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Balancing accountability in a remote work culture

In order to ensure a successful remote work culture, it is crucial to strike a balance between flexibility and accountability. This means providing employees with the freedom to work from anywhere while still ensuring that they are held responsible for their tasks and results.

By implementing strategies such as setting clear expectations, providing feedback, and encouraging collaboration, businesses can create an effective remote work culture that promotes both flexibility and accountability. 

Why is remote worker accountability and flexibility important? 

Before understanding what it is that makes worker accountability and flexibility so important, it is crucial that we understand exactly what these terms mean. 

Accountability and flexibility go hand in hand for remote workers. Accountability is defined as ‘being responsible for what you do’, and is one the most important factors for any business, regardless of whether their workers are remote or in the office. 

One of the main benefits of working remotely is the flexibility it offers employees. They are no longer tied down to travelling to and from an office all day, instead they can choose where they work. But this comes with a certain level of responsibility and accountability. 

Without accountability, a remote workers ‘flexible’ lifestyle might end up impacting their work, this is why it’s so important to find that balance between the two. 

What are the benefits for remote workers?

Implementing remote work accountability will have many benefits to both individuals and companies alike, especially if it is approached correctly. 

One study found that constructive accountability can result in:

  • Improved productivity

  • More employee involvement

  • Increased work commitment

  • More creativity and innovation

  • Higher employee morale and satisfaction

Accountability not only improves your employees' productivity, but also improves your business morale and satisfaction that can directly impact your remote work culture. While there are some challenges faced with giving employees accountability within the workplace, the added benefits make it worth doing. 

How to balance accountability and flexibility in a remote work culture

Set clear expectations

Providing set work expectations for your remote team will help to keep your team in sync and ensure that individuals are aware of their responsibility This is essential to ensure your team remains productive, and projects are completed on time.

When it comes to setting tasks for your team, you should assign specific tasks throughout your remote team. Take the time to explain the purpose of the task, the desired outcome, and any deadlines. It’s important to note, however, that ‘team milestones and deliverables should be realistic and attainable’. This will help avoid burnout and make sure that remote employees don’t become overwhelmed. 

Providing your team with clear expectations will help them to understand what is expected of them, and/or what they are accountable for. Then when it comes to their work, they should now be able to manage their time more efficiently in order to meet the desired expectations. 

Providing clear expectations simply gives your employees both an understanding of their responsibilities, but also ensures that they can work more efficiently.

An example of providing clear expectations would be as follows: 

  • Project comes in

  • Breakdown into tasks that, once completed, will mark the project completion.

  • Set clear scope for each task and assign to your team/employees

  • Set a deadline for the end of the project

  • Set desired milestones to reach, such as completed tasks, which will help layout the path to project completion

Provide regular support

Another way to create that balance between flexibility and accountability, and ensure that no issues arise, is by providing regular support. Regular support should be consistent, but make sure to not be done to the point of micromanagement. Employees and managers should schedule regular check-ins so as to keep everyone updated as to the current status of project(s): track work, coach, offer guidance, check up on or simply offer encouragement and feedback. 

Regular scheduled support helps ensure your remote team that they have somewhere to turn to if they need help and the team can be kept up to date on progress. This can also be a great opportunity to provide feedback, reward good work and boost morale. 

You can provide regular support through a multitude of ways, this includes having regular meetings with team members, having a shared space for projects. This might be Google chat, project management software like a Trello board as well as providing employees with specific project mentors. 

Encourage collaboration 

Collaboration can be a powerful tool to help remote employees manage accountability. When remote team members work together, they will be sharing information and opinions on projects, making it easier to track progress. Collaboration encourages people to stay in touch, share information, and work to resolve potential issues, it also gives employees a way of sharing responsibility. Often a project's success depends on the success of a team and how they can work together to get a project done. 

Some ways you can encourage collaboration is by using a variety of different tools, such as screen sharing, video call, shared cloud storage. Remote teams will be reliant on using different tools, when it comes to encouraging collaboration they should have access to all the tools they need to be successful…

You can also encourage your remote team to socialise. As your team will likely be located in a range of different areas, socialising is important to ensure that your team doesn’t feel isolated. One study found that ‘Collaboration increases flexibility and makes it easier for teams to adapt,’ therefore, collaboration doesn’t only help remote teams to share responsibility, it also helps them to be more flexible. 

Track progress

Monitoring progress is crucial. After all, with a remote team, the status of a project can be lost, meaning there is more of a need to monitor and track how everything is progressing. In a normal office setting this might have been done with a quick conversation; however, with remote work things will need to be put in place in order to track any progress. 

With the added accountability it is important for remote workers to take ownership and responsibility for their work. This includes keeping track of how their work is going. There are many tools and systems that can be used to report and track progress such as ‘dashboards and project management software tools’, you can use said tools to help balance the added flexibility and accountability by keeping the relevant people in the loop on how you are getting on with a project. 

When monitoring progress, you should be open and honest about what you are getting on as well as take note of any challenges that could derail the project deadline. This will help with the quality of your work and mean that in the event of a problem, every step has been recorded to resolve the issue. 

Final thoughts

Working remotely has become a common practice for many businesses, allowing employees to work from any location and at their own pace. However, it can be difficult to maintain a balance between flexibility and accountability in a remote work culture. To ensure that remote workers are productive and accountable, employers must find ways to create an environment of trust and responsibility. Simply put, remote workers can improve their workflow by balancing flexibility with accountability.