The Top Three Ways to Build Trust in a Virtual Workspace
Between the globalization of our economy and the rise of technology, many companies are finding the benefits of hiring remote workers can trump the expense and overhead of in-house teams. Having remote employees or contractors is often more cost-effective and leads to a wider-ranging skill set.
Workers have gained access to the jobs of their dreams through telecommuting, no longer having to worry about starting a new life in a new city —or even country— or the cost of moving or commuting when considering new positions and roles. While the occasional hiccup can occur, such as virtual scheduling around different time zones, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to working with remote employees.
The largest complication many remote teams face is how to build trust among members. Without the initial ice-breaking within an office, or the ability to meet up and get to know one another, it can be difficult for team members to mesh well. The same can be said of their leader.
With only a name and electronic interaction, a team may take longer to build the kind of rapport that can be instinctual in an office setting. But this rapport is not impossible to achieve. For this article, we’ve collected the top three strategies for building trust within a virtual workspace: Communication, Empowerment, and Swift Trust.
Consider the water cooler. Hollywood today has learned to recognize the comradery of office workers gathered around for a drink and a chat. Sometimes, these Away from Keyboard discussions can lead to important brainstorming, other times they lead to straight-up socialization. When you work with a remote team, you need to create virtual water cooler moments.
Schedule time for one-on-one meetings with your workers; you’ll want to schedule more time than you would with a face-to-face. Use these one-on-ones to discuss important tasks and deadlines, but also be willing to stray into other conversations. Make time for small talk and invest in the working relationship. What updates with the company might the worker have missed from being present or consider how things are going in their personal life. Did the family enjoy their vacation, for example. When dealing with a remote worker from a different time zone, try to vary which schedule you accommodate. Your worker will appreciate the effort on your part, and it can help other team members empathize with the sacrifices their coworker makes on a daily basis to work with them.
Another aspect to keep in mind is letting the team communicate with each other, both through official and unofficial channels. If your company uses a chat system like Slack, you can easily set up a few informal channels where team members can hang out and talk about life. If Skype is more your forte, encourage team members to add each other as contacts. If you have an open-door policy, consider scheduling an official time that you are available, so that your workers know when they can catch you and are able to arrange their schedules around that time. Make sure you adjust your availability status on any tools you use; your workers need to know that they can trust what the program says about your availability at any given time.
One of the best ways to encourage a team to do well is to let them do well. In an office, it’s easy to see the work being accomplished by a team, to sit in on meetings and check over notes. When you work with remote employees and freelancers, some of that control is missing. It has to be. While the temptation may be to convey orders and try and micromanage from your desk, the better approach is to sit back, keep communication open, and let your team do their work. Remote management takes more of a mentorship approach than a controlling one. You need to know what tasks your team has and be there when you are needed for guidance, but you also have to rely on your team to do their part. You hired these workers for their skills— now they get to use them.
One app that can help monitor your teams work and keep things on schedule while letting them maintain control is Buddy Punch. Buddy Punch is an online time-clock tool that helps your workers track their hours— they can even punch in and out of specific job codes so you can track how much time is spent on each project. Beyond that, Buddy Punch can help you track any PTO or Overtime and check in on your worker’s progress. It allows you to keep track of things while not coming across as overly controlling.
3.) Swift Trust
The good news is that you will not be starting completely from scratch with your new team. The concept of swift trust can set a strong foundation. Swift Trust refers to the assumption of trust that takes place when a team is first formed. As humans, we want to give others the benefit of the doubt; most of us do not want to automatically assume that someone will fail us. Take advantage of this initial trust and get your team working together to solve problems. Encourage small talk and regular communication, then step back and let the team function.
From bloggers to psychologists, everyone agrees that swift trust is the best starting point for teams— both virtual and not. Building on a pre-existing trust, no matter how tangible it may be, can help take a lot of the stress off of inspiring trust in the virtual atmosphere.
Managing Your Team
To help build trust on the initial swift trust, it helps to have the right tools at your disposal. Communication tools like Slack and Skype can help keep your team in touch and inspire more personal communication, while apps like Buddy Punch take the hassle out of HR management and Payroll. The smoother the team functions from the start, the more efficient they will be as time goes on. Establishing the right atmosphere at the beginning can pave the way for future success.
Eric Czerwonka is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Buddy Punch, an employee time tracking software company founded in 2013 that provides employee management solutions for any small and large companies alike – anyone with employees from startups right to corporations and anyone with a remote team to manage.
In the future, Eric hopes to continue to fit each problem with the correct solution through the use of technology as well as innovation. Eric also holds a Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.