Even with Covid-19 restrictions slowly lifting, it’s clear that working remotely will remain a necessity for many for months to come, and is here to stay.

This was the hot topic when I joined the online Like Minds “Lockdown Business Festival”, a week of curated, business-focussed masterclasses aimed at SMEs and business owners dealing with the impact of lockdown.

As an HR leader with over 20 years’ experience partnering with colleagues around the world on good practice when it comes to working and leading remotely, I joined Zoltan Vass’s session on ‘Why trust and communication are the most important things in remote working.’ Zoltan is an award-winning digital specialist and leader in remote working, and his knowledge and experience shone through.

Best strategies

Our discussion inspired me to think more about how to implement the best remote working strategies in a situation where many managers are new to remote or flexible working, with trust being a major factor facing remote teams.

Building trust with and within your team could prove the deciding factor in whether your remote working strategy succeeds or not.

A manager who models trust and respect will empower their team to embrace the same, while employees who don’t trust their organisational leadership inevitably disengage and productivity will suffer.

How to improve trust with your team

Here are five takeaways on trust following the Like Minds discussion and I’ll follow up next week with the importance of communication during C19 and beyond.

1. Set Clear Expectations

Misunderstandings and assumptions are common even in the best teams and remote working can amplify them.

Work towards:

    • Agreeing clear outputs and scheduling regular check-ins to exchange updates
    • Reviewing progress (or changes of course or priority) against desired outcomes
    • Ensuring your remote teams are always up-to-speed on any decisions or actions that might impact their work
    • Encouraging team members to communicate their needs and questions to stay on task and meet commitments – and asking them what information they’d like from you.

2. Talk Talent

Talk often about your employees’ talents – providing regular feedback to help them learn and develop. You build trust when you demonstrate awareness of their skills and contributions and are willing to help them use their talents in their roles and on different projects.

3. Provide Information and Resources

It is frustrating to want to make a difference at work but being held back by inadequate resources – ensure remote workers have the materials, equipment and information they need to do their jobs effectively.

4. Be Empathetic

It’s easy to misinterpret electronic or digital communications because so much of how and what we communicate happens through our body language.

Leaders who recognise this and practise empathy and patience — rather than jumping to conclusions about a person’s tone or intention via email or WhatsApp — help cultivate an environment of trust and openness.

At this time, particularly, colleagues are experiencing disruption, change, bereavement and a myriad of different emotions. Listen to learn, ask open questions to understand how your team are really doing. Feeling that ‘my manager cares about me as a person’ helps build trust and engagement.

5. Trust Your Team to Deliver

If team members are supported to find rhythms and routines that work for them, remote working can lead to increased productivity.

Some people work best by getting up early, others might work best between 7pm and midnight. Allow people to set their own schedule around their work and other responsibilities – and allow them to deliver against their agreed outputs. If you’re worrying about whether team members are being productive, there are other issues to address.

What can you do now?

Here are some questions to ask yourself; the answers will help establish a base level of trust so you can take steps to address any shortfall:

    • Can your team count on you to be open and transparent? Do you ask for opinions and feedback and consider them?
    • Do you say (and show) that you trust your team to use their best judgement and skills to get the job done on time, on budget and to quality standards?
    • Do you empower them to deliver without micro-managing? Do you ‘have their back’?
    • Does your feedback demonstrate respect for others and support their learning and development?
    • Do you demonstrate the same work ethic that you ask of your team?
    • Do you deliver on your promises?

And, particularly in these times:

    • Are you meeting your remote employees’ ongoing workplace needs?
    • Do you connect your team members to colleagues, customers and organisational information?
    • Do you ensure employees contribute in ways that are meaningful to them, and recognise them for it?

To be part of the ongoing conversation about remote working, please connect with Zoltan at zoltanvass.com and me, Louisa Steensma, at www.thrivehrconsulting.co.uk and check out Tech Advocates London – Remote Working – it’s free to join and open to everyone interested in shaping the future of remote working.

Further resources on remote working:

The UK CIPD’s (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) Coronavirus hub brings together a host of content to help organisations with remote working.

How to collaborate effectively if your team is remote‘ is a short read from Harvard Business Review to help your business tackle remote collaboration and perform at the highest levels.

https://hbr.org/2020/03/15-questions-about-remote-work-answered – another good read from Harvard Business Review.

Get Lighthouse takes an in-depth look at remote working with 11 essential tips on managing remote workers.