In this article, we look at the importance of trust in the workplace and how this has been highlighted by COVID-19. Find out why trust is important (for employees and leaders both) and get some help on how to shape a trusting work environment to promote engagement
Trust vs Control
At the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 took many companies by surprise. Almost overnight they had to adapt to working remotely, managing a team remotely and re-defining work goals, communication methods and more.
Companies were forced to go digital and let their employees work from home - and not all companies were prepared. Work processes and structures have had to be renegotiated.
One of the biggest issues that comes from the sudden switch to working from home seems to have been trust.
Trust in employees has been fundamental throughout this, and trust seems to be the root of some of the most common issues with working from home.
But what does this say about the culture of trust in companies?
New Challenges Create New Opportunities
The pandemic has given us the unique opportunity to redefine the way we work. Home offices have had to be set up and new communication channels created.
According to the Manager-Barometer survey, employees worked less than one day a week at home before the pandemic, while they now worked 3.7 to 4.2 days in their own home.
Does this mean that in the future, working from home will be more common?
Not if we cannot fix this issue of trust.
Some entrepreneurs and bosses also saw some weaknesses in working from home.
They began to ask questions: How long does my employee work? How do they divide their time? How do they separate their private and professional lives? Are they doing chores / getting things done around their home?
These questions likely started with good intentions: helping employees navigate what working from home means, helping them set up boundaries between work time and home time, helping them be more productive. But ultimately, these questions might have signalled something else to the person on the receiving end.
Do they not trust me?
The importance of being trusted in the workplace
Trust and working from home is not a new issue. In a 2017 report, 42% of UK workers said their company culture does not allow them to work flexibly or manage their own workload and 33% wished they were given more autonomy, or the option to work remotely.
It's also been shown time and again that when an employee feels trusted their productivity will increase. Not only this, but it's been argued that higher levels of trust can help:
- Enhance teamwork
- Improve employee engagement
- Help decision making
- Decrease stress and burnout
- Aid employee retention
So how do we overcome this issue of trust and remote working? What skills would a leader need to commnicate effectively?
Leadership skills for building trust
Many employers promote the fact that they are “flat hierarchies” - companies that give every employee the chance to get involved and help shape the trajectory of the business, or the strategy of the department. This approach also means that you give your employees the space and trust that they need to develop their potential.
In the home office, managers have to rely on their employees completing their tasks independently and well. The concept of leadership at a distance is becoming more and more important and is playing an increasingly important to a good manager’s skill set.
In times of digitization and new media, companies have to be agile and flexible enough to adapt to new developments - even sudden ones. This requirement is also becoming more and more clear to bosses, who have to adapt their management style as a result.
But how do you build a culture of trust in such a way that all of a company’s bases are covered?
3 things that can damage trust:
- Don't call your employees about things that aren’t important. The more this happens, the more controlled your employees will feel.
- Messaging using private social media accounts is also not a good idea. Your employees need to have a private life.
- Don’t ask anything of your employees that you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself.
6 ways to build good trust:
- Talk to all employees openly. Include them in your plans and make it clear that you welcome constructive suggestions. An open communication culture promotes mutual acceptance as well as trust in one another to shape the new face of work together.
- Satisfied employees are loyal to their employers meaning that they are more likely to be productive at home. Those who feel comfortable at work enjoy working reliably. Using control to steer your employees through this time isn’t the right direction.
- Be a role model. Those who lead authentically automatically win the respect of their employees. But this doesn’t mean that respect equals power. Show your employees openness, appreciation and honesty. Those who are treated with these values usually return the culture.
- Work on the team's common value system. When everyone pulls together, everyone works reliably towards common goals. Therefore, when recruiting a new colleague, it’s important to make sure that they’re the right fit for your team.
- Include your team in the decision-making process. Draw up a common concept, like what future collaborations should look like or what needs to be done to achieve the goals for the coming year. But don't give the impression that you are handing everything over to your employees. Work on all essential points and show commitment to your team. They will thank you with their trust and appreciation.
- Constantly train and hone your leadership style. Reflect on how you interact with your employees and how you lead your team. Question yourself and put yourself to the test: Am I the boss I would like to have myself? Would I trust myself to lead? Only those who continue to work on themselves as a manager, adapt to new challenges and show a willingness to do right by their employees can say that they are professionally developing.
By doing these things, you can help build and shape a culture of trust in your company.
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