Accountability is hard enough in an office environment. Now, with so many companies pivoting to hybrid or remote work, leaders have to face a whole new challenge—how to ensure that everyone meets goals and achieves metrics when no one is in the office for face-to-face accountability.
One of the main advantages of remote and hybrid work for leaders and employees is flexibility. Virtual work models acknowledge that everyone has a life outside of the office—it gives people the ability to schedule appointments and events during regular work hours with the expectation that the work will still get done.
But the other side of that flexibility is the primary concern for leaders and company decision-makers—will the work genuinely get done? And how can we avoid an erosion of trust across our organization?
In order for all employees who are eligible to benefit from remote and hybrid work models, leaders need to encourage the development of a culture of accountability. In a healthy work culture, people at every level—from employee to manager to senior leader—will hold themselves accountable for their own responsibilities, and everyone will create value. But encouraging that culture is difficult even in an in-person environment—how can leaders create those layers of accountability when people aren’t face to face?
Here are five tips to help you create layers of accountability in your hybrid environment:
DEFINE RESPONSIBILITIES AND DELIVERABLES UPFRONT
At every level, make sure people have a clear picture of their responsibilities and deliverables. Those may be different than they were in the in-person environment, so it’s important to take time to establish a baseline for the virtual environment. When people aren’t sure what their roles and responsibilities are, it’s tough to be accountable to them.
LEAVE ROOM FOR AUTONOMY
It’s easy to worry about people not doing their work in a virtual environment, but micromanaging only creates distrust. Give your people room to figure out the best way to complete the tasks assigned to them.
DON'T OWN OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK
Let employees own their own work. If they fail, the consequences will fall on them. Likewise, demonstrate follow-through by owning your own responsibilities and completing your own work.
RESPECT THE ADVANTAGES OF REMOTE WORK
For many employees, having the ability to attend school events or tend to personal obligations during normal work hours is a huge advantage of remote work. Allow your team to enjoy those advantages, and set the expectation by enjoying them yourself. Make it clear that it’s okay to attend a school event or go to the gym during the day, and show that you encourage such endeavors by participating in them yourself. As long as the work still gets done, people should enjoy the flexibility of hybrid work.
USE TECHNOLOGY APPROPRIATELY
Without modern collaboration tools, hybrid work wouldn’t even be possible. However, it’s easy for some hybrid workers to feel surveilled or watched by reporting tools, availability indicators, and messaging apps. Establish expectations for availability and technology use upfront, and then give people space to work. It’s OK to keep using tools to schedule shift workers, set up meetings, and gauge metrics and success, but don’t use those tools as a means to punish employees.
Trust and accountability are vital for any environment, but especially when people aren’t face to face every day. Empowering your team to hold themselves accountable at every layer of responsibility will create value across the organization.
What will be YOUR first step to create accountability in your work environment?