Ready or not, many coronavirus contingency plans have resulted in remote working for the foreseeable. Seize the opportunity to build trust with your employees.
Due to the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, the UK has entered one of the biggest remote working experiments ever seen.
However, many businesses were unprepared for the shift. Some were (perhaps unfairly) concerned about trusting their staff to be engaged and work productively whilst away from the office, surrounded by the distractions of home life.
A snap poll indicated that 76% of HR leaders reported concerns from managers about the productivity of teams mandated to work from home during the outbreak. This is the same concern that – prior to the outbreak – led only 56% of managers to agree to flexible and remote working, even though work policies permitted it.
COVID-19 could change all this.
Government advised social distancing has left organisations with no choice; they have been forced to revisit and reassess remote working policies – redesigning them to include everyone possible, not just MDs and senior members of staff (these are the occupations of those most likely to work from home according to the Office of National Statistics).
Once the dust settles it's possible that the face of business will be changed forever. Staff that proved their trustworthiness by stepping up to the plate and continuing to be productive at home may question previous decisions not to be given the chance – and rightly so.
Trust is an essential building block of any successful team and, if there is a way to find positivity in the midst of the infectious outbreak, perhaps building trust between employers and their employees is one of them.
For managers looking to use this time to encourage transparency and cultivate strong workplace relationships with their team, here are some effective and simple strategies to try:
Set the right tone
Think about it, why employ someone to work for you that you don't trust?
Micromanaging and being overly controlling encourages cultures of fear and distrust. It's demoralizing and demotivating for staff, and will erode your teams' sense of unity and purpose.
As a manager, it's your job to set the right tone from the top. Lay down your expectations for productivity clearly, during onboarding, and let every member of staff know the part they play in reaching your common goals.
Clarifying how each employees' contributions complement each other and play a part in the success of the business as a whole is a surefire way to keep everyone motivated and on track – wherever they happen to be working from.
Maintaining continuous and transparent communication is the most effective way to keep your team collaborating effectively.
For remote workers, this will often mean using communication software rather than face-to-face chat to stay in touch – although this can actually be a blessing!
Without the distraction of unnecessary meetings and unexpected interruptions and office noise, it's easier to keep communications purposeful.
Whether it's daily or weekly check-ins, shared status updates, or collaborating using task management platforms, regular communication with your team drives motivation and feelings of accountability; it also demonstrates your investment in the team.
Keep the personal touch
When we spend 8 hours a day working side by side with people, we tend to get to know them quite well!
For remote workers, however, this isn't necessarily the case, and managers will need to be more intentional about connecting in order build healthy working relationships.
Incorporating time for personal connection into team interactions will help build empathy, trust, and commitment. Try scheduling a virtual meeting just for personal updates, or creating a separate chat space that's 'just for fun'.
Giving staff an outlet like this shows you value their wellbeing and happiness – and that you trust them not to abuse the outlet in lieu of getting the job done.
Having a flexible approach can build trust during periods of remote working (not to mention it's proven to help retain experienced and skilled employees).
Small things, such as allowing variable arrival and departure times will mean employees can leverage the time of day they feel most productive, helping to balance work with home and family responsibilities.
Within reason of course, having a flexible approach to home working, will increase commitment and loyalty from staff members. Meaning it's far more likely they will be willing to go the extra mile when the team needs it.
Working remotely for the first time or due for a quick refresher course? Try our Remote Working awareness course to stay safe and healthy away from the office.