Trust isn’t easy to build, especially in the absence of face-to-face contact. Yet building it is key to driving successful collaboration in teams where most or all members are working remotely. It’s essential to put frameworks, processes and tools in place that help people to communicate clearly and openly.

As one study shows, there are two distinct kinds of trust that are essential for people to work together effectively:

  • They need to believe that others will deliver and that the work will be of high quality (competence trust).
  • They need to believe that others have good intentions and high integrity (interpersonal trust).

Thus, to build confidence and trust in teams, it’s important to ensure team members know what colleagues are doing, why they’re doing it (motivations), and whether they’ll continue to do it (reliability).

This is a matter of communication and overcommunication—here are five ideas about how companies and leaders can build this culture of trust and openness:

1. Provide predictable leadership: Tracy Brower, a workplace happiness expert, says it’s key for leaders to be consistent and follow through on their promises since people crave certainty. Without it, there won’t be much trust.

2. Remember that trust is a two-way street: Employees are more likely to trust each other and their team members if they are shown mutual trust and respect. Fair remuneration, measuring them by output rather than policing hours, and setting clear expectations show employees that they are trusted and valued—in turn, giving them reason to trust their managers.

3. Communicate often and openly: A lack of information and feedback creates a void that can quickly be filled with suspicion and mistrust. As a blog post on Employment Heroputs it: “By keeping your team updated and in the know, they’ll feel confident in your direction… If you want your employees to be honest, you can’t keep them in the dark.”

4. Help the team to get to know each other in informal settings: Writing for Fast Company, Wade Foster–Zapier says leaders should encourage remote teams to make socialising a priority. Random channels on Microsoft Teams, breakout calls for smaller groups, and randomly partnering people for social calls are some ways to do this.

5. Turn mistakes into learning experiences: Mistakes will sometimes happen in remote work. Deadlines will be missed, deliverables won’t meet expectations, things will slip through the cracks due to miscommunication and other things will go wrong.

In an environment of trust, it’s key to have accountability without finger-pointing. Allison St. John, Co-Founder of Remote Leader Project, suggests turning inevitable mistakes into opportunities to reflect and help create a solution together.

Watch our webinar for more insights

Please watch our ‘Living through disruption’ webinar on YouTube where we explored some more of the human, business and tech challenges of the remote working world.

Moderators and panelists included:

  • Asanda Sosibo, Portal sales manager, Tarsus Distribution
  • Shirlinia Martin, General manager, channel sales, Tarsus Distribution
  • Bev Hancock, conversational catalyst, strategic facilitator and interactive presenter
  • Siphiwe Moyo, CEO of Paradigm People Solutions


[Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash]