Responsibility At Work? Why This Timeless Principle Remains an Essential Element for Remote and Hybrid Companies

Why is responsibility such an unavoidably important principle, and what does it looks like for high-functioning location-independent companies?
7 min read | by Dan Smith
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Today, many organizations have struggled to cultivate and sustain a thriving remote workforce. At the same time, there are seemingly countless “recommendations” and “best practices” swirling around for how to get the most out of remote employees.

In some ways, and perhaps ironically, the surplus of convoluted information out there has made it more difficult to succeed in this management challenge. Indeed, it seems that our industry’s over-analytical tendencies have obfuscated our view of what’s most important at work.

When you boil it down, what truly are the most critical ingredients for making location-independent companies flourish? Where exactly should organizations direct their strategic focus?

Remote-First Principles

Through our decades of experience as remote workforce and people operations consultants, we have discovered there are two simple, key ingredients required for making a location-independent company both survive and thrive. You may have heard of them before…

1) Trust

2) Responsibility

To begin, trust is organizational gold. Trust means that employees have the confident belief that everyone in the organization is performing and will continue to perform their job to the best of their abilities. 

When organizations have cultures characterized by trust, it is typically a sign that an organization is of authentic, good health. Feel free to read more about our perspective on trust here. But the focus of this blog is on something slightly different…what exactly allows for trust to emerge and permeate an organization?

Enter Responsibility

Responsibility is one of the greatest drivers of trust at work. That is, when all organizational members (employees, leaders, and everyone in between) understand and reliably take responsibility for performing their duties and assigned tasks, the magic starts to unfold. Specifically, the necessary work gets done, the organization upholds standard operating procedures, and the members of the organization start to feel good about it. This creates a positive feedback loop that inspires greater action, and the cycle continues.

To emphasize our stance, we assert that responsibility is the simple, age-old solution for organizations seeking to flourish with a remote workforce. To put simply, responsibility is what keeps organizations alive.

If a farmer plants seeds in the ground, will his crops grow to harvest on their own? The answer to this is obvious. But we often forget how such simple, profound truths also apply to the workplace. As the leader of an organization, you may have an amazing company with a truly valuable product or service to offer the world. You may have an eloquently written mission statement, vision, and values. You may have crafted a detailed business plan to help your company evolve from an initial concept to a large-scale solution. But if no one takes responsibility for the work, absolutely nothing will be achieved.

Responsibility in Remote Work

Responsibility is an exceptionally important element for remote work. For organizations where everyone comes to work in person, responsibility is reinforced naturally. However, in a remote setting, employees and leaders alike are more vulnerable to shirking responsibility because their action (or inaction) in their work is often less visible. Therefore, shared responsibility is both particularly valuable and vulnerable to breaking down among location-independent companies.

So, we’ve hammered home the importance of responsibility. But what does it look like? In remote work, different parties are responsible for different things. To keep it simple, we break responsibilities down into two major categories: 1) employer responsibility and 2) employee responsibility.

Employer Responsibility

Employer responsibility is the first building block for creating a broader culture of responsibility within an organization. So, what are employers responsible for? Employer responsibility may look slightly different for each individual organization. However, there are some universals we can start with. 

As a general premise, employers are responsible for making sure their employees have all the resources and support they need to perform their work in a remote capacity. Indeed, if employees do not have the tools they need to perform their work, then the work will not get done, and the organization will fail. 

Of course, these tools can get far more specific. For example, employers are responsible for making sure that employees have a safe environment, the necessary infrastructure (e.g., a home, office, or shared workspace to work in), and tools/resources (e.g., computers, internet connection, software, access to internal data, etc.) to perform their work.

Employee Responsibility

When I was in college and competed on the track team, my coach had a sign in his office window that said in all capital letters, “DO YOUR JOB.” It never ceased to be a great reminder to make sure I was in fact making an honest effort every day.

The first thing that employees are responsible for is precisely doing their job. When individuals are hired, it is with the expectation that they will perform a defined scope of work. It never ceases to be important that employees take responsibility for performing the duties of their job.

In the service of being a good organizational member, employees are also responsible for initiating certain types of communication to relevant parties. For example, employees have a responsibility to ask questions about any challenges or unknowns they face in their work. If they do not raise their voice and communicate to their supervisor about not knowing what to do, employers will not always be able to provide the appropriate support they need.

Lastly, the best employees take responsibility for soliciting feedback on their own performance. Although performance reviews are a common practice among organizations, when employees proactively seek support, they are truly optimizing their ability to be responsible employees. Because as a result, they will become better workers, and everyone in the organization stands to benefit.

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Tips for Building Responsible Remote Workforces


Employer First. 

Building responsibility starts with the employer. An employer’s responsibility must happen first because it is what allows for employees to then enact their responsibility of performing their job well.

Make it Explicit. 

Be intentional and communicative about wanting to create a responsible organization. Create, showcase, and reinforce internal documents that state the responsibilities of everyone in the organization. That way everyone knows everyone’s responsibilities. Responsibility also can be reinforced within the culture, beginning right up front with new hires’ onboarding experience.

Help Everyone Stay Accountable. 

In a remote company, you want to create a helpful culture of accountability, where everyone is aware of their responsibility and everyone is engaged in helping each other fulfill their responsibilities the best they can.

Keep Checking In. 

If your company is healthy and regularly meeting its goals, then it is likely experiencing growth. If your company is growing, then it is also safe to assume that your workforce is growing and/or the realm of responsibilities for your current employees is growing. 

Therefore, it’s imperative that employers regularly check in with employees to make sure they have everything they need to perform their job. It is good for employers to expect that employees’ needs will change, so reach out regularly.

Summary and Next Steps

Trust and responsibility are our two root principles for the remote employee experience. Through the current discussion, we hope you are more clear on the idea that responsibility is both a reciprocal act and crucial element for healthy employee-employer relationships. Establishing and enacting shared responsibility within your location-independent company is how you create and sustain a thriving remote workforce. It is your simple path forward.

At BlendMe, we are your remote people operations consultants. If you are looking to better define or strengthen the responsibilities within your remote or hybrid workforce, please feel free to contact us


Originally Published by Dan Smith on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 | Updated on Tuesday, July 9, 2024
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