3 tips for building trust virtually

| By Vivien Hudson

One of the biggest challenges some organisations seem to face, is trusting their virtual teams. Trust is a vital ingredient for any high performing team and also speaks to a key motivator for workplace engagement - autonomy.

It is estimated that currently 25% of the US workforce works remotely at least some of the time. IBM's recent recall of their remote workforce may leave some organisations scratching their heads about the pros and cons of this style of working. While the motivations for IBM's decision may not be entirely apparent, I know one thing, that many remote workers are not about to give up the comfort of working from home.

The statistics are real about the acceptance of remote work, suggesting that workers are more productive and put in more hours when working in a virtual capacity. Many see working remotely as a perk, one that they would readily sacrifice remuneration for.

Despite this, organisations still feel challenged in establishing successful remote teams. The reasons for this can be varied but will often revolve around familiarity of tools and technology, the willingness of micromanagers to let go and uncertainty how to lead and engage their workforce. None of this can be effective however without engendering trust.

So .... if trust is a precursor for successful virtual work, what are some of the key components?

virtual working

1. Communicate clearly

Being a clear and specific communicator is always important and even more so in the virtual realm. Often instructions can be written (such as in email) and may not always have verbal instruction behind them, allowing room for assumptions and generalisations to occur.  Wherever possible, include a verbal conversation or web conference to highlight important points and allow communication to flow both ways. Schedule time if needed and be clear on the expectations of tasks, outcomes, resources, boundaries and support. Check ins may need to be scheduled to assess progress and challenges as they arise.

Making time for effective communication is an important factor in engendering trust.

2. Communicate frequently

Relationships are often built on a foundation of trust as a default. When people are left to swim on their own without regular contact, they can quickly feel like they have ended up on their own island. We all operate from the stories we tell ourselves in our own minds. If these stories include insecurities or lack of inclusiveness, a team member can quickly disengage. To compound this, if there is any form of instability in the team or organisation, loyalty and certainty (another key motivator) can quickly be lost.

Make time to have verbal one on ones with your team and ask some open-ended questions about what is going on for them. Remote teams often miss out on the 'water cooler' chit chat that can make going to work fun and personable.

3. Make it easy to communicate

If the only way people can get hold of each other is via scheduled time, many things can get lost. Sometimes we need a quick answer, a nudge of encouragement or a quick check in.  Be sure to have an instant messaging system and have time where people can easily contact you. If an IM or two won't completely answer the problem, then pick up the phone. The warmth and energy we can convey with our voices can very much help instil trust. Also, when talking - avoid multitasking as people often can tell you are not focussed.  Your attention will come through in your voice whether you know it or not.

As with many problems, building trust is founded with good communication. If you find there are some gaps in relationships at work, home or anywhere in between, try starting by picking up the phone.

Author: Vivien Hudson

Vivien fell into the virtual world around the time she moved from Australia to the US in 2013. She has a diverse past from working in healthcare as a pharmacist and business owner to sales, coaching and brain fitness. She has led a national remote team and now works with Virtual Gurus developing virtual mastery and presence.  

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family of 3 kids, nature where she can unplug, cooking and reading anything that relates to EQ, connection and self-leadership.

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