Few would deny that trust in the workplace is one of the most critical parts of developing a good environment for your employees. Whether you are a small business with only a couple of workers or a large corporation with hundreds of teams and thousands of people, establishing a solid foundation of trust inside the organization is crucial to success.
And with remote work and hybrid schedules becoming increasingly common, maintaining trust is more important than ever. Studies show that working from home has eaten away at trust between colleagues. Some employees working in-office don’t trust that their remote colleagues are actually doing the work. And managers and leaders are turning more and more towards electronic monitoring methods to track how remote employees work. Overall, the current workplace culture is eroding organizational trust across the board. So how do we fix it? Let’s take a look.
What is trust at work?
Before we solve the hybrid working trust issue, we need to understand what trust looks like in the workplace. Trust in the workplace applies to many different areas but often comes down to the need for managers to give their employees the feeling of psychological safety in their jobs.
Psychological safety gives employees the confidence to fail or make mistakes and not worry about repercussions — like potentially losing their job. This is especially important right now as the world of work shifts and changes around us. People who are uncertain about hybrid work models and remote working may feel like their job is at risk if they can’t keep up with the new way of working.
There are four main pillars of psychological safety:
- Sincerity. Sincerity happens when you align your motivations with your actions.
- Reliability. Reliability requires managers to not just assign their employees tasks but also be there to support them.
- Competence. Competence isn’t about feeling like you’re the most important person on the team just because you’re the manager. Instead, competence is all about being confident that you know the best ways to support your team and guide them to do their best work.
- Care. Care is possibly the most important aspect of psychological safety. Managers need to take the time to care for their employees, including listening to their concerns and needs and being available to help them work through mistakes — without judgment.
Managers need to encourage organizational trust and psychological safety while motivating employees to do their best work. It’s a tricky balance, but here are a few ways to navigate it.
How managers can build trust in the hybrid workplace?
To understand how to build trust and psychological safety, you first need to know where you stand. That’s why it’s a good idea to survey your employees about how they experience trust at work.
Here are a few statements you can ask employees to rank on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 for strongly disagree and 5 for strongly agree) to determine your starting point:
- I understand what is expected of me on this team.
- We value outcomes over outputs or inputs, and nobody feels like they need to “look busy.”
- If I make a mistake, it isn’t held against me.
- When something goes wrong, we work together to find the underlying reason.
- All members of the team feel safe bringing up problems.
- Everyone on the team values each other’s differences and makes sure nobody feels left out.
- I feel safe taking risks.
- I find it easy to ask other team members for help.
- Nobody on the team would actively work to undermine the efforts of any other team member.
- I feel like my skills and talents are valued and well used when working with my team members.
Once you’ve measured how your employees feel, you can determine which areas need the most work in specific teams. But for more general advice about improving trust and psychological safety in the hybrid workplace, here are a few good rules to live by.
This goes for both managers and employees. Honesty is so essential for trust-building. If employees feel safe being honest and owning up to their mistakes, they’re much more likely to feel safe in their positions and more likely to do better work.
But being honest isn’t just about truth-bombing everyone all day long. Instead, it’s important to be honest and vulnerable. Being vulnerable creates a positive feedback loop and helps you improve communication in your team. This might seem complicated to do when people are spread across in-office and remote workspaces. But try to make sure as a manager that you admit your own mistakes and be honest when you don’t have an answer. Try sharing what you feel your weaknesses are and ask your team for feedback. Lead by example, and more people will feel comfortable being honest.
Set expectations around communication
We all know by now that communication in the hybrid work model can get confusing. Someone misses an email or a message, and all hell can break loose. That’s why managers need to set some guidelines and expectations for how their teams communicate.
For hybrid meetings, let teams know beforehand how things will work. Set some rules for how people contribute to the meeting, like raising their hands (in-person or virtually) so everyone gets a say. Make sure you find ways to keep remote attendees involved in the conversation. And try to make sure that people in the office don’t dominate the conversation.
It’s also good to have some pre-set rules for how team members will deal with contentious issues. It can be easy to start up an argument over text channels like email or Microsoft Teams. But text-only communication makes it hard to determine tone and intention. As a manager, decide which types of discussions need to be taken into an in-person meeting or a video call and how team members should ask for help facilitating these conversations.
Treat people like people
Yes… we know this might sound obvious, but some managers seem to forget this simple bit of advice. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the business side of work. But you need balance at work just like you need balance in other parts of your life.
People are more than numbers and statistics. Try taking some time to get to know the people you work with. It doesn’t take much time or energy to show some interest. And it’s the little things that make big differences. Trust between employees is largely built through non-work tasks. In traditional office settings, that’s making coffee, noticing someone’s new haircut, or chatting in the break room over lunch.
These things are much harder to come by through a computer screen. That’s why it’s essential to set aside time at the beginning of meetings to let everyone chat and catch up. Or try scheduling weekly or monthly social sessions or activities to encourage non-work communication.
Put your trust in Smartway2
Give your workers the peace of mind to trust their day-to-day office experience will run smoothly. This is especially important to help you build the most efficient hybrid working environment. You shouldn’t have to worry about scheduling meetings, booking desks, and managing visitors.