The Transition To Remote Work Hinges On Trust

If we are going to make remote teams work, there has to be trust....
The Transition To Remote Work Hinges On Trust
Written by Brian Wallace
  • Outside of medical, grocery, restaurant, and retail workers who are doing the hard work to ensure people get what they need during this pandemic, remote workers are keeping the world’s businesses going. Many had to make a shift to remote work suddenly and without much training on how to do it, and early on there were some highly-publicized issues with companies overstepping boundaries during the transition. For companies that have had remote work options for years, this change has not been a big deal because employees are already trained on protocols. But for companies that are new to remote work, the most important thing to remember is the importance of trusting your employees to do their jobs.

    The History Of Remote Work

    There has always been work that can be taken home with you, but the internet made it more accessible to more workers. Companies were initially reluctant to allow employees to work remotely, fearing espionage, security issues, and more. But as BYOD policies became the norm, the culture shifted to allow for the possibility of work-from-home during rare instances such as inclement weather. But there was still pushback about whether employees could work from home for other reasons or on an ongoing basis, and in some instances companies only begrudgingly agreed to allow it and sometimes even required pay cuts to be able to do so.

    As of last year, one in ten Americans worked from home at least once per week, so it has gradually become mainstream. Those workers who work from home have experienced many advantages, including:

    • 91% say they have a better work-life balance
    • 79% have increased their productivity and focus at work
    • 78% say they are less stressed

    But until recently, working from home was reserved for the highest in the ranks and not for the average worker. Disability advocates have long advocated for work-from-home benefits for disabled workers because of office accessibility and transportation issues. In some instances working from home was seen as a prize that people would take a pay cut for. For everyone else, working from home was a luxury not extended to them. Until the pandemic hit, that is.

    The Rush To Remote Work

    When COVID-19 was first detected in the United States, many businesses began to make preparations to send people home to work. For businesses that had not had a remote workforce before then, the transition was jarring. Even for many businesses that did allow remote work under certain circumstances, the transition was less than smooth. 

    Early on there were reports of outrageous behavior on the part of managers and companies in their instructions to their newly-remote workforce. It’s easy to understand why this would occur. For many workplaces remote work is uncharted territory. For many managers their success hinges on being able to report numbers to the higher-ups. 

    If we look at the problem from an abundance mentality, we can see that trusting employees to do the job you hired them for, regardless of the circumstances, should be the expectation. After all, why hire someone if you have to hover over them to make sure they are actually working? This extends to working from home. It shouldn’t matter where someone is physically sitting to do their work if they have demonstrated to you an ability to do that work already. Trusting remote workers just makes sense – as much sense as it makes to trust them when they are in the office.

    The Psychology Of Trusting Remote Workers

    Trust is a powerful tool for any business owner or manager. Trust is also something that has to be cultivated within an organization. Cultivating that trust can lead to amazing benefits, though, and it is an effort that is well worth it in the long run.

    Employees who feel trusted at work report:

    • 106% more energy at work
    • 76% more engagement in tasks
    • 74% lower stress levels
    • 40% less likelihood of burnout
    • 29% greater overall satisfaction in life

    Rather than surveilling employees to ensure they are staying on task, offer them the tools and resources they need to be successful. People want to feel successful, and the choice employers are giving employees is between feeling like they are unable to accomplish their work without supervision or empowering them to figure it out and accomplish it on their own.

    Encouraging self-direction can pay off well in the long run. Nearly half of employees would pass up a 20% raise for greater control over their work and how they get it done. What’s more, 76% of employees report that their best days at work are when they make progress toward their goals. 

    For the most part, achievement is its own reward. Sure, employees do need to be fairly compensated for their work, but outside of that there is greater value in trusting them to get their work done their own way instead of forcing them to do it in a way that doesn’t work for them.

    If you want to have the best possible outcome in your workplace, trust your employees to do their jobs, empower them to do those jobs with whatever tools or training they need, and keep the lines of communication open so they can come to you with any needs or concerns.

    Trust In Remote Workers Pays Off For Businesses, Too

    Remote work doesn’t have to be a temporary setback. It can, instead, be an opportunity for growth as a company. Empowering employees leads to a more productive workplace, and many businesses are discovering that eschewing the office has its own set of perks.

    Make sure that employees know they can ask for whatever tools or training they need to be successful. Offer resources for honing and learning skills and make sure employees understand they can take time out of their schedules to learn something new. As the old story goes, training employees just to have them leave for other jobs is a risk, but not training them and having them remain without growing is an even bigger risk.

    To build a culture of trust, make sure management is approachable when there’s a problem and that blame is not part of the company vocabulary. Rather, empower employees to bring up problems in an effort to work together for a solution. Additionally, prioritizing work/life balance and acknowledging that people have lives outside of the workplace not only creates trust, but it also makes employees better at their jobs.

    Even something as simple as letting employees know they can request a more comfortable chair or that you want to help ensure they have an ergonomic setup for their home office shows you care about them as a person and helps to build trust.

    There are monetary benefits to having a remote workforce, too. Giving up office space means more money to pay for talent and grow a business. Even having fewer people in the office on a regular basis can lead to significant savings. 

    What’s more, embracing remote workers means that you no longer have to limit your potential talent-pool to your geographic area. Managing a team of remote workers can include remote workers from anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection. This also means that those workers aren’t confined to living in places where the cost of living is astronomical.

    Workplaces with remote workers have reported not only increased morale but also increased productivity averaging 15%. In short, you don’t have to worry about measuring employee productivity if you cultivate trust and empower them to learn and grow in their positions.

    Right Now Is An Opportunity For Growth

    Change is always difficult. Many businesses and employees were thrust into remote work without warning during an already stressful time. But as everyone learns the ropes and the stress subsides, many will find that remote work isn’t anything to fear and many will instead embrace the shift, leading to better work/life balance and other benefits. But right now the times are still tough, and the only way to get through them is together. Build your newly remote team on a strong foundation of trust and watch the magic happen.

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