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How to Promote Accountability in a Remote Team

When you work from home (WFH), things that were naturally resolved in an office may require much more effort and intention. To bridge this gap, it's important to develop standardized practices aimed at clearly communicating expectations.

Define clear S.M.A.R.T.E.R. expectations 

Define expectations for a specific project, role, or your team as a whole using the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. framework. This framework ensures that your expectations are specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, trackable, ethical, and recorded.

Create a clear work from home (WFH) policy

The key is transparency. Establish core working hours and communicating about vacations and absences. Be clear about your expectations and potential consequences while acknowledging that WFH is challenging. Show empathy and allow for flexibility.

Create a detailed project specification template

Create project specifications to help the team align and define expectations. Set a timeline, outline project ownership, and be specific about deliverables, with examples if possible. Create a template to save time and ensure that each spec contains a standard set of information.

Define project ownership

Review any major projects you are working on. Is there a clearly identifiable person responsible for each task? If not, work with your team to determine who is responsible for what.

Clearly define roles

Make each employee's role clear and review expectations regularly. Employees are more likely to feel accountable and responsible for their work if they understand their role. When team members understand each other's roles, they know who to turn to and what is expected of them.

Start the day with sharing individual daily plans

Daily planning is a practice that can help build personal accountability over time. Each morning, have individuals create their own plan for the day and share it during daily check-in. This builds the individual's autonomy and self-awareness.

Have regular conversations around commitments and outcomes

Commit to work for a specific period of time, such as a two-week sprint. Provide opportunities for check-ins and follow-up. Set expectations for the upcoming cycle in a planning session, share progress in daily check-ins, and reflect together at the end of the sprint.

For longer term goal setting use team and individual OKRs

Set OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to help your team align its work with purpose. OKRs are goals that outline the why, what, and how. They help teams see how individual work contributes to the big picture or a specific business goal, and can help employees feel their impact.

Try daily written status updates

Written status updates are more practical for remote teams because they fit everyone's schedule and can be read or referred to later. They are effective and save time. You can see what everyone is working on in one place, and you always have an overview of the team's performance.

Engage with each other’s updates

Read and engage with each other's check-ins to show that the individual's work has a direct impact on the team's shared goals and outcomes. This reinforces the idea that individuals' work is important and reinforces team accountability.

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