There’s no truthful and healthy relationship without trust. This applies to any kind of human connections – friendships, marriages or the bonds we have with our colleagues.

Speaking of work environments, trusting one another is especially important in remote/work from home settings.

Trust in remote workplaces - cover

This article will guide you through all the details about trust in the remote/work from home workplace:

  • The science of trust,
  • the difference between high-trust and low-trust organizations,
  • three early stages of trust in the remote workplace,
  • what you should and shouldn’t do to build trust in the remote workplace.

Before diving into the essence of trust in the remote environment, let’s learn how science explains the topic of trust.

The science of trust

Have you ever wondered why we trust each other? Are there any chemicals that are responsible for this kind of behavior? Neuroscience has an answer to this question.

Paul J. Zak, a neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate University, wanted to find out if there is a chemical that stands behind this. In fact, he wondered if oxytocin is our moral molecule. In order to do so, he and his team conducted an experiment.

First group of participants (the senders) got an amount of money. They had to choose whether they would send the money to a stranger – the other person in the lab. If they decided to do so, the amount of money would get tripled. However, those people who would receive the money (the receivers) could decide whether they would keep it or split this amount with the sender. So, how did that work out? Apparently, 90% of the senders sent money, and 95% of receivers chose to share their amount of cash.

By measuring oxytocin levels, the research team concluded that the more money the receivers gained – the more oxytocin their brain released. Thus, they preferred splitting the cash.

But, was oxytocin for sure the only molecule that caused these actions? To figure this out, the researchers decided to trigger oxytocin directly. So, one group of people received a small dose of synthetic oxytocin (through a nasal spray), while others got a placebo.

The researchers discovered that those participants who got a real oxytocin were more generous than those with a placebo. Hence, oxytocin can be considered as a trust molecule.

But, there are certain factors that restrict oxytocin and make it difficult for us to trust one another, such as high stress. Besides, according to the team of researchers, high testosterone inhibits oxytocin, while estrogen raises the level of oxytocin.

The fun fact about oxytocin is that, the more you release it – the happier you will be. Besides, you’ll be more willing to trust other people.

Now that we know that trust is part of our biology, let’s take a closer look at why relying on each other is significant in our work environment.

The high-trust and low-trust organizations

In their publication The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything, Stephen M. R. Covey and Rebecca R. Merrill, explained the difference between low-trust and high-trust organizations.

Unlike low-trust, high-trust companies are better in carrying out the strategy of their organization. More importantly, high-trust companies obtain better loyalty from their coworkers. That’s why employees remain working in these companies for a long time, because they feel inspired and involved.

This is how the authors clarify the importance of trust in this book:

“The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust truly is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.”

Previously mentioned neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak, along with the independent survey firm, did a survey of 1,095 employees in the U.S. The goal of this research was to evaluate the level of trust of U.S. organizations. According to their results, America’s average for organizational trust was 70%.

Speaking of high-trust companies, people working in those firms appreciated their job 60% more than those in low-trust organizations. In comparison to low-trust employees, the high-trust people had 11% more empathy for their colleagues and experienced 40% less burnout.

Trust in the remote workspace

 “Trust is the glue of the global workspace.” – O’Hara-Devereaux and Johansen

Three early stages of trust in the remote workplace

Building trust with your employees starts before they even become your colleagues – at job interviews.

As you can imagine, when we’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone, we can see their body language. Also, we can sense how they’re feeling, or whether they’re honest with us. For example, during job interviews, the candidate might feel nervous. So, an HR manager would notice such behavior.

Just like we find it easy to make bonds with our colleagues from the same workspace, building mutual trust with them is not difficult. But, conducting interviews with a potential teleworking employee over the audio/video call is quite different.

Guess what, that’s the moment when HR staff should spot the first sights of trust. In fact, there are three stages:

Recruiting

As an HR or team manager, be aware that this is the moment when you should detect those general qualities of the candidate. These can be punctuality and whether he/she is communicative. Also, think about one more important thing: does this person match his/her CV profile?

Onboarding

At this moment, we can only believe that we can rely on our new colleagues. To make them feel welcome and to ensure that your new coworkers feel trusted, you can do the following:

  • Be honest with them and provide them with all necessary information. Besides, let them know that asking questions is perfectly fine.
  • Set clear expectations. Your new colleagues might be unsure what they’re supposed to do during their first weeks. Try to be supportive and make sure they take enough time to learn all they need.

Ongoing

By this time, your new team members should work their tasks by themselves. Make it clear that, if they have any concerns, you’ll be there for them. That’s a perfect path to build trust within your relationship.

Once you’ve established a trustworthy connection with your team, try to maintain it.

Remember, trusting one another is an essential part of a leader-employee relationship, but also between team members. If you’re a team manager, it’s your responsibility to build trust among your team.

After reviewing the basic steps of building trust in the early stage, the following tips are applicable for what comes next. We compiled a list of the best ways to build trust in a telecommuting or work from home setting.

To-do list of building trust in the remote workplace

  1. Incorporate the formula of trust within your team

Hassan Osman is an author of The couch manager, a blog about working remotely. Also, he wrote a book Influencing virtual teams, as well as several others.

He claims that trust is the foundation for success in remote teams.

“Without it, team performance and cohesion would be negatively impacted.”

In his opinion, trust can be summed up in a simple formula: Trust = Likeability + Reliability.

“So, managers and leaders of remote teams should focus on two things. Increase likeability, increase reliability or both.”

According to Hassan, reliability is the ability and dependability of a team member to accomplish a task.

“To increase it, managers should focus on verifying the team member’s skills and being explicit with their task assignments.”

Hassan defines likeability as the forming of emotional ties between members of a team. This is the result of social bonds developed among them. Here’s what managers should do in order to enhance likeability.

“Managers should focus on activities such as encouraging social interactions among the team and overcommunicating with them.”

  1. Make personal connection with your employees

Ronald Beach manages an online Bachelor of Business Administration program at the Ashford University. He is an author of The virtual divide: Tackling the challenges of leading in a virtual world, a book about virtual workplaces. Ronald believes that personal connection is crucial in order to gain trust within the teleworking team, especially if you’re a team lead.

“Start trust-building by making that personal connection and ask them how they are doing. What is their personal goal and how can you help? It can be a quick call, but the key thing is that you are earning their trust and that you care about them as a person. They need to feel that someone is in their corner and willing to be their barrier buster.”

He prefers one-on-one meetings for developing a personal bond.

“Just a quick phone call to talk about anything but work. We save that for the weekly update video conference.”

  1. Inspire your team members to get to know each other

In addition to the previously mentioned tip, not only do team leaders need to communicate with each team member, but they also should promote gatherings of the whole team. Here’s why: when telecommuting, you’ll barely get to know your coworkers and learn about their lives. Why is that an issue? Because our characters are one of the main factors of building trust.

Boosting social interactions within the team is what we pointed out earlier and what Hassan Osman calls likeability. There are several fun ways to strengthen the relations among your team:

  • Creating a weekly newsletter – only for internal purposes. This is the place where you and your team can share cool facts about yourselves. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself a new hiking buddy, or whatever activity is your favorite.
  • Virtual casual events. This can either be a Happy Hour for the whole team, or you can decide on a movie that everyone gets to see. Then, you can discuss it during your video call, for instance, every Wednesday evening.
  • Team building. If possible, you can organize some kind of team building event once a year.
  1. Promote transparency and open discussions within the team

Although transparency is important for any kind of work setting, it’s a necessary part of any remote/work from home team.

If you’re a team manager, be sure that this quality plays an important part of team success, too. There are two benefits of maintaining clarity in a telecommuting team:

  • It improves communication among the team. Encourage your team to use communication tools, so that all can be on the same page, when it comes to important projects. Since no one will feel left out, your coworkers will know they can count on you and each other.
  • It boosts autonomy. Inspire your colleagues to reach certain decisions on their own. As a team leader, you should let them know that it’s OK to make mistakes. However, whenever these errors happen, be sure to talk to your team publicly, so that you can figure out the best solution.
  1. Evaluate the work of your employees by focusing on their output

Managing a telecommuting team means that you’ll have to evaluate everyone’s work a bit differently than in traditional workspaces. Always keep in mind that output is what counts the most.

Besides communicating with your team daily, you can incorporate other methods to keep track of their tasks, by using a trust-based employee hours tracker. One like Clockify. Here are some of its features:

  • Timer: you can monitor the working hours of your employees.
  • Timesheet: your team members can log their weekly hours, which is accessible to you.
  • Personal time dashboard: both your coworkers and you can keep an eye on your productivity, by checking out your time entries.

This way, you’ll have all the details you need about your employees, what they’re working on currently, as well as their past activities. You can also have regular meetings with your team, so that you can review the status of their assignments. Thus, everyone will be aware of their responsibilities and will deliver their final work in time.

  1. Develop a feedback culture within the team

Much like communication, providing valuable feedback is crucial for teleworking teams. As a team leader, you should create an environment that supports any type of feedback, both positive and negative. Besides, encourage all team members to express their thoughts when it comes to particular company decisions.

There are two benefits of maintaining a feedback culture:

  • Feedback is crucial for personal development of every team member.
  • By giving honest feedback, we build trust among the team.

To-don’t list of building trust in the remote workplace

To prevent trust damage in your teleworking team, be sure to check out the most common mistrusting activities.

  1. Try not to make mistakes when sharing valuable information with the team

As Gibson and Manuel, the authors of the book Virtual teams that work: Creating conditions for virtual team effectiveness point out, one of the challenges of telecommuting is sharing information properly. If managers don’t discover important information – they won’t distribute it to every team member. So, this will result in poor-quality decisions and will weaken trust.

Also, in the early stages of a telecommuting team, team members don’t have enough knowledge about each other. When errors occur, people could easily blame each other, which will damage trust within the team, too.

  1. Never ignore deadlines

This tip is applicable both to managers and team members. Working remotely might mean that you get to choose your working hours, but deadlines are deadlines.

Try to organize your assignments accordingly, so that you won’t miss your due dates. If you’re struggling with managing your time, try some of the most helpful time management techniques. They will help you maintain a better work schedule and finish your tasks in time. Thus, you won’t harm your relationships with other colleagues.

  1. Avoid micromanaging your employees

If you’re a team leader, always avoid micromanaging your colleagues. Instead, try focusing on two factors:

  • Overall performance: Your coworkers should work independently. That’s the best way to ensure trust and avoid micromanagement. Aim your attention to the overall output, because it will show you the quality of your work, as well as the work of your team.
  • Communication: Whenever you notice a poor quality of someone’s work, be sure to solve this issue by communicating with your team.

Conclusion

Creating a trustworthy relationship between team members in a teleworking setting is truly important for every team member. Building trust starts in the early stages of hiring your new colleagues. Remember, establishing trust in a remote environment takes time. So, don’t give up easily. Whenever you’re struggling, feel free to review the tips we’ve covered in this article, as well as the list of actions you should avoid.