One of the top concerns for companies that have shifted to remote work is how it will impact their productivity. While many early reports from companies indicate they have stayed on track with their goals, this trend may not continue if remote work continues longer term. If this is a concern for your organization, you can boost productivity with accountability for gains in the short and long term. 

Behavior scientist, Kristen Berman of Irrational Labs, highlights the importance of accountability in the formation of habits in a recent article in Fast Company. There’s a difference between the habits we build in our private versus public world, where others observe our progress toward our commitments. Most of our health habits, for example, happen in our private world, which is why we often fail. We aren’t accountable to anyone but ourselves. The workplace, however, builds in an external accountability system to help us accomplish the things we need to in our jobs. We build different work habits when they are observable and measurable by others.

As workers spend more time in an at-home, private work environment, it’s easy to slide into a less-the-productive work pattern. It’s possible, however, to use these external habit principles to boost productivity with accountability even if your team members are working at home. 

Berman recommends five ways to keep productivity on track. 

  1. Keep the camera on for work meetings. Make on-camera the default expectation for your Zoom meetings. If your team was meeting in office, they wouldn’t be checking their phone or surfing the internet. Make your at-home meeting expectations the same as your in-office etiquette expectations. This shift will help boost productivity with accountability. 
  2. Communicate and coordinate start and finish times for the workday. When you’re in an office environment it’s standard practice to show up at the same time and often leave at the same time. At home, no one knows when you start and finish. Communicate clearly your organization’s expectations around log-on and log-off times to boost productivity and accountability with your at-home team. 
  3. Make company progress reports public. Daily stand-ups are the norm for engineers who regularly use 15 minute meetings to touch base and report on progress. Use this same principle to report on important projects, initiatives, and goals. You can do this through a call but a place like Slack might be a better starting point for communicating this information company wide.
  4. Set more deadlines and decision points. Nothing motivates a team to complete their work than a deadline. Companies like Apple, Google, and the like regularly commit publicly to hitting deadlines for new product releases. This same principle can boost productivity with accountability for your own team and stave off procrastination. Set check in points when important decisions have to be made to move work forward. 
  5. Group meetings together. Schedule meetings back to back instead of scattered throughout the day. Short gaps between meetings make it difficult to get into the flow of a project before having to break for the next meeting. That in-between time can be a time waster. Boost productivity with accountability by making time feel more scarce, which creates more urgency to complete work. 

If your organization is shifting to remote work longer term, understanding these key ways to boost productivity with accountability will be an important strategy for your bottomline and company outcomes.