Amid upheaval in the office, fanciful job titles emerge

LinkedIn has seen a 304 per cent spike in titles that reference "hybrid work" since the start of the pandemic. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

(NYTIMES) - Here's one sneaky sign of unsettled times: fanciful job titles.

Job titles have always changed with the times. For instance, competition for talent in recent years has morphed heads of human resources into chief people officers. Now the rise of remote work has given way to new positions, whose lasting power has yet to be tested.

LinkedIn has seen a 304 per cent spike in titles that reference "hybrid work" and a 60 per cent increase in titles related to the future of work since the start of the pandemic.

Here's a glimpse of some of the new jobs arising from upheaval in the office, especially in tech and other companies that have embraced remote work.

1. Head of team anywhere

Atlassian is a company that makes collaboration software, so when the company went remote in 2020, its leaders felt the pressure to keep the engines of collaboration running smoothly. Six months ago the company hired a "head of team anywhere", a title nodding to the company's stock ticker which is "team". Ms Annie Dean, who is in the role, recently oversaw the opening of a "team anywhere-focused office" - which is, in fact, located somewhere (Austin, Texas).

Instead of desks and sterile cubicles, there are sunny event spaces, soft seating, a chef's kitchen and white boards on rollers. "The old model is productivity focused," she said, during a video call from her family's East Coast beach house. "Our new model is experience focused."

2. Chief heart officer

With mental health issues heightening, employers are wrestling with how they can provide support, especially given the gaps in actual mental health care. Ms Claude Silver, for example, serves as "chief heart officer" at the agency VaynerMedia, a title she has held for years, though it has grown more necessary during the pandemic.

"Rather than doing bureaucratic work at a desk and being a 'no' person, you need many more people in the company who can say 'yes'," she said. Her day-to-day endeavours run the gamut. Every afternoon, she helps organise online programmes for the staff. She sends out a staff newsletter called Heartbeat, and also leads "courageous conversations" where employees talk about challenging events in the news.

3. Head of dynamic work

Ms Samantha Fisher, head of dynamic work at Okta, a cyber-security company, wants employees to feel they can pick and choose routines that work best for them. "What people want is flexibility. It's not necessarily 'I don't ever want to come to the office'," she said. One of Okta's projects was to set up a work-from-home store, so employees can order office-grade furniture such as standing desks or ergonomic chairs - an acknowledgement that their hybrid setups are permanent rather than Band-Aid solutions.

4. Head of remote

The reasoning behind this role can sound grandiose: "If you had a skyscraper, you would no doubt have someone in charge of making sure that physical building worked well," said Mr Darren Murph, who serves as GitLab's head of remote as he is an ardent believer that work can happen anywhere.

He sees his own role as something like workplace maintenance - it's just that the workplace isn't physical. "Remote companies have a skyscraper, too," he said. "You just can't see it."

5. Vice-president of flexible work

Ms Meghan Reibstein, who leads product management and flexible work initiatives at Zillow, wants to see more companies appoint people to positions like hers, which she describes as wrestling with the question: "How do we change the way work shows up in our lives?"

Her company went remote in 2020. A given workday might include her team planning retreats, weighing in on office renovations or advising colleagues on how to make the best use of their meetings.

People she meets are often intrigued to hear her job focuses on making work from home effective. "When people hear that I spend a lot of my time thinking about it, they're a little bit taken aback because it's just a thing that happened in the world," she said. "If you're going to build something with a big vision and a lot of complexity and a lot of unknowns, you have to resource it."

6. Vice-president of product evangelism

Leaders at the company Gtmhub, which makes management software, had a problem: None of them spent time being the face of the company - which, to be fair, isn't exactly a household name. That's why they decided to appoint someone to be their "product evangelist".

Ms Jenny Herald describes her role as being professionally obsessive about the brand. She runs a podcast about Gtmhub, writes social media posts about Gtmhub, boosts internal morale and chats with customers.

"I can't tell you how many times people are like, 'Jenny, I listened to your podcast, it was one of the reasons I wanted to join Gtmhub. I feel like I'm talking to a celebrity'," Ms Herald said. "Every company needs someone to herald whatever it is that they represent." Roles like "chief evangelist" tend to raise questions, but career coach JT O'Donnell argues that is a positive: "People ask 'What does that mean? What do you do?'" she said. "That's why we change titles."

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