It's not news that consistent, honest communication is the key to success at any company. But what you might not know is that when it comes to remote teams, trust in one another is even more essential. Every remote team dynamic is different: your team might be comprised of remote new hires or you might manage a team of experienced remote workers. No matter where you and your team members are located, the importance of trust you have in one another remains the same.

With 62% of U.S employees working remotely in some frequency, the number of remote teams is on the rise. Remote team managers can further develop their remote employee management toolbox by following these tips to building trust on your remote team.

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Why Is Trust Important for Remote Teams?

Trust is important in professional communities. Feeling trusted to accomplish tasks on your own is a huge motivator, when you trust that your teammates are pulling their weight you will be unburdened by the fear that they are not, and when you trust that you can ask for help if you need you will be more motivated to take innovative work. In a virtual workplace, trust is the end-all-be-all of the success of remote teams.

For remote managers, trusting your direct reports to complete tasks relies heavily on setting concrete goals and frequently checking in. You need to trust your employees to be self-motivated, or you'll find that you turn to micromanagement, which usually leads to unhappy employees. Make yourself available for team members to come to you with any concerns or roadblocks through one-on-one video calls, virtual office hours, or an open-Zoom (open door) policy.

1. Remember that trust is assumed, not earned.

This tip especially applies to remote teams made out of new members. When we trust one another from the get-go, we start from a place of trust and open communication instead of beginning our teammate relationship at a place of uncertainty. Without the support of consistent face-to-face interactions to build trust and positive reinforcement, there can be some worry about what your teammates think of the work you are producing.

The freedom that remote work provides will only be as wonderful as your trust in your teammates (and their trust in you) allows. Start any new remote team project in a place of the utmost trust, and see how successful you can all be because of it.

2. Communicate honestly and frequently.

Although you should already be communicating with your remote coworkers as often as necessary to complete a job well done, to help build trust between you and your teammates you should also be reaching out on a more casual level. When all of your interactions with one another are work-centric and via e-mail or other text-only communication apps, it is easy to lose sight of the person on the other end of those messages. To help build trust in one another as teammates, you should be open to getting to know each other on the more casual basis that you would be allowed if your offices were right next door. A few ways to do this are:

  • Be intentional about getting to know your teammates: start a "virtual watercooler" conversation at the beginning and end of each week to catch up casually.
  • Invite your remote teammates to a weekly video chat meet up: casual conversation will have the opportunity to flow when you're all face-to-face in your home offices. Crack open a beer on a Friday afternoon and have an unstructured hang session.
  • Meet in person: If any of you are close enough to each other, you could all agree to meet up for an in-person brainstorming session – who knows what ideas will start flowing when you all meet for the first time.

3. Lead by example.

No matter who is the most senior member of your remote team, anyone can make the decision to lead by example when it comes to trusting your coworkers. It's simple: when you feel trusted and supported you are more open to trusting others.

So, if your work environment isn't already one of immediate trust, start the trend! Let a direct report try an experiment, take a vacation day (or week) and give up some responsibilities, or promote a junior team member who has promise. Your remote team will be better off for it.

4. Listen to one another.

I know that you are listening to your teammates, that's why you are thriving as a remote worker. But pause to think, could you be listening better? A lot of the trust in a working partnership comes from the effort you put toward being the best remote teammate possible. If you are only listening to the minimum of what your teammates are saying, only the essential-to-the-current-project details, then you could be missing out on what makes them such a stand out employee.

Listen to their creative brainstorm thoughts, their virtual water cooler chitchat. When your teammates know you are really hearing them, a more instinctively trusting culture will emerge.

5. Take time to focus on self-improvement.

High-trust work communities produce the most professionally successful people because trusting environments allow space for employees to excel and grow on their own schedule. When you take the time to focus on your self-improvement, you are trusting that your teammates are also showing up to work as their most productive selves. If you don't grow as a person, your performance at work often suffers. Take the time this week to pause and focus on how you can improve, removed from the team, then watch as your team thrives as a result.

Even if you have never been in the same office, the same city, or the same time zone, you and your remote team can still build a high-trust, productive work environment for one another. For more advice on how to best build a culture of trust on your remote teams, here's how Help Scout did it.

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