Building Trust in Your Remote Team

Hi, I’m Nicola from The People Mentor.

In today’s podcast, I want to talk about an issue that most managers will have dealt with in recent months: trusting their team to be productive when they are working remotely.

The lockdown forced the closure of many workplaces so working remotely was the only option, whether businesses were ready for it or not.

Working remotely will definitely have taken some adjusting to, but many employees reported being more productive and having better work/life balance. The shift to remote working has made many businesses consider whether adopting it more widely in the future as not only a way to work more flexibly, but to also gain a considerable competitive advantage.

So remote working has the potential to be a better option for businesses and their employees, yet the issue of trust is a big fly in the ointment.

Trust is one of the key things that makes a team feel like a team.

It creates a sense of belonging. It unites people behind a common purpose. It makes people feel that it’s safe to share ideas and concerns, and it makes them feel appreciated and respected.

You can’t do many of the things that create a sense of being a team when you’re not physically in the workplace. There’s no shared coffee breaks or lunch breaks, face to face meetings, or office banter. This is why actively working to maintain a sense of connection, and of trust is even more important.

When there is no trust in a team, you’ll get conflict, less cooperation and collaboration, low morale and low productivity, and generally people just looking out for themselves rather than working towards business goals.

Does this sound like a team that’s going to be very enthusiastic about helping get the business back on track after Covid-19? Does this sound like a team you’d trust to get the job done when they’re working from home? Definitely not.

But the thing about trust is that it’s a two-way street.

You need to be able to trust that employees are engaged, productive, and getting the work done at home.

Your employees need to trust that you care about them, appreciate them, and that you’re being completely open and honest with them, especially in these difficult times.

I’ve experienced micromanagement when remotely working.  Checking up on me, stating your teams was showing not available or I’ve called you and you didn’t answer.  And that’s the thing, you could be drafting something on paper, or you could be actually taking a break and getting a drink. By saying those comments, it makes you feel guilty and as if you shouldn’t get a drink, go to the toilet and more.  That then creates a feeling that someone is on your back constantly and starts to erode your trust for your manager.  And as the manager you’ve already lost your trust if you are doing that and you need to ask yourself why?

So how can you build trust when your team are working remotely?

Start with communication. When you aren’t seeing people face to face, regular communication becomes more important than ever.

Having regular virtual team meetings, checking in with individual team members (not just about work), and making sure everyone is kept up to date with what is happening will go a long way to building trust and making employees feel cared about.

Regular communications are also a great way to set clear expectations for your team. If you tell them exactly what is expected right from the start, then you let them go away and work on their tasks, it will give you peace of mind that you’ve given the direction needed to get the work done. Your team will also feel confident in you as a leader and they’ll also feel trusted to get the job done.

If the micromanager in you dreads the thought of your team spending hours in front of Netflix instead of pulling their weight, software like Trello or Slack can help you keep in touch, track progress on tasks and projects, and collaborate.

Using tools like this can increase openness and transparency, which helps to build trust. You can see how productive people have been and how they are getting on, and team members will be able to trust that their colleagues haven’t been sunning themselves at the beach while they’ve been knuckling down.

On the plus side, working from home is a chance for employees to take responsibility for managing their workload and their time, and this can feel empowering for them. If they feel empowered to just get on with things, they’ll feel trusted.

The key for managers who are leading remote teams in these times is to realise that you won’t be able to keep track of what your team members are doing in the same way as you would if you were in the workplace, and to accept that employees just might not be as productive as usual right now.

Everyone has had a different experience of lockdown, and some team members may be struggling. So you may need to cut them a bit of slack.

You need to bring some humanity into your management. Keep an open door (albeit a virtual one) and when you deal with your employees, do so with compassion and empathy, especially if they are struggling. I promise you that this will build trust and better relationships.

Believe me, as well as looking to you for guidance and direction during these times, employees will remember what you said and did, so make sure you’re the leader they need.

Are there trust issues in your remote team?

Has remote working thrown up a whole lot of trust issues in your team?

Or were there already deep-rooted issues before all of this that you never managed to get to the bottom of?

A lack of trust is a symptom of a dysfunctional team.

I can help you find the cause.

My Team Turnaround package is designed for managers and business owners who know that there are issues that need to be dealt with in their teams, but they just don’t know where to start when it comes to getting to the bottom of things.

Then there’s the time. You already have so many competing demands and now the challenges of trying to manage a team remotely.

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