Recent years have seen dramatic growth in the uptake of remote working. It is not uncommon for organisations to have no base, and have employees scattered around the country working from home. In other cases, businesses may offer hybrid opportunities in which some staff members are part or full-time remote.
There are a great range of benefits to this type of working environment, and it can have a positive impact on both the employee and the organisation as a whole. However, one of the greatest barriers to succeeding in a remote environment is the challenge of building trust between team members.
Without working alongside each other every day, there is a lack of familiarity in teams and the wider organisation. This can impact their trust in one another or their superiors. In turn, this might impact productivity in both the short and long term. However, like all barriers, with the right approach, it can be overcome.
We’ve compiled a list of 8 tips for employers that help to build a trusting workplace environment.
- Set clear expectations from the beginning. It is really important to set clear goals and guidelines for your employees from the beginning. A trusting relationship is built on mutual understanding. Early discussions can set out everything you expect from your remote employee and give them an opportunity to ask any questions or explain what they may need from you too.
Make sure you set out a plan for how often you require check-ins, what scenarios they should reach out to you for and so forth.
- Communicate. Following on from the above, communication is key to employee trust. This means trust amongst teams as much as it does trust with employers or superiors. Trust is imperative for remote teams to work well together, and without proper communication, that trust breaks down.
Employers should make efforts to support all employees, remote or otherwise in developing strong communication skills. One way to ensure this is by offering training in these soft skills.
Make sure there are effective channels of communication set up to make this easier for employees. For example, email communication is great for sending documents or discussing formal or confidential workplace matters. However, a more informal chatroom such as Slack can allow teams to build stronger relationships and therefore better trust.
- Prioritise well-being. Remote work can be difficult for many individuals, even those who elect to work remotely may feel disconnected or isolated at times. Like any working environment, there are always risks to mental, physical, and emotional health which can at times impact an employee’s productivity. Employers should be compassionate and empathetic at times like this, and where possible ensure there is access to well-being services for all employees. Patience, open communication about mental health and the offering of support services encourages trust.
Returning somewhat to Tip #2 is the idea that employees must feel safe to communicate when they are struggling. As much as employers must be truthful about their expectations, employees must be honest about their own capabilities. Telling the truth is crucial to trust, from both sides.
- Don’t micromanage. As employers or managers of remote teams, it can be difficult not to micromanage. The remote environment can mean it’s harder to keep up to date with the small details of employees’ time or where they are on a project. Micromanaging suggests a lack of trust in your employee and their abilities, which is counter-productive to encouraging them to trust you. Instead, set up clear communication channels and reporting processes, so that you can keep track of work, without becoming a pest.
- Assess based on deliverables. Thus, a key tip when managing a remote team is to ensure you assess based on deliverables. So long as something is delivered on time, and that it is of a high enough standard, it does not matter the method the employee took to get there.
Part of setting clear expectations (Tip #1) involves making it clear that they will be assessed on what they produce. Remote workers must use their own initiative to keep to their deadlines and deliver what is expected when expected.
- Team building. “Team Building” gets thrown around as somewhat of a buzzword sometimes, and it can be associated with drab workplace events or parties. However, requiring teams to come together can be imperative to ensuring they have trusted relationships and a healthy workplace culture.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible for everyone to be together physically, but depending on where your team members are located and the nature of your remote or hybrid business, try to carve out time for everyone to come together in some capacity to do something other than think or talk about work. Even if this has to be online, allowing employees to get to know each other beyond their professional personas is crucial to trusting relationships.
- Feedback. Remember you can always ask your own employees how they feel about their remote working situation after a couple of weeks or months. Keeping tabs on how things are running and how teams are feeling encourages a sense of trust as they feel their needs are valued. You can make efficient and valuable changes where possible to improve your remote-working setup by discussing with employees their own unique needs.
- Trust them. Ultimately, as an employer, the best thing you can do to ensure employees trust you is to trust them. If you are clear about your expectations from your employees from the get-go, you can step back and trust that they will achieve. Use deliverables to assess their performance but trust the process in the meantime. You can assume that they will raise any issues themselves if you have ensured there are healthy channels of communication between teams, and from teams to superiors, managers or employers.
Ultimately, building trust in the workplace can be difficult regardless of the environment, and remote working only creates added barriers to this. By following the above tips, employers can make every effort to ensure teams trust them and trust each other.
Trainer Bubble offers a range of resources which can help you achieve the above. Explore our website to find tools for team-building materials or communication training. If you are a remote business, e-learning can be a powerful tool to ensure employees are up-to-date with any compliance training, as well as encourage them to refresh or develop their skills. Our full range of e-learning courses can be explored here. More specifically, we provide classroom training course materials on Managing a Virtual Team and also an e-learning course on Leading Virtual Teams.