The ultimate guide to OKRs for remote teams

The OKR framework is a simple yet effective method for setting, communicating, and tracking priorities and responsibilities. This guide will help you understand the OKR framework, its benefits, how to set OKRs, and why they're an excellent tool for remote teams. 

The modern workplace is a complex mix of people, processes, and quickly changing priorities. More than ever, teams are also distributed or working remotely. While remote work has increased by 150% since 2015, over 50% of the current remote workforce started working remotely following the massive shifts brought on by the pandemic in 2020.

This shift presented many challenges and opportunities for organizations to improve how they communicate objectives and goals. Setting and documenting goals have always been a vital part of tracking and measuring success, but amid ever-evolving workplace dynamics and environments, it's more important than ever. 

Does your team understand how the work they do every day matters? Do they know where they fit in the larger organizational puzzle and see how their contributions contribute to the business's success? If not, it might be time to re-prioritize setting and documenting objectives and key results (OKRs). 

This guide will help you understand the OKR framework, its benefits, how to set OKRs, and why they're an excellent tool for remote teams. 

What is the OKR framework?

The OKR framework is a simple yet effective method for setting, communicating, and tracking priorities and responsibilities. OKRs are used by some of the world's leading organizations to set milestones, prioritize tasks and initiatives, and enact strategies across the entire organization. 

Simply put: 

  • Objectives define what you intend to accomplish
  • Key Results outline how you'll meet those objectives

The framework is effective because it helps outline a company's top priorities and the metrics the organization must track to ensure success. Once set, these teams and individual contributors across the organization establish personal objectives and key results or key performance indicators (KPIs) that ladder up to achieving those larger company objectives. And since they're completely transparent and easy to understand, everyone across the organization — whether at the office or working remotely — has visibility into the company's quarterly priorities. 

The result? No more guesswork about how individual team members should spend their time.

Here's a simple example of what an objective and key result framework might look like: 

  • Objective: Improve user experience to boost subscriptions and user adoption
  • Key result (KPI): Increase weekly average users (WAUs) by 50% 
  • Key result (KPI): Reduce time to value (onboarding time) by 25%
  • Key result (KPI): Achieve average NPS of 90+ 

The benefits of OKRs for remote teams

Clear communication of priorities is vital for any organization's health, efficiency, and productivity — but it's even more important for remote work employees who may be more isolated from their teammates or at risk of working in silos. 

OKRs clearly communicate and establish top priorities, how every team member should be measuring success and how they're tracking against goals. The benefits are multifold:

Improves organizational alignment

What does the company need to do today to maximize success? With clear OKRs, everyone across the organization, including remote workers, will have a clear answer to this question. Goals are set against those priorities, and everyone can prioritize their daily tasks to help achieve them. The company is moving in lockstep toward a shared goal and vision. 

Keeps teams focused on results 

Day-to-day work is full of distractions and fire drills. It can be easy to lose sight of what's most important when tackling one-off tasks or juggling conflicting stakeholder requests. Setting and sticking to clear OKRs helps teams eschew reactivity while staying calm and laser-focused only on the tasks that will make a difference to the goals set for themselves and the company. Anything that deviates or distracts from those objectives can be quickly deprioritized. This is particularly helpful for managers of remote workers who can easily track their team's progress against goals without overdoing check-ins or hand-holding. 

Fosters better asynchronous communication 

While there are many tools to help facilitate communication among hybrid and remote teams, it can still be challenging to ensure key messages reach everyone they need to. OKRs establish a helpful framework for weekly 1:1s and check-ins. When discussing a new project or priority, managers and team members can keep the conversation focused on the quarter's key objectives — and determine and agree on the next best steps accordingly. 

How to set OKRs

OKRs are always time-bound. That's why they're so effective in keeping the team focused and moving proactively toward an established goal. Even better, OKRs are easy to set by following these simple steps: 

Keep it simple but specific

Avoid setting objectives that are too ambiguous or overly ambitious. Set and prioritize objectives around what the company needs most today. Make them reasonably attainable within the determined timeframe, usually a quarter. These objectives should stretch your team, not set them up for failure. 

Cascade your objectives

Make sure everyone knows their role in achieving these objectives. Cascading your objectives means ensuring your teams' goals cascade from the organization to the individual level. Help team members set clear key results that directly impact the objectives. 

Make it measurable

Every key result you set needs a unit of measurement, so it's clear when the goal is reached — for example, creating eight blog posts monthly to increase brand awareness. Teams can break down larger goals into mini-goals to keep teams motivated. Encourage your team to strive for 100% attainment of their key result and celebrate progress toward ambitious metrics at the end of the quarter. 

How Clearword can help you track and manage OKRs 

A remote-first work culture requires clear, intentional communication to ensure everyone is moving intentionally toward the right goals. 

Clearword can help managers and teams document and track their OKRs by keeping all conversations around OKRs stored in a central, easily searchable library.