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How to Build Peer Accountability Via Remote Coworking

It’s a distracting day working from home, and you have a million things on your plate. You’re buried in a wave of Slack notifications you need to reply to, and you’re struggling to get that one task you actually care about done.

Blank page syndrome is hitting hard.

Our favorite way to tackle days like this? Peer accountability through remote coworking sessions.

If the word "accountability" unsettles you, don't worry—we aren't talking about micromanaging bosses hovering over your shoulder. We're talking about low-stakes coworking meetups with your remote team to work together, share goals, get in flow, and help each other stay on task.

At Remotion, we see coworking as the perfect overlap between helping you feel more socially connected to your team and being more productive. Here’s how to start running your own remote coworking sessions so that you can build a culture of peer accountability across your team.

1. Find a peer accountability buddy

To start, find a team member who is available for remote coworking. Don’t try to pair everyone on your team just yet—try a one-hour pilot with a partner for now. Use a test run to learn what works best before setting up coworking or an accountability partner program for the whole team.

Your peer accountability buddy doesn’t need to be someone you work with regularly. We actually recommend choosing someone you don't work with regularly, who is also be looking to work smarter or struggling to make time for deep work.

It can be as simple as sharing a message like this in your team Slack:

Does anyone want to try an hour-long peer accountability session with me to try to get in flow together? I've been looking to carve out more time for deep work, and would love an accountability buddy to share space with and help me focus.

Or, you could try finding a peer accountability buddy outside of your team with a message like this:

This will help you find someone to pilot with, but will also help you gauge interest in a broader initiative for the team.

Alternatively, you can take the your next project sync as an opportunity to set up a coworking session with a peer who is working on the same project as you. The two of you probably know each other, but getting into flow together while working on the same project can be motivating and help you build a sense of shared momentum.

2. Structure your peer accountability coworking sessions

Before your first meetup, decide on a format for your coworking session. We recommend starting with a 60 or 90 minute session to give yourselves enough time to get in flow and accomplish something meaningful.

We like leaving our cameras on during our coworking sessions, because it helps promote accountability and a sense of shared presence.

We also advise building time to share goals in your session. Sharing goals pushes both of you to stick to your deadlines and helps you hold each other accountable. Focusmate uses one loose template for coworking sessions that we recommend trying out:

  • First 5 minutes: Share your goals for the coworking session.
  • The following 50 minutes, 80 minutes, or 110 minutes: Work together on mute. While you work, listen to your favorite Spotify playlist that gets you in the zone.
  • Last 5 minutes: Debrief on the session to celebrate each other’s progress.

Whatever structure you use, share what you hope to achieve early in the meetup (and ask your peer to do the same). At the end of your session, you and your peer accountability buddy can then hold each other accountable by sharing how the tasks went. It's also important to celebrate what you accomplished! This end-of-session check in is crucial to cultivating peer accountability.

If you want more ideas for how to structure coworking sessions, we’ve got you covered—check out our Tactical Guide to Virtual Coworking for other ways to connect.

3. Follow up with your accountability partner outside of coworking

Send your buddy a DM between coworking times to check in on their goals, and invite them to do the same for you. Discuss your struggles, progress, or what you're hoping to accomplish in your next coworking session.

If you and your buddy want to get the benefits of peer accountability between sessions, set up a daily update process to check in more regularly. Every morning, DM each other what you're planning to get done that day.

Whatever follow-up format you choose, stay consistent. Regularly checking in with your teammate helps you stay on track and build momentum as you work toward your goals.

4. Build a coworking program for your entire distributed team

You’ve tested out remote coworking with your buddy, and you think the process would help your entire team. With more people available for coworking, it is easier for everyone to find a partner who will keep them accountable.

But how do you set up a coworking program, exactly?

First: choose a coworking tool. You can use Zoom or any video software to run sessions, but a dedicated coworking app like Remotion gives you access to several features that make working alongside peers a breeze. A few things that help make coworking a better experience:

  • Lightweight coworking rooms where team members can work alongside each other remotely at any time.
  • Shared music from Spotify or YouTube so you can play your favorite focus tunes to help make coworking comfortable and help everyone get in the zone.
Sharing our goals at the top of a remote coworking session in Remotion!

Second, get buy-in from your team and let people opt-in. A peer accountability program isn't something to force on your team—it needs to be fully opt-in to work, but when properly implemented it can improve both productivity and team culture. Introduce the concept at a team meeting or a Slack thread where people can express their interest.

Lastly, set up a system for assigning coworking buddies across the team on a regular basis. You can use Google Sheets to randomize pairings, or an online tool like this one. Don't worry if you have an odd number of participants—peer accountability works in groups of 3 or more too.

Accountability partners don't need to work on the same projects to benefit from working alongside each other, so creating pairs randomly or based on schedules works just fine.

Try swapping buddies on a monthly basis to spend time with a wider range of team members, or try peer accountability sessions in groups of up to 8 people cultivate connections that might not otherwise happen.

Help each of your team members get the most out of coworking sessions by setting clear expectations for your meetups. Coworking shouldn't feel strict—the idea is just to make sure team members have a format to lean on that encourages individual mental clarity and focus.

Build momentum and stay connected with peer accountability

As you check in on your accountability partner's progress (and vice versa), remember that productivity is just one component of remote coworking. These sessions are also a chance to bond with your coworkers and build a tight team culture—no matter where everyone is across the world.

Coworking can help you make room for casual conversations that strengthen your company culture and remote collaboration. Remotion helps you build peer accountability and connections in a no-stress, casual way.

The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.

Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.

Here are the biggest reasons we think coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:

1. It fosters casual conversations.

Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in an office.

2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.

It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.

3. It's easy to say yes to.

Purely social events are important, but if your team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.

4. It improves remote collaboration.

Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages.

5. It's scalable.

Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.

6. It creates shared momentum.

The feeling of togetherness is motivating!

Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.

It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.

Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.

Best practices for virtual coworking.

Keep group sizes small.

Limit your coworking sessions to 4-6 people to keep things from getting distracting and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.

Signal boost coworking.

Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.

Make it routine.

Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.

Set expectations ahead of time.

When you're first introducing coworking to your team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of each session to get everyone on the same page. For example:

Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at the office.

Listen to music together.

Play music while you work to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your coworking session.

Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.

Most of the above is doable with any video chat app, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Easily set up Remotion rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.

We'd love to hear how coworking goes for you, or what practices you've found helpful on your team — let us know @remotionco on Twitter.

Want to try coworking in Remotion, our virtual office? Get free access today.

Cowork like
everyone's together.