with very few remote employees. Because of this, she said the company realized there would be a major learning curve in moving forward with a hybrid work model.

Mastrangel Brown spoke with Protocol about the company’s decision to hire a head of Remote Experience, and why the anticipated challenges of hybrid work might convince more companies to follow suit.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Can you describe what the current landscape of work looks like for Gusto and the model you’ve chosen to move forward with for employees?

We have three working styles that our “Gusties” are aligned to. One is the traditional in-office working style, and that's a very, very small percentage of our employees. If your role is part of maintaining our physical space for our facilities or our infrastructure, those employees will be primarily working out of our office every day.

The vast majority of Gusties fall into the other two buckets. The first is fully remote. So really, the intention there is that these folks are hired outside of one of our major physical home-base locations, and they're going to be primarily working remotely.

And then the third working style is what we're calling “flex,” which is essentially working from the office one to two days a week that your department sets, and working from wherever you want the rest of the week. So we've got these three working styles which we chose early on to help empower our employees and give them some agency.

Did the decision to hire a head of Remote Experience come out of selecting this hybrid working model for your employees? And at what point did Gusto realize it needed to add this position?

I think we realized we kind of chose the most complex workforce design. It's somewhat easy to say, “We're just going to be an in-office company.” We know how to do that, we've done that for years. I think it's also fairly easy to be all remote. We've done that for the past two years, we know how to do that. The more complex choice is how do you manage this hybrid workforce where some folks are going to be physically present in person, some are going to be fully remote and some are a blend of both. We kind of realized this work style is going to be here to stay, it's going to be the future and we're going to need to be ahead of the curve.

So I think that we started wrapping our heads around the complexity of what this was going to be like and we realized pretty early on that we should probably hire somebody to really think about this experience.

A lot of companies are considering bringing in this role right now. How are you all thinking about where this person will fit into the business, and what does the interest look like so far?

We decided to intentionally hire this as a leadership role at our company. We're going to put it in the people organization. Part of our team is really focused on what we call environments: That's our physical and virtual workspaces, [and] the employee experience. So this person will be in that organization.

I don't think I've ever gotten so much interest in a role we've posted as I have in this one. So clearly, it's hitting a mark, it's resonating. To me, it kind of says this is the future and people want to be at the forefront of thinking about the future of work … [and] I bet eventually, this person could be a thought leader for our customers too.

What are some of the main kinds of KPIs that this person is going to have to track to make sure that what they're doing is effective?

One thing I would be looking at or asking this leader to look at is by persona [Editor’s note: A persona represents the three types of workers at the company: in-person, hybrid and fully-remote employees], do we see differences in people's engagement, in people's satisfaction with Gusto, in their relationships with their manager? Are remote employees just as likely as their peers to stay at Gusto? Are they just as likely to get promoted? And so I think what we're going to be looking at is kind of equitable outcomes and experiences across every measure that we look at.

Bringing it back to the employees, is there any anticipation that employees will change their minds regarding how they like to work in the future?

I think the first mistake you make is making assumptions about what people want. And I would say different things work for different people. I'm glad that we've opened up the widest set of options so we can get kind of the widest pool of talent. That said, I think what helps everybody feel better is saying, “Look, your life might change. Maybe you'll get married, maybe your partner will get another job, maybe you'll have children, you know, it's OK, we realize life is going to change.” And we've set up a process whereby folks can work with their manager and their people partner to change their [work] personas if they wish. We are going to do another change request window so everybody can revalidate that choice and make sure it still works for them.

Knowing that people have flexibility and the ability to change has been the biggest thing, because life changes, and what worked for you a year ago or six months ago might not work today.

#VanLife meets #WorkLife

Could you make working from a van work for you? We were dazzled by the stories of people working from tricked-out RVs and vans during the pandemic. But as more companies call people back to offices, some are wondering if they can still make van life possible. Despite corporate plans, tech workers’ shifting attitudes and ideas about work remain, wrote my colleague Lizzy Lawrence. “The RV industry itself has been blowing up; everyone wants to be out in an RV,” Paige Bouma, executive vice president at Trader Interactive, told Protocol. Just last week, her company found in a poll that 44% of people now work from their RV more than 20 weeks out of the year. It appears that the best candidates for a van-work life are those with minimal calls and video meetings. Words of warning: Even with a hot spot, signals and Wi-Fi aren’t always the strongest on the open road.

Read the full story.


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Today's tips & tools

FigJam, Figma’s multiplayer whiteboard tool, added a fun pop-up tip on its widget box last week: “Don’t click this box. There’s nothing to see here. Nothing magical, nothing fun. Best leave be.” I spoke with the UX writer behind the tip, Andrew Schmidt.

  • The tip is for FigJam’s widgets feature, which lets you drag and drop things like stickers or notepads on the whiteboard. Schmidt’s favorite widget is the “Polaroid camera,” which lets you snap a photo of yourself and drag it onto the board.
  • “Don’t click this box” came to Schmidt after dozens of boring drafts urging users to click the widget. “I was a little frustrated and then finally I thought, ‘I’m going to write something sassy, almost,’” he said. “I’m always thinking about: How can I get someone to notice this thing?”
  • When Schmidt presented the copy to his team, the responses were divided. But divisive ideas get attention, and often resonate with people. He decided to go for it. “You can't get people to feel things for something without also getting some people who were like, ‘That didn’t land for me,’” Schmidt said.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Women are still waiting for a raise and they're talking about it

Glassdoor released a new survey yesterday in collaboration with The Harris Poll revealing that almost half of women feel comfortable sharing their salary with a colleague. Pay transparency is believed to be a key way to close the stubborn pay gap. Glassdoor’s findings come ahead of Equal Pay Day on March 15, which, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity, represents the number of days a woman in the U.S. would have to work into the year to earn what men made in the prior year. As time goes on, more women say they are willing to talk about feeling underpaid. Here’s what you need to know.

  • 85% of employed women believe they deserve an increase in compensation.
  • 63% of U.S. employees said they prefer to work at a company that discloses pay information, though only 19% say their employers actually share pay ranges.
  • 45% of employed women said they feel comfortable sharing their pay with a co-worker, though only 29% said they’ve actually done so.
  • 41% of women who responded said the gender pay gap is a serious problem at their company.

Read the full story.

Making moves

Fintech company Stash appointed Lynne Oldham as its chief people officer. Prior to joining the company, Oldham was the chief people officer at Zoom.

More stories from us

Blocking off an entire week for the whole company to unplug is harder than it looks.

People are returning to the office, but in-person events have been slower to return.

The majority of workers who voluntarily quit their jobs last year said they felt underpaid and disrespected.

Women rule the creator economy, but men still get paid more.


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Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Remote work has provided an unexpected form of liberation for expectant mothers.

Why your employees aren’t as excited as you to return to the office.

The new in-demand consultants: remote-work experts.

A look at how tech companies are reopening offices for a cohort of workers that will never be the same.

How to boost your productivity throughout the day without having to turn into a morning person. Yes, it’s possible.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great day, see you Sunday.

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