How to Create A Remote Culture of Trust and Strengthen Productivity

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How to Create a Remote Culture of Trust and Strengthen Productivity

Matt Bernot
July 8, 2020
7 min read

Remote working has become the “new normal.” Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses allowed employees to work remotely at least part of the time. But few businesses could have expected a transition to remote working at this magnitude.

If you are a small business owner or manage a team, you may be struggling right now to help team members succeed because all of this is all so new. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to build trust and put your team in the best position to do great things— without having to use technology to spy on your employees 24/7.

Building Trust or Maintaining Control?

two video cameras monitoring employee; Big Brother concept

Can a disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic actually enable managers to build stronger work relationships? Can it help facilitate trust? It’s possible, but it is up to management to avoid the temptation to exert greater control in managing employees who are no longer seen on a day-to-day basis. 

David De Cremer, a Professor in Management and Organizations at the National University of Singapore, writes in Knowledge@Wharton about the challenges many managers face building trust with employees. This is a longstanding issue that has been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic where everyone now is working from home.

A lack of trust in an organization threatens its employees’ productivity, happiness, and ability to work well with one another. De Cremer writes that, in the midst of COVID-19, some employees have complained more about management and how they value productivity over employee health, use meetings to track tasks, and display controlling behavior signals.

These behaviors are often the result of a lack of trust between managers and their employees. De Cremer points out that social sciences use a definition of trust where there are positive expectations by each party and an acceptance of vulnerability to each other’s actions. Employers must create high-trust organizations built on positivity and empathy. 

As a small business owner, you must believe you hired good people who take their jobs seriously. Your job is to cultivate a culture of trust. How do you do it? By emphasizing progress, and not keystrokes, when it comes to productivity and using meetings for team-oriented activities rather than micro-managing.

According to one survey on remote work, employees who said they felt trusted at work had more energy at work, stronger engagement in work tasks, reduced stress levels, a significant decrease of feeling burned out, and higher overall life satisfaction. Building trust is mutually beneficial for managers and employees.

Adapting to Remote Workforce Management

mom working remotely as two kids play

If you have had success being very visible in the office, you’ve probably learned already that you can’t replicate the office in a remote environment. 

The New York Times profiled a senior executive who attempted to do just that. He quickly learned that his constant Zoom meetings and regular check-ins with employees were actually a detriment to his employees’ productivity and morale. He backed off and discovered that work was completed ahead of schedule and employees were being more productive. 

Adapting to remote work will be more difficult for some employees than for others. Just as you might need to adjust your leadership style, employees will too as they merge work life and home life within the same walls. For some, this will be an easy transition. But others may need more time and guidance to adjust. 

And specific teams may thrive better than others given their role and the level of collaboration involved to complete tasks. Writers or engineers may do amazing at home. But sales or customer service teams may need additional resources or assistance to succeed in their new environment. 

How you approach managing team members will depend on individual employees and the roles they serve on their teams. Adapting to a remote environment starts at the top. So consider how you’re adjusting and whether your management style makes sense in this “new normal.”

Using Technology to Best Serve Employees

man on video conference

Businesses that have leveraged video conferencing software and business intelligence technology are transitioning the best in the COVID-19 economy. It has never been easier to connect with team members remotely, collaborate on projects, measure daily activity, and set up automated reporting to see results in real-time. 

Technology helps. It can give you insight into what your employees are accomplishing on a daily basis. But how should you approach using technology to help employees succeed? Remember, it’s possible to become Big Brother and use software to track keystrokes and everything they do while on the clock.

But do you want to become that kind of a manager? We have already talked about building a high-trust organization based on positivity and honesty. Will keystroke and mouse click tracking really help you gain your employees’ trust? Probably not. Which is why you should focus on quantitative and qualitative work metrics. 

You can learn what your employees are doing and how well they’re performing without worrying about what they’re doing every second of the workday. Technology should enhance collaboration and productivity, not cause a trust gap.

As a leader, it is up to you to make your expectations clear. Explain how you will measure productivity to ensure everyone is being utilized correctly. It should be about results versus what is being done at any time of the day. Show how the technologies you use will help your team— not make them feel like they are being watched 24/7.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In this “new normal,” some organizations are reporting boosted productivity. They’re changing the way they do business on a daily basis. They are removing inefficient processes and reassessing their views of remote work. 

But others are concerned about burnout as employees remain at home for an indefinite time. It’s important to be mindful of what is going on in your business. Be ready to adapt as you learn new things about productivity and morale. 

sage alternative

Build trust, adjust your approach as needed, and utilize technology to put your employees and your business in the best position to succeed.  

Matt Bernot Headshot

Matt Bernot

Matt Bernot has spent the past eight years working in software, banking, and finance. He specializes in business technology solutions and teaching efficient processes to help organizations accomplish more. Matt is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Flyers and a father to a pair of incredibly goofy cats.