The coronavirus has changed the way we work completely. People across the world are working remotely from their dining tables and kitchens; and from the looks of it, it might be a while before they get back to their office desks.
This dramatic shift raises two big questions. How do remote managers ensure their employees are working? And how do employees make sure their bosses know they’re working? Well, they just have to trust each other.
Trust rests on a fine balance of four key factors: credibility, reliability, openness, and self-orientation. You need all four to ensure there is no erosion of trust just because you are working remotely.
Credibility simply means you have the credentials, knowledge, and experience to build trust in a team. Reliability, or the ability to keep promises and meet expectations, also helps build and maintain trust. Openness, or expressing your feelings, and self-orientation, or the ability to understand the motives and needs of others, are the other two elements to prevent the erosion of trust.
Maintaining this balance is a continuous process that you have to work hard for.
Trust is easier to establish in an office where there is face-to-face interaction between people. But working from home can increase the chances of the erosion of trust. How does one encourage trusting relationships while working remotely?
Clarifying roles and goals is the foundation of trust when you’re working from home. It’s important to ensure that every member of the team understands the organization’s objectives and their individual role in achieving that objective. At the end of the day, everyone is working for the team and not their own gain.
They say there are three things that build trust in remote teams: communication, communication, and communication. It’s critical to ensure that colleagues talk to each other for things to run smoothly.
Team leaders play a key role in disseminating information, but it’s also important to assign members of the team to train and coach each other so that everyone is engaged and understands virtual ways of co-working. Raise red flags where necessary and ensure you meet commitments.
Working from home can be disconcerting for many. Reduced engagement can lead to poor performance. And that’s why it’s important to build personal interaction while working remotely. Apart from professional updates, maintaining personal relationships is crucial in times of crisis.
Schedule regular meetings, follow up with everyone in the team, and make sure they have what they need to complete the task assigned to them. Vulnerability in times of crisis makes the entire team feel they are in the same boat, and everyone is more likely to trust each other and open up without fear of judgment.
Normalize your new work environments to build trust. It is important to understand each other’s workspaces given that we are geographically separated because this will allow team members to understand how best to work with them. For example, if someone has to take care of a family member, they may not be available for a certain period in the morning. Managers should accommodate this in their schedules.
All disruptions, including this pandemic, are an opportunity for re-orienting our work lives. Building trust is a continuous process, particularly now, when the very nature of our being is turned upside down. So, make sure to ensure there is no erosion of trust in your teams. It’s the one thing that will help tide over this crisis.
Chandrima Chatterjee is a Specialist with the Curriculum team at Harappa Education. The Delhi School of Economics graduate also loves to read fiction and hopefully will write one someday.
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