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How to build trust in to your remote working culture.

Overview

Remote work is a hot topic right now. Even before COVID-19 forced offices to close, remote work was on the rise. Data collected by FlexJobs showed, in the United States alone, the number of employees who work remotely has grown by 44% over the last five years (and 91% over the last ten). 

With the majority of companies experiencing the new reality of remote work, we discuss the importance of trust in your ‘new normal’ work life.

The flexible working landscape  

With access to powerful communication and collaboration apps, more and more existing companies have switched to remote or flexible work schedules. COVID-19 has accelerated that trend, but even after the current crisis ends, remote work is not going anywhere. Looking forward, the business landscape will be more flexible, more agile, and more geographically dispersed.

That said, going remote comes with a unique set of challenges for management and company culture. It’s important to recognise the real concerns that many managers have.

  • Employee engagement

  • Loneliness and lack of human interaction

  • Communication Issues

  • Technology Hiccups

  • Distractions: Family, pets, doorbells

A 2019 survey found that 43% of business owners were concerned that remote or flexible work arrangements would negatively affect company culture and productivity.

Micromanagement kills remote culture

Micromanagement: A style where management closely observes, controls and reminds employees of their work. Comes with negative connotations due to lack of freedom in the workplace.

A majority of remote businesses have recognised a jump in productivity, which gives sceptical company leadership a reason to feel a bit less anxious. With evidence showing that it’s possible to run a highly efficient remote organization, then the question is… what stands in the way of your organization unlocking that productivity boost?

Many leaders find themselves tempted to micromanage their teams, and with remote settings, it can appear reasonable to add surveillance and control. However, instead of boosting productivity, remote micromanagement uses up managerial time and destroys employee trust.

Some managers resort to using invasive employee-tracking software. These tools let managers see through their employees’ laptop webcams at any moment, or review the details of their work web-browsing sessions. While this may offer managers a degree of confidence that their employees aren’t slacking off, this can sabotage morale. Micromanaging, whether remote or in person, does not result in increased productivity or work quality. Instead this can increase disengagement.

Building trust and freedom

How can organisations successfully increase and embrace a remote workforce, rather than just surviving the temporary inconvenience?

The key to making the switch is building a company culture that emphasises, encourages, and prioritises trust and transparency between leadership and employees. Instead of a culture of surveillance and micromanagement, remote work succeeds when employees are given a high degree of self-determination and flexibility.

Concrete strategies that can support a remote working environment:

Encourage creative problem-solving  

Give people the freedom to approach problems in their own way—and when possible on their own schedule. This allows team members to find solutions that suit them better. One solution doesn’t solve every problem. Your employees may even surprise you by finding ways to improve on existing company standards or processes. When you open the door to creative solutions, your entire company can benefit.

Stand back and don’t overview    

Trust and independence empowers employees to optimize their work process for productivity. Rather than arranging employees work for a managers perspective, give workers the opportunity to explore and self-determine and they will be able to focus more on project completion.

Furthermore, this frees up managerial schedules for higher-level concerns and builds a more results-oriented company culture.

Build skills and independence  

Experienced employees will have the self-motivation to deliver good work in a remote setting, but less-experienced employees may struggle at first. Giving them time to learn and adapt will help them gain the valuable skills of self-direction and independence. This helps employees build confidence in their own abilities, resulting in better work and a happier professional environment.

Communicate standards and criticise constructively

Managers need to communicate their standards and provide constructive feedback; team members need to understand expectations and feel confident that they are allowed to learn from their mistakes. Feedback from management should be helpful, not oppressive or punishing. By shifting from a model of control and command to support and enablement, your remote team will start producing better work with less oversight.

Remote work has huge potential. Making sure you have the right tools is only the first step. After an organisation learns to approach remote work from the right perspective, by building and maintaining a culture of trust and empowerment, the organisation stands to gain enormously from the flexibility of remote work.

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