5 strategies line managers can use for maintaining and building trust in remote teams

Once upon a time, one of the biggest worries in terms of building trust in remote teams was the idea that remote workers were ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Today, however, the problem seems to have shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum, with concerns that line managers are trying to micromanage remote employees by keeping all eyes on them. 

The underlying issue is trust. Trust naturally forms in tight-knit groups, with McKinsey noting that trust builds quickly in co-located teams. Yet the same can’t be said for teams that are physically or geographically dispersed. The misalignment between team activity and the core business that can occur when shifting to remote environments, and the loss of face-to-face collaboration, can significantly impact trust on both sides of the equation, with line managers and employees struggling to have faith in each other. 

The trust irony

There is a certain degree of irony that comes with a lack of trust amongst remote teams. The need to implement remote working to adjust to the future of work has been a notably challenging shift for many businesses, with ongoing production proving to be a major concern. Production-based worries can be reduced - or potentially even eliminated - by alleviating the line manager bottleneck; the sticking point of needing every task and every action undertaken by an employee to be approved by a manager. And yet, line managers aren’t trusting their teams enough to allow for this, making for one of the most pressing leadership and management challenges of the present day and well into the future. 

According to a report by Deloitte, when teams transition from on-site to virtual working environments, the level of trust drops by 83%. It’s clear to see that trust is one of the biggest challenges to emerge from the post-2020 working landscape, highlighting an urgent need for new line managers strategies to be deployed to rebuild this trust. 

5 ways to enhance trust across remote teams

The truth is that you shouldn’t need to feel as though you need to monitor the productivity of your remote employees. Nor should you have the time to! By adopting these 5 simple strategies, line managers should find it easier to both build and maintain trust across teams, boosting productivity and creating a great employee experience in today’s world of work:

1. Build relationships

Getting to know your people, delving into work personality types and characteristics and understanding their reasons for doing what they do beyond receiving a salary is the absolute key aspect to building and maintaining trust. 90% of employees are willing to earn less to do more meaningful work. Your team isn’t just out to make money. Remember that. 

2. Boost collaboration

Make the effort to get team members to know each other beyond the limitations of being mere coworkers. Get them invested in the growth and development of others, and ensure that they have their teammates’ best interests at heart. This can help to build trust not just between you and your team, but also between the team itself. Adopting a humanistic management style can facilitate this shift and actively aid remote work collaboration

3. Communicate clearly

It can be easy to distrust a team member who fails to deliver, but the reason for failure must be determined. Did that individual fail because they didn’t care, or did they fail because of weaknesses within the remote working policy that created gaps between expectations and results? Always be clear and realistic, and give your team a chance.

4. Be proactive

Having trust in your team means having the confidence that they can complete their tasks independently, without you watching over them. Be proactive. Ask in advance if your team has everything they need to do their work. Question if they have any concerns about the project. Give yourself peace of mind that your team really has what it takes. 

5. Recognise individual strengths

Following on from the above, recognising the individual strengths of your team members can also provide peace of mind by giving you confidence you have the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Don’t be afraid to take an agile approach, adapting the team structure as needed to position the right people in the right seats. 

The importance of team trust

Quite simply, trust drives innovation. Trust gives employees the freedom to implement their own changes to standard processes; to identify their own journeys from A to B; to design their own ways of taking the information that they have and transforming this into the end results you’ve been expecting. Trust holds the potential to redefine processes, generate new ideas, and improve the team in absolutely every way. 

And beyond innovation, trust is an essential building block of talent. Trust ensures employees take responsibility for their own work and their own outcomes, boosting accountability and developing strong, resilient talent that can adapt to change. 

Research by Gartner shows that businesses that trust their remote workers see, on average, 76% more employee engagement than organisations that don’t. And with your human resources being the cornerstone of the business, engagement is critical.

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