Work Environment

Strengthen the Culture of Accountability in the Workplace

If the goal of your business is to thrive, then be sure to strengthen the culture of accountability in the workplace. What does this mean exactly? Read below to find out!


When we consider the purpose of accountability in the workplace, we must consider the fact that most American workers are disengaged and are barely emotionally invested in what they do for a living. And it’s overwhelmingly a management issue.


Accountability is not only a critical element in establishing an employer-employee relationship that leads to tangible and impressive results, but it is the key to trust. Trust that allows an organization to function far more self-sufficiently and without the constant watchful eye of a resented taskmaster.


By bringing workers to care more for their role in the future and success of an organization, you allow them to play a part as a leader. They bear the responsibility for their own actions and their part in an organization’s success. And that only they can truly lead themselves towards making that contribution.


Yet to harness an employee’s passion, employers and managers must begin to strengthen the culture of accountability. Rather than relying on ineffective motivators or a superficial attention to teamwork.


Accountability Builds Trust


At the heart of the matter is the role of trust in an organization. Trust is a self-evident necessity in any group endeavor. That is because people are not uniform beings. We each have our own unique capacity for productivity, for honesty, and for discipline. And every employee has their own unique perspective of what they are owed and what they care about.


If you cannot trust that every member of your team has the capacity to adapt to the requirements of the job, in exchange for basic and individually tailored concessions to help them perform better, then the whole thing falls apart. Without trust in their abilities, and without them having trust in your capacity to listen to them and bring out the best in each of them, your workers will try to skirt responsibility, do the minimum, or only work in fear of being fired.


By prioritizing accountability as an important quality in the workplace, you are effectively entrusting your workers with the responsibility to play a significant role at work, and conferring a sense of mutual respect as you retain the ability to enforce that responsibility, yet also believe they have what it takes to live up to your expectations.


Trust Leads to Quality 


When workers begin to feel the stakes, they begin to work at a better capacity. We aren’t built to give our all every single day – and we each have our ups and downs – but a team that functions on accountability and trust is a team where every member has some skin in the game. And this spurns them to do their best regardless of what that might be, as their work naturally reflects on them, and the success of the business is something they can ultimately identify with.


To make the most of an employee’s talents, they must feel that their work is being rewarded in correlation to how well it is being performed. And that when they slack off, they feel it and are reminded of the importance of their commitment to the organization, and that when they do their best, they receive an award commensurate to the effort they put into being an accountable and responsible team member.


When you seek to enforce that sense of accountability and ensure that everyone feels they have skin in the game, you must find ways to reward effort and discourage disengagement.



Establish the Importance of Accountability Early On


A culture of accountability is only built by example. Make it a point, especially during the interview process and throughout the first few weeks of orientation and work, to drive home the point that a worker’s input is valued. And that their efforts are proportionally rewarded based on the results they bring in.


Give workers a myriad of ways to express themselves and ensure that they frequently hear about how they’re doing as well. Ensure that they understand that their work is a living breathing part of the business. And that its success relies on them. Furthermore, that they can benefit off the fruits of that success with better pay, bonuses, certain benefits, freedoms at work, or any number of tangible rewards. This allows them to celebrate alongside everyone else as they watch the company grow and mature.


This is especially true for small businesses. Success is often a question of just how many in the company are willing to work past the normal 9-to-5 for extraordinary results.


Give & Receive Frequent Feedback 


Communication is critical to accountability. Employees must be reminded of their responsibilities and the role they play. They must be given the opportunity to speak earnestly about the challenges that are keeping them from performing at their best.


A good leader knows how to draw the most out of their workers not by draining them, but by empowering them to push their limits. In addition, to seek out breaks when they need to and come back stronger, to give them the sense that they can be honest about their problems, and to teach them to expect only honest answers back.


It’s a two-way street, for both negative and positive feedback. And it’s only through a trusting and honest employee-employer relationship backed up by frequent communication that workers can remain engaged and feel truly accountable.


Workers Want to Matter (and Get Paid)


Why do we work? If it’s just to feed the kids, then we’ll do what we must to provide for those we love. Work becomes a toll on the soul that we must heal and nourish in every way possible. As it’s something we have no control over, no agency in. We begin to burn out.


But when we find that our work has purpose, when we can feel like a vibrant part of something growing and dynamic, when we can be a part of the ups and downs of a growing company or concept, or when we sense that our work is changing someone’s life in one way or another, we can nourish ourselves with a sense of purpose beyond the daily grind, a reason for getting up and doing what we do past a sense of obligation or the need to survive.


Conferring that to your workers via accountability and trust can help turn them from being disengaged to knowing that they matter.


Business Trends

How to Run a Productive Virtual Meeting

As we work remotely, we must learn how to continue to best be productive as a collaborative team. It all starts with a productive virtual meeting. Read below for more details.


While we all like to rail on the inefficiency of the meeting, it is an important part of the brainstorming and decision-making process. And it’s not easy to run a productive meeting.


Some people are more inclined to bring their opinions to the table than others. And some are more longwinded than others. Reconciling that with the need to give everyone the chance to contribute while staying within a set timeframe of less than an hour is tough.


This is especially true virtually, where many feel that it’s not only harder for organizers to get everyone engaged, but it’s harder for workers to feel and stay engaged. As we continue to move towards a day and age where the virtual meeting will play an increasingly important role in our professional lives, managers need to adapt quickly and learn to leverage existing technologies to make the most of the virtual meeting.


The Same Rules Apply


It’s estimated that meetings cost American companies $399 billion last year in lost time and wasted resources. And that nearly half of surveyed employees found that bad meetings kept them from other important work. It’s not uncommon to hear workers lament that an hour-long meeting could’ve been summed up in an email. And it absolutely did not require everyone’s attendance and concentration.


Even when most workers are distracted at meetings, they’re still unable to get any meaningful work done. All they can really do to fill time while waiting for a meeting to be adjourned is check emails and browse the web.


As such, the same basic rules apply to the virtual meeting that already applied to the physical meeting:


      • Have less of them.
      • Keep them short.
      • Have fewer people on at a time.
      • Limit the amount of time spent on a given topic.
      • Address a small and succinct agenda per meeting (don’t scattershot your meeting topics).
      • Utilize visual stimuli to cut down on words.


Video conferencing tech means that we can continue to hold the same meetings we always did, but remotely. That isn’t a good thing, as many companies are holding way too many meetings. But video conferencing tech and collaborate software paves the way for a new and better way to communicate and brainstorm as a group.


Leverage Cooperative Technologies to Improve Collaboration


There are limitations to virtual communication tools, particularly the absence of full-body language and subtle visual or auditory cues due to video and audio quality varying based on internet speeds and equipment quality. This can have an impact on communication.


However, virtual communication makes up for it with a wider suite of collaborative technologies and communicative options. Employees can engage with one another on multiple fronts without “speaking” over each other by working on a single document together and offering written advice in the form of annotated comments. Images and visual aids can convey meaning and intent. Or succinctly explain a concept without taking up an excessive amount of time.



Many communication platforms today offer the ability to switch between voice/video channels. Meetings can take a set amount of time to split attendants into individual groups to brainstorm more freely on a single idea without the burden of having to fight over so many voices at once, before coming back together to succinctly describe what was discussed. This is easier and simpler than physically cordoning off a room or splitting a group into five separate rooms to try and encourage greater engagement and discussion.


The ability to split a meeting’s members off to encourage greater discussion, or leverage “silent” brainstorming via document collaboration can greatly boost engagement. No one feels like they have to wade through a loud opposition to get heard. And they don’t have to worry about taking up anyone else’s time (as everyone is contributing at the same time).


Avoid “Speechifying” 


Brevity remains important during meets, whether virtual or not. Beware of trying to cut a concept down to such a degree that its true usefulness is lost. But consider taking notes to send around for consideration after the meeting itself, so as not to lose too much time on a single idea. Even virtually, it’s important to take notes for the inevitable follow up.


When ideas are useful but not relevant, they can go to the “parking lot.”


Write Down Useful but Unrelated Information


The meeting “parking lot” is still a useful concept when organizing and managing a virtual meeting. When a meeting is managed well, especially when it’s a brainstorming meeting, a lot of ideas can float to the forefront that are interesting, albeit ultimately not relevant or unhelpful.


These ideas may be able to play a role in the future, however, and they should be acknowledged and stored. One way of doing so is to allot a virtual parking lot where unrelated ideas are noted down. They are then reviewed later either after the meeting or when they become relevant.


Not only does this encourage your team members to bring up good ideas even when they aren’t immediately relevant, but it’s also encouraging to see your idea acknowledged, rather than being shot down for being “wrong place, wrong time.”


Lay Out a Clear Agenda


This is important in any meeting, and it’s still important when running a productive virtual meeting. Meetings can often run long because they have the tendency of trying to address either too many things at once or tackle a single goal that should really be broken down into further steps.


Succinct meetings are best because you want to maximize the amount of information people retain. That means keeping meetings short and sweet, and preferably focused on just a couple of main questions. Be sure to send everyone the meeting agenda beforehand. They get the chance to consider what they think and how they might contribute.




Successful virtual meetings are about blending lessons that have always worked. This includes creating an agenda beforehand, keeping things succinct, and giving everyone a chance to contribute. New technologies and opportunities will help, such as collaborative software, different voice and video channels, and easier visual aids.


Office Space

6 Tips for Balancing Work and Family at Home

Balancing work and family in the same space has become the new normal. But if you’re seeking tips on how to manage the two in the best possible way, then read below for some helpful details.


Research indicates that remote working is not only a great way for companies to save space and reduce costs, but it tends to improve worker productivity. However, this is may be due to an added caveat: many employees who work remotely tend to work longer hours, as well as odd hours. This hints at the darker side of remote working, which is that it’s incredibly difficult to manage one’s time properly without outside structure.


However, this problem can be addressed by imposing some structure of your own. Remote workers can be just as productive or even more productive than their in-office counterparts and maintain their productivity over time. It will take some planning and a lot of proper time management.


By balancing work and family at home, remote workers can learn to have the best of both worlds, remaining productive while spending time with their loved ones and making a little time for themselves. Otherwise, the benefits of remote working can be cut short by an increased risk of burnout and overall stress.


1. Set Real Boundaries


As hard as it may be, it’s important to consistently and clearly distinguish between work and home – even when both take place within the same four walls. Set aside a room, a corner, a desk, or anything you can to designate “the office.” Set a schedule where you should not be disturbed.


With kids in the house, this can be very difficult. If you live with a partner or a spouse, coordinate with them to find the best three to four-hour window for you to get most of your concentrated work done, so the rest can get done intermittently between breaks. Put up a sign or lock the door or use headphones to put yourself in a different space.


Both physical and temporal boundaries are important for your mind to distinguish between work and home living. To that end, it’s also important to be away from work when you’re done with work. Stop checking emails or responding to messages after a set time and be sure your clients and/or employers know exactly when that time is. If needed, you can make exceptions for emergencies, but it’s important to discuss and properly define an “emergency.”


It might not seem like a big deal to be aware of what kind of communication you’re receiving from work while not technically working, but whenever you respond to an email or go over a coworker’s comment you are in fact “at work.” And being at work constantly is a detriment to your work-life balance.

2. Create a To-Do List


When at work, you’ll want to get as much done as possible. To eliminate the guilty feeling that accompanies being distracted and stuck on tasks while working from home, you need to set up a step-by-step process for each daily task and work through your responsibilities incrementally.


To-do lists are helpful here, as they let you quickly plan out the goals for the day, allot time for each step, and execute it without having to go over what you’ve done and what you need to do every hour or so. This will also help you jump right back into work if you’re in an environment with a lot of distractions or forced breaks, like home. You’re not always going to get your three hours of peace and silence – but if and when you do, a to-do list can help you capitalize on that time.


3. Start Work Very Early (or Very Late) 


If your sleeping schedule is inherently flawed nowadays, you might as well take advantage of that fact and figure out a good way to capitalize on the time you’re spending awake while everyone else is asleep.


Either pick the graveyard shift or wake up much earlier to get started with work while everyone else is still asleep. This way you can knock most of your tasks off your to-do list early on in the work day, then get to the tasks that don’t require quite as much focus throughout the rest of the work day, as everyone else is waking up.



However, don’t underestimate good sleep. A good night’s sleep is absolutely critical for mental performance, and research shows us time and time again how underrated sleep can be, and how even a little bit of restlessness can cost us cognitively.


If you’re waking up early to get an extra hour or two of quiet time in before everyone else is getting up, make sure you can get organized to go to bed an hour or two ahead of everyone else as well. This is easier said than done, and you will need some support from the rest of the family depending on how everyone’s household tasks are divided.


4. Elicit Help for Chores 


When working from home, one of the tougher challenges is juggling work life with the need to keep the home clean and tidy. If you and your partner are both working from home, the logical answer is to split the housework, doing a little more or a little less depending on which one of you is busier. Some weeks, the workload is heftier than other weeks. Some days, a work task might take priority and require a little overtime. Remaining flexible for any variation in schedule is important here, so don’t get too stuck on who’s job it is to do what.


If you have kids, find age-appropriate chores for them to complete. Young children can learn to practice cleaning up after themselves, fold clothes, bring used clothes to the hamper, and organize their rooms. Older kids can do laundry and the dishes, keep the floors and windows clean, and help in other ways.


5. Find an Effective & Healthy Way to Wind Down 


The “quarantini” has become a trend for a reason, but don’t get too attached to coping styles of that sort. They’re called “maladaptive” coping mechanisms for a reason. Finding a form of “me time” that helps you relax and is good for you can be somewhat of a challenge but is important when working from home.


It can be anything therapeutic from working with your hands (a little baking or stitching) to working with your mind (sudoku, puzzle games, online video games), or letting off some steam (yoga, boxing, exercise).


Pick a handful of simple half-an-hour to one hour-long activities that you can rely on to cap a day off, either after work or after spending time with your family and make them a priority. It might seem selfish to spend time solely for yourself when there is probably plenty else to do, but you need some way of staying sane.

6. It’s Okay Not to Be as Productive 


Given the context and the news around the world, as well as the sudden and abrupt shift to remote working for many, these are still extraordinary circumstances.


As we inevitably shift more towards a remote work environment and the continuing growth of the work-from-anywhere trend, it will be important to get used to circumstances such as these and manage an effective rhythm from home.


But for now, cut yourself some slack. It’s okay to take a little time to adjust and figure out the best way to organize yourself in chaotic times like these.


Work Environment

Best Practices for Handling Disengaged Employees

It’s important to properly oversee your workforce to ensure not only productivity, but also that they are simply happy. If you are feeling like there are some disengaged employees, read the guide below on how to best approach the situation.


Employee disengagement is a worryingly common issue. While no executive or manager would argue with the idea that there are bad apples in the workforce, the majority of professionals are people trying to do a good job – and many hires do very well in the first few weeks at a new position.


But that enthusiasm often dies down and, after a honeymoon period, many employees begin to distance themselves from the person they were on Day One and start to feel absent and “barely there.” A more complex issue than meets the eye, disengaged employees are estimated to be a problem for most businesses as surveys indicate that two-thirds of Americans are disengaged from their jobs.


Most of these disengaged workers simply come in, punch in, and leave to go home as soon as they can. They don’t do overtime willingly, they aren’t invested in the company, they don’t feel like they belong or have any reason to be loyal to their employers, and generally just fly under the radar.


Can disengaged employees be motivated to do better? Oftentimes, yes. But only if you understand why they’re disengaged, to begin with.


What Makes an Employee Feel Disengaged? 


A disengaged employee is a person who is bluntly unhappy with their job. They feel that they either:


a.) don’t fit in

b.) are undervalued or poorly managed

c.) feel cheated, or wronged by their employers, either directly or indirectly.


Disengaged employees can be recognized by the hallmark signs of professional stagnation, diminished output, and toxic behavior.


As with any relationship where one party is deeply unhappy, the root of the issue is often misunderstood or completely unknown to the other party. An important step in converting any disengaged employee back to an engaged one is communication – allow them to earnestly air their grievances and explain themselves, and their lack of motivation.


This is especially important if the person in question was once a promising and very enthusiastic hire. This is someone with tremendous potential and great initial energy – why did they stop bringing that energy to work with them?


Is It Your Fault or Theirs?


The blame game rarely leads to any sort of productive change at the office or elsewhere, but it bears mentioning that surveys found about 70 percent of cases of employee engagement were due to bad management. More often than not, it’s the manager’s fault.


But what do you do with that information? First, don’t allow yourself to jump to conclusions. There are still cases where employee engagement drops simply because the employee no longer feels they are a good fit for the company, and they’re looking for the right opportunity to afford themselves an amicable exit.


However, when it is a matter of poor management, finding ways to effectively measure why your workers feel disengaged will play a critical role in managing and eliminating the disengagement.



Workers Seek to Be Valued


A common grievance for many employees is that they no longer feel they have any reason to feel loyal to their company. We spend more time at work than we do with our family, on average, which often means that the office and one’s coworkers effectively must function as a second family away from home. A lack of social engagement, a poor or hostile company culture, or a woefully inefficient leadership style can all contribute to feeling disappointed in one’s workplace.


However, the most common grievance for many is a lack of opportunities for continued growth. Workers want to not only improve themselves and become more effective, more efficient, and more skilled, but they want to be more valuable – and they want that value to be recognized.


Many workers today seek to be a part of something greater, and while not every worker can make a serious impact on the course of a company, every worker does ultimately matter. And making sure they understand how they fit into it all and see how the fruits of their labor are leading to positive change can be a great motivator.


Communicate Often


Millennials (born in the 80s up until the mid-90s) make up most of the workforce in America since 2016, and only about 20 percent report being happy with the way their performance is being managed and reviewed.


While generational differences are often exaggerated for clickbait, some of the marked differences in the way millennials engage with their work versus previous generations are real. Chief among them is the need for constant feedback as a way to seek out improvement and better efficiency.


If you are in a managerial position and largely employ millennials, be sure to provide feedback on their performance more often. Be constructively critical, praise them when you feel it is deserved, and help them achieve their goal of becoming a better and more efficient worker.


Offer More Location Flexibility


Today’s workforce, more so than at any other point in modern history, craves the ability to choose where to work. With remote working options touting a long list of benefits for productivity and creativity, it’s easy to see why the trend of working from anywhere but the office has grown drastically in the last few years.


Easy telecommuting tools make this much more feasible than it had been even just a decade ago. Coworkers can communicate, see each other, and collaborate on projects almost seamlessly, even across thousands of miles of distance.


Workers today shop online, do their banking online, date online, consume entertainment online, and communicate with loved ones online. With the spread of COVID-19, the transition into an increasingly digital world has been accelerated for many.


Rather than see the ability to work remotely as a privilege, many feel that modern technology has arrived at a point where, for most, it should simply be the new normal. Furthermore, consider that a whopping 44 percent of workers would agree to take a 10 percent pay cut for the ability to work remotely.


This doesn’t need to mean “work from home forever,” mind you. Companies can utilize the growth of coworking to encourage workers to work from anywhere, based on what currently suits them and their tasks best. Whether that’s the main office, a coworking space, a cozy and quiet café, or the comfort of their home office.


You can improve worker engagement by showing that you trust your workers to remain productive and dedicated to their job without constant micromanaging or supervision (but with constant access to a myriad of tools for instant feedback and communication).


You Can’t Force Someone to Engage


While you can adopt a variety of strategies to improve employee engagement, there will always be hires who started out looking like the perfect pick but lose interest over time.


Employees and employers can part ways amicably when their goals no longer match up. When an employee feels they’ve outgrown their position and their employer cannot offer a better opportunity, there’s no shame in ending a working relationship and wishing them the best in their endeavors. Disengagement is not always caused by a poor work environment – sometimes, it’s just not the right fit.


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