Activating Your People with Accountability in the Age of the Remote Workplace

Maybe you’ve heard the news: remote work is here to stay. Whether you embrace it or not, how companies develop remote workplace cultures now will affect what we mean by “the office” for years to come.

New variations of hybrid on-site/remote cultures, asynchronous remote work cultures, and synchronous remote work cultures are being created as we speak. The big experiment is on, globally. And there’s no clear gold standard.

It’s an exciting moment for leaders — as well as an unnerving one. As organizational behavior expert Ethan S. Bernstein noted, the number of choices available for how to structure the post-pandemic workplace for the diverse workforce is making things tricky. How we work after the virtual days of the pandemic is just beginning to be studied, and there is no clear “superior” model.

And remote work is far from perfect. Productivity loss, communication lags, difficulties with motivation and focus, “quiet quitting,” or “quiet firing” — these are just a few of the challenges leaders are facing with teams working virtually.


This is where accountability comes in.

Accountability means riding out to meet the challenges, finding solutions by owning the process and the results — whether positive, neutral, or negative. Accountability is a powerful unifying principle in a remote work culture. When leaders and team members in an organization are empowered to be accountable — taking ownership of the process and results — culture naturally flourishes. 

Without accountability to unify diverse individuals dispersed remotely, the structure and purpose of a remote work culture can fall apart.

Below are the top five ways for you to activate accountability to unify culture for the remote workplace:

  • Embrace, organization-wide, digital transformation. Assess and remove barriers to communications and information sharing. Organize with your leaders team ideation spaces, carefully selecting the task-tracking and real-time communication tools to remove guesswork from team projects and ensure accountability across teams at the individual level.
  • Cultivate accountable leaders. Every remote team needs a defined and accountable leader. Shift leaders between projects but be clear: they have the responsibility and power to direct and motivate remote teams to meet results.
  • Redefine collaboration, together. Redefine collaboration together in the remote work ecosystem and as teams functioning within it. Encourage all to freely work with each other with accountability in autonomy. Define how ideas and actions affect the company-at-large, and should add value and support to overall success.
  • Model and create accountability. As your teams communicate and collaborate, leaders should assign clear tasks with expectations for delivery and timelines to ensure every team member is accountable for their piece and sees the connection between their work and the larger goal.
  • Track productivity. Working remotely in teams can create new unforeseen blocks to achieving results. Check in. Develop new check-ins. Discover with your leaders what works, whether it’s project kick-off briefs, alignment check-ins, or mid-project retros. 

Creating a culture that prioritizes accountability requires daily engagement among individuals. It takes time and aligned investment to internalize and put into practice. The remote work cultures being formed (and re-formed) today are finding a powerful tool in accountability. Meanwhile, employee surveillance tools are backfiring, creating distrust and division in organizations that use them to monitor remote workers.

Remember: culture is a journey and requires intentional leadership that places an emphasis on the experiences your people have every single day.  

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