Managing remote teams: four ways to build trust

Over the last year, businesses have been given a chance to review corporate life and the traditional values of the workplace. While arguably this has resulted in positive changes, it hasn’t been easy. The shift to remote working and adoption of flexible practices has demanded adjustment to ways of working. This also includes management.

Effective management is already a challenge for many organisations. Effective management remotely is now another. 

While the challenges being faced by many organisations are few and far between, for many managers, one of the most pressing, is how to build trust.

Rightly or wrongly so, the perception of “working from home” has historically conjured up the perception of employees “slacking off”: sitting around watching TV, attending to errands, browsing the internet, meeting friends – anything but doing actual work. While not to point the finger, these perceptions and notions are – in some parts – held by older generations who have been used to working in traditional ways. Where face time in the office, translates into “productivity”. Where keeping a physical eye on teams, means that they “produce work”.

Studies have debunked this perception as a myth. In fact, research indicates that for a typical eight-hour day in the office, employees only spend between three to four hours of that time being productive. Which means for managers who think they are getting more from their employees because they show up, it’s not the case. That said, being in an office, however, does provide management with an element of ease – mostly because of the interactive elements that come with being around teams, and being available.

Moving to a remote environment, however, is as a much as a perspective shift, as it is practicality. For managers who are

needing tools to help build trust – that equally support teams – the following can be applied.

1. Establish structure

Set up regular meetings: same time, day and have an agenda. While the frequency may vary, I would recommend at least twice a week (e.g. Monday and Thursday). By doing this, you can run through priorities, allow for a review session, and then plan for the week ahead.

2. Be clear on expectations

The importance of communication cannot be stressed enough. Which means that being clear on expectations is a must. For younger gens, don’t always assume that what you say is understood. Having them relay back to you what you’ve asked, including when tasks are due, can mitigate delays, or tasks not being completed correctly (or at all).  

3. Review performance measures

Whether it’s reviewing general KPIs or having “softer” ways of measuring performance, having something to measure, will help instil confidence that your teams are continuing to perform. Measurables should be realistic; just because the working environment has changed, doesn’t mean that performance measures should be out of reach.  

4. Accept that adjustment takes time

Yes, it may feel uncomfortable, or that you’ve “lost control” but, like all change, it takes time to adjust.  Remember, that if you are struggling as a manager, then it is highly likely your teams are, too. Trust is a two-way street.  

Building in simple, but effective tools will instil confidence in you and your teams and mitigate any risks or concerns to performance.

Jacqueline Cripps, Management Consultant and CEO, JCL 

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