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How to build trust remotely

How to build trust remotely

Are you surprised your employees are working well at home? 

Don’t be! It makes sense, right? 

Working remotely eliminates commute time, encourages flexibility and fosters efficiency. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t necessarily abandon your office in the name of productivity— despite what management might think. And if you’re like us, human resource managers are a little nervous about going 100% remote.

Right? Because people are highly functional. We are social animals. And at the end of the day, of course employees can get things done with little social interaction. However, it’s a challenge because it’s harder to establish and maintain trust, and it always requires more work on your end. 

So what’s the secret sauce—the solution—the magic bullet to building trust remotely?

i am in hell

There isn’t one. But you can think about implementing and managing remote employees like a long distance relationship—you need to put more effort into it because you’re on the phone the entire time!

 

Re-framing

Isaac Stern was a famous violin player and a fantastic preserver of the magic in music. Despite his incredible mastery of the violin, he is well known to have said, “music is what happens between the notes”.

mouseband

Like music, trust is what’s built between meetings. It’s built into the well-known ‘meeting’ after the meeting. Or when you bump into a colleague and ask them to grab lunch. 

Trust is built into the little innocuous moments that by themselves are nothing, but over time build trust and support collaboration. Unfortunately, there is no in-between moment when we work remotely—we just have the meeting, which is why you have to work much harder at building trust if you’re working and managing teams remotely.

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Why is trust so hard?

Just because a team can function well remotely, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a sacrifice. 

Whether you’re dealing with a busy team or working with people who are really focused on the numbers, sometimes you forget to check in and do things you used to—and that’s okay. It’s not you or your organisation, scaling to remote work can sometimes break things.

So, if you feel overwhelmed by the fact that teams are remote, try to re-frame the relationship in your mind as a long-distance relationship. Because there is no time in between, it’s important to recognise that it is possible to build trust—it just requires more work. 

 

What to do?

Trust happens organically in the office, but you need to be prescriptive about it upfront. Ultimately, you need to ask yourself: Are you recognising people who are performing and hitting their numbers, or are you recognising people who are collaborating? 

When managing employees remotely, you should consider updating your metrics to reward people who are collaborating and building trust, even if you’re in a growth and busy phase. 

Also, try to implement a Monday morning huddle. It’s a catch-up call that has nothing to do with work. It’s an opportunity for people to simply talk about themselves. And often what happens with passionate people, is that chats start going toward work organically.

People find it healthy to debrief on things that happened during the week or on the weekend. Funny little titbits about what happened here, something funny they saw online, or something they heard about from a friend. Because we then start to see people for who they are. As humans! And employees begin to build relationships. But it needs to be done prescriptively. 

Another thing you can do is suggest people leave the camera on after a call—or before. It just keeps things going and keeps you talking organically. But if you’ve got Zoom fatigue, bring it back old school and try using the telephone.

onthephone

Surprisingly, the blower is a much better way to connect with someone, especially if they’re busy or distracted. Because when you’re on Zoom with someone, and you can see they’re emailing someone or distracted with something else, there’s no actual polite way to say, 

“Um. Hey. Can you stop what you’re doing?” 

But when you’re on the telephone. You can catch someone who is distracted and say, “Hello! You there?” People have forgotten how good the phone is. And they need to bring it back.

 

Conclusion 

You must create trust by recognising and rewarding collaboration, suggesting managers schedule non-work check-ins for employees and encouraging direct communication through phone calls.

By implementing these practices, you create a remote work environment where trust can flourish, ensuring every team member feels valued and connected, regardless of where they are.

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