The not-so-remote human resources leader

Stay-at-home orders taught organizations to be flexible at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. They required us to embrace remote work, as well as the victories and pitfalls that came with it.

Many companies now plan to either stay virtual or to offer a mix of in-person and remote work, but one department consistently seeking in-person positions is human resources. In recent months, we’ve completed multiple human resources leadership searches that require full or majority on-site presence. Why is that? Well, there are a few factors that come into play.

Culture has remained the biggest driver in many companies’ decisions to return to the office or stay remote. Some companies are not ready to move to a fully virtual or hybrid model, even if their type of work allows for it.

If teams are used to collaborative environments where face time with coworkers results in increased productivity and morale, then it may make sense to return to the office. An argument could certainly be made that the shift to virtual work has resulted in decreased employee engagement and caused the retention issues many organizations currently face. To patch these talent leaks, some companies are rushing to get back to the office.

On the flip side, one could argue that employers should embrace more flexibility for employees who want to stay remote, and that requiring them to go back into the office will drive them to new opportunities. In other cases, the nature of certain industries, as well as the size and type of the company, influence whether human resources leaders choose to work on-site.

Any company with a manufacturing or field-service presence will need to maintain an on-site operation to get the job done. If the frontline and production employees must be on-site, then many leaders believe they should be there, too. Since human resources leaders play a key role in fostering strong organization culture, you will likely see them walking around their facilities like normal.

Company size and type also play a key role in the decision to stay virtual or come back to the office. For instance, a smaller private company with one location and a couple hundred employees might choose to stay on-site, whereas a large public corporation with multiple offices around the country might be quicker to shift to flexible or remote.

As culture champions, human resources leaders are at the forefront of these decisions and must ultimately evaluate what is best for the organization.

To learn more about Derek Gracey’s executive search capabilities via the Charles Aris Human Capital practice, call or text him at (336) 217-9152 or email him at