As the gig economy continues its explosive growth, fewer employees are now co-located with their colleagues. As more and more employers offer remote work opportunities, issues of trust often end up on the frontline of workplace discussions. This is because telecommuting and other forms of working from home can unintentionally end up changing the trust equation between employees and managers.

Even though multiple studies have proven that remote workers are more productive than their office-based co-workers, some managers still struggle with the idea that people are actually getting their work done when left to their own devices offsite. If remote workers don’t feel a sense of belonging on the team due to their remote status, they may also distrust their managers and company leadership.

Why is trust so important? For one thing, it’s key to employee engagement. In research that Gallup conducted with more than 10,000 people to determine the qualities of the best leaders, trust topped the list. Gallup explains why trust is so essential:

“When employees don’t trust organizational leadership, their chances of being engaged are one in 12. But when that trust is established, the chances of engagement skyrocket to better than one in two. That’s more than a six-fold increase.”

Gallup has identified three specific elements that can help remote workers feel like they’re part of the team and organization, and thus feel greater trust in you as their manager. Each of these elements relates to engagement and helps boost performance and productivity as well.

Here’s how to build trust with employees who work remotely: 

  • Set clear expectations for remote work. When remote work arrangements don’t work, it’s often because the manager hasn’t taken the time to tell remote employees what’s expected of them in terms of:
    • Performance level
    • Project prioritization
    • How much work to do

By ensuring that remote staff members are fully briefed on the three points above before starting each project, managers can show that they not only understand and respect remote employees, but that they are invested in their success.

  • Make sure remote workers have what they need. When people work remotely, they can’t just walk down the hall to the supply cabinet to find the materials and equipment they need. They may also have a harder time accessing critical company information when working outside the office. Managers can help keep remote teams engaged and build trust by staying on top of these needs and providing what’s required for people to get their jobs done well.
  • Provide positive feedback. It’s easy for remote workers to feel out of the loop and undervalued—unless you let them know that you recognize and appreciate their talents. Increase trust starting at the hiring stage by drawing on what you learned about the employee through the interview process and helping them build on the strengths that you call out.

Remember that it’s generally the relationship between remote workers and management—specifically, building and sustaining more trust between the two groups—that needs improvement, rather than how people who work remotely are managing their time. Do your part to support and encourage these invaluable team members, and watch them flourish.

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