It’s been a long morning of back-to-back calls, and I have 10 minutes until my one-on-one at noon. I wander downstairs to my kitchen and quickly make a cool glass of iced hibiscus tea. I make it back upstairs to my home office with a few minutes to spare.
I’m soon greeted by the video and voice of my manager in New York. After a few minutes of chitchat, she asks if I’ve had a difficult morning. Bewildered, I let her know that it has actually been great.
Taking a look at my dark red drink, she says, “If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that it was wine o’clock for you already.”
But what if my manager didn’t know any better? What if she didn’t trust me not to be drinking an overpoured glass of wine. At noon. On a Wednesday?
It probably comes as no surprise that research has found, time and time again, that trust plays an integral role in the virtual workplace. By trust, I mean the belief that an individual will carry out his or her job responsibilities and do so in a timely, ethical and high-quality manner.
What may be a surprise is that trust is even more important for virtual relationships than it is for colleagues in a face-to-face environment. The lack of social cues, blurred work/life boundaries and out-of-sight nature of being remote contribute to the increased importance of trust.
Trust goes both ways. The remote employees need to trust that their manager will provide support and help them manage their workload, while the manager needs to trust that their team members are not watching TV all day.
These challenges don’t mean that it is impossible to build or maintain trust. Just like any other virtual work challenge, like communication or relationship-building, trust functions a little differently in virtual settings. There are a few simple things managers and team members can do to navigate this difference. This collaborative effort is key to bridging the distance, strengthening virtual relationships and meeting the increased need for trust.
Managers of Virtual Team Members Should…
Have a Dialogue About Your Dialogue
Overcommunicate, and you run the risk of micromanaging and insinuating a lack of trust. Share the frequency and type of communication that you need to feel informed. Don’t forget to ask about your virtual team members’ communication preferences, too.
Root for Remote Workers
Build your team members’ trust in you by advocating for them when they are unable to be in the room. This support can include meeting their technological needs in addition to ensuring that internal practices and policies take virtual workers into consideration.
Just Say It
If you’re feeling great about a project and a virtual employee’s ability to drive progress, let them know that you trust the project’s being in their hands. Likewise, if you’d like additional information or more updates, let them know you’d appreciate being more in the loop.
Virtual Team Members Should…
Think Beyond Emails and Calendars
There are a plethora of ways to make up for the frequent absence of body language and social cues in the digital workplace. Leverage the platforms available to you, and don’t forget to connect with your manager and team members outside of formally booked meetings and calls.
Trust That You’re Trusted
It is common for remote workers to get in their own head and waste time trying to prove to others how hard they are working. These insecurities can undermine trust by preventing you from showing up as a confident individual who will get the job done. Don’t feel guilty about going to the kitchen for a few minutes or using your lunch break. Trust that you are trusted, and shift your energy back toward what improves your performance and ability to thrive.
Recognize That No One Can Read Minds
If you aren’t feeling included, receiving the information you need or participating how you’d like because of technological hiccups, let your manager know. This way, he or she knows you’re doing the best you can with what’s available to you and can help you find the solutions you need.