A recent article in the Harvard Business Review backed with some numbers that “Thirty-eight percent of managers agreed that remote workers usually perform worse than those who work in an office, with “ an additional “22% being unsure”. That means that nearly 60% of managers do not have much trust regarding their workforce performing equally well in the home office.
Sure there is a good deal what managers can do to increase trust in a remote setting. It is easy to point fingers and say that they should first trust their employees and then good things will follow. Unfortunately reality does not work this way. The distrust is omnipresent and we must cope with it.
What you as a remote worker can do
So instead of pointing fingers, here some hints on what any individual remote contributor can do to most likely improve the situation:
1. Keep promises
Trust builds over time. Any stranger will first observe how we work, before he will trust us. Think of a letter of recommendation: it might be chock-full of technical abilities you have as a software engineer. How can I as a potential employer know for sure that you are a capable person?
It is simple: My trust increases when I read about past accomplishments in your letter of recommendation, and even more so, when I talk to a past employer of yours. But when I am interested in the very best talent, then I will put you to the test. Only seeing how you program will instill in me the right amount of trust to hire you.
With the letter of recommendation starts a little journey of trust between you and me. Through it you promise me something. I will check if you can keep your promise and then move on, when I have enough trust in you.
But it does not stop here. During the first months I will keep in touch with you to see if the promises were not overblown. As time goes by and I get to know you better you become a person I trust deeply. I will not need to check so often what you are exactly doing, because I put trust in you (that you will ask, when there is need, that you have good judgement, that you would never promise too much, etc.).
In a remote situation, when I can not observe closely how you work from the beginning, then I have a more difficult time to trust you. So you as a new employee should try to make your work more visible to me as an employer. Show what your challenges are and how you react to them. Manage my expectations. Make promises you can keep and show the achieved results without the need that I query you.
2. Be responsive
Working remotely means usually more autonomy for an employee or a contractor. With more freedom comes more responsibility.
It is good practice to be as responsive as possible in a remote situation. When working in an office physically collocated with your colleagues, anybody can overlook the room and perceive your presence at a glance.
In the virtual space this is not the case. You can chime in to online meetings, say hi in the beginning and then turn off your camera and mic and think, that you show presence this way. You might even listen with one ear and on the side do something else. Would it not be better to be really present in the room, contributing? And if it is a meeting, where you can not contribute, then do better not participate.
So when you show your presence online, then be as sincere as possible. Be in the virtual room with your mind and do not multitask. Should you not be available for a longer period of time then inform your peers about your whereabouts.
When somebody asks you something, and you are not able to respond immediately, then respond giving a probable time frame when you can come back to that person. Nobody likes to write messages to a black hole, where no response can be expected.
These were just two possibilities to build up trust, when working remotely. Building trust starts with the small things. A consistent and sincere effort to be responsive and to manage expectations wisely, is the basis for a beneficial long-lasting work relationship.
More tips on building trust will be coming your way next time.