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Eight Steps to Building Trust With Remote Workers

Guest author - Claire Nicoll

Trusting staff to work remotely is a big step if you’re used to seeing people that you manage on a regular basis. Managers can resist this if the step feels just too big, however, remote work can have big benefits for businesses and their staff. Enabling remote working can add more flexibility in how you run your business as well giving staff more autonomy to deliver in a way that allows them to achieve their best work. It can be a win for all sides!

If you’ve never worked remotely or had staff work in this way, it can feel scary and the question of trust will always come up. Here are my tops tips for building trust, both ways, when your staff start to work remotely:

1. Set expectations and boundaries

Remote working does not mean leaving the office never to be seen again! This will depend on the nature of the work, but consider what you expect from your team. Do they need to be available at specific times? What are you expecting them to produce? How often do you want to hear from them? Set boundaries such as reasonable response times and acceptable hours for making or receiving telephone calls. Being clear on expectations will help to build trust in a new and flexible working pattern for both the manager and staff member.

2. Respect your team, their values and their time

Working remotely gives staff autonomy over their work schedule. It’s important to set clear expectations but to allow staff to get on with their work. Respect the schedule they create by planning meeting times and destinations in advance and allow sufficient time and space for face-to-face meetings. Consider personal commitments such as the school run, or a regular visit to an elderly parent. A sudden meeting request with less than 24 hours’ notice will need a very good reason! If a truly urgent meeting is required however, staff need to know what constitutes urgent and how to plan for when this happens.

3. Review, especially in the beginning

Remote working is a significant change and, as with any transition, reviews are essential. This will allow you and your staff the opportunity to air any concerns, ask questions, and share tips on how to be more effective. If staff know that you are listening and taking on board their opinions, they will trust you more and you’ll feel confident in their honesty.

4. Look out for patterns and routine

As staff settle into remote working, routines will become evident. You may notice patterns of when emails are checked and responded to, when phone calls are made, particular tasks undertaken, and when staff arrange to come into the office. As you notice these patterns evolve, take it as a sign that they are settling into remote working and that you can trust they are getting on with the job.

5. Ensure that your team knows your availability

Most staff will still want and need to check in with their manager regularly to provide updates and resolve issues. It’s important to allow time for your team to do this and make them aware of when you’re available to avoid unnecessary disruptions, which can erode trust. You may choose to be in the office on specific days to respond to non-urgent queries, promise to pick up the phone for urgent queries during agreed office hours or state that you prefer texts to emails. It doesn’t matter what the pattern is, as long as it works for you and your team and that response expectations are managed.

6. Do what you say you will

If you say you will review a report by Friday, do it. If you agree to return a call, do it. If you offer to set up a meeting, do it. And so on. Reliability is essential for trust and expect this of your team too. Ensuring reasonable expectations demonstrates that trust works both ways. If a member of staff is not reliable in a remote work setting, then it may not be right for them but it will help you to identify who thrives in this environment.

7. Deal with issues quickly, justly and honestly

The danger zone for remote working is that issues can fester if they are not resolved quickly. This can happen because people aren’t as easily accessible as they might be in an office or central hub. If an issue is raised that directly relates to remote working, take immediate steps to rectify it. For example, someone may express concern that a colleague is not achieving their work or is struggling to be productive. If the issue is dealt with sensitively and resolved, staff and managers will both have confidence in productive remote working and know that issues can be raised and solved.

8. Lead by example

Work remotely too. Consider how it could help you professionally and personally. This doesn’t mean disappearing from the office, never to be seen again, but consider the steps to make remote working a success. This could be setting up a work desk at home, sharing access to your work calendar or making it known that you’re open to embracing remote working. It’s not a fixed list, but when learning how to trust remote workers consider what might be needed for you and your team to make communication and processes smooth. Inevitably staff will want to trust you because they know you’re on this journey too and it’ll give you an insight into how your staff feel about the transition.

About the author

Claire has worked from home since before home working was trendy! Having achieved great work in remote or home-based roles, Claire has a wealth of experience on what makes remote working work, both for business and individuals. Believing that more work can be done remotely for the benefit of business and staff, Claire shares her experience through talks, workshops, training and writing to help more companies go remote.

Claire has worked in different sectors across a range of roles. She is currently self-employed, undertakes associate work for The MemberWise Network and leads the Women in Sustainability Network for Stoke and Staffordshire. She has also worked for the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and The Prince’s Trust.

For more information, connect with Claire on LinkedIn.


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