Woman sitting at desk with computer working remotely

By now, businesses that have transitioned to virtual office environments are settling in and getting back on track. Leaders have their teams in place, they’ve found solutions to supply chain disruptions, and a sense of normalcy is returning.

Concerns are pivoting toward maintaining productivity and accountability while working outside of a traditional workspace.


Why Accountability is Essential

Accountability doesn’t mean standing over employees and micromanaging, nor does it involve blame-shifting or taking a punitive approach to team oversight. When teams are accountable, there’s a more delicate balance of autonomy versus supervision. As the staff feels more empowered, employee morale improves.

When implemented correctly, a culture of accountability fuels organizational success by holding all team members to a common standard. Such shared expectations translate to improved customer service and greater confidence in your ability to meet targets and deadlines.

However, this approach has to be proactive to work.

According to studies, 82 percent of business leaders are concerned about their ability to hold their teams accountable for their work product and outcomes. This concern increases when teams are working away from direct supervision, where the ability to check up on progress is limited to channels like Zoom, texting, and email.

It’s not that supervisors don’t trust their staff members to get the job done. The worry is that progress can become derailed if teams work in a less controlled environment or on outdated or non-standardized equipment and apps.

There are several ways you can neutralize these concerns and foster a culture of accountability in your remote teams.

Here are four of the best practices we’ve found.


Lead by Example

When you’re leading a remote team, the best way forward is to lead by example. We’re all getting used to new ways of connecting and maintaining business standards. Your team and customers need sound leadership now more than ever.

Demonstrating the type of behavior and accountability you expect from your team shows them that you’re all in this together, while also promoting the feelings of security and stability.

Show up on time, even if you’re showing up via a virtual meeting space, and make sure that you meet all of your own deliverables within their deadlines. It’s also important to make good on your promises and admit it when you make a mistake. Such behavior encourages your team to follow through and take accountability for missed deadlines and setbacks.


Set Reasonable Goals and Manage Expectations

Although we’re now months into the new reality of doing business in a post-COVID world, you should still expect the unexpected in terms of customer service issues, sudden loss of vendors or supply chain disruptions, and concerns about employee health and availability.

Do your best to relieve your team of pressure by setting reasonably attainable goals and anticipating issues before they become unmanageable.

That doesn’t mean doing away with things like KPIs and organizational standards. It merely means that you need to be more flexible and avoid putting measures into place that are so strict and unbending that they will tempt your team to cheat just to maintain the appearance of functionality.


Make Sure Your Team Has the Right Tools and Equipment

One of the primary things you can do to ensure a thriving remote work environment is to make sure your team has the tools and equipment they need to get the job done. It’s difficult to hold people accountable for substandard or uneven outcomes if the software and electronics they’re using are outdated or incompatible with remote work.

Rather than relying on workers to communicate and produce the desired outcomes via a patchwork of different operating systems, platforms, and apps, invest in the best technology your budget allows. That will ensure that everyone is on the same page and working with the same systems.

You’ll not only avoid unnecessary disruptions due to tech issues, but you’ll also prevent security issues that come with using outmoded or unsecured networks and equipment.

Initiate online training sessions to ensure that everyone knows how to use any new equipment or apps safely and securely.

Investing in new communications technology may seem like an unnecessary expense when most of us have our own smartphones, tablets, and laptops. However, it’s really an investment in data protection and disaster mitigation.

With every minute of downtime and any avoidable security breach, your organization risks millions of dollars in revenue. When businesses are going under, and consumer confidence is waning, anything you can do to promote trust and stability is an asset.


Don’t Forget the Importance of Open Communication

Whether you’re working remotely or in the same building, an open-door policy and constructive communication are central to maintaining a proactive stance. Social distancing and fewer opportunities for in-person, face-to-face interactions can make team building and cohesiveness a challenge.

Make sure to communicate any instructions clearly, and encourage two-way feedback. This will head off any misunderstandings before they become a problem and allow your team to get the job done without hesitation or unnecessary disruptions.


Final Thoughts

If you have effective communication channels in place, and you’re working with a well-trained, properly equipped team, accountability should take care of itself.

If you keep the above tips in mind, you can help ensure that your staff meets its deadlines on time, and the work continues to flow smoothly regardless of what’s happening in the outside world.


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Michelle Laurey works as a VA for small businesses. She loves talking business, and productivity, and share her experience with others. Outside her keyboard, she spends time with her Kindle library or binge-watching Billions. Her superpower? Vinyasa flow! Talk to her on Twitter @michelle_laurey.