Remote Work

How to fuel remote work productivity

For employees, working from home is an excellent opportunity to gain autonomy, flexibility and focus time. For managers, working from home may be something slightly more intimidating. Remote employees cannot easily be observed by management, so it can be tempting to assume that those working from home aren’t getting the job done when in the comfort of their home office. Some managers’ solution to this is to closely survey teams and micromanage them. But this is the wrong approach!

Simply put, if we want to maximize remote work productivity, we have to trust our remote working teams to do their jobs without close supervision. When we don’t establish trust, negative work environments are cultivated and productivity inevitably suffers. In this article we discuss the two main reasons why lack of trust is toxic for productivity, as well as ways that you can enhance and establish it in your own workplace.

Why you need to trust your remote team to work from home

Constantly surveilling your teams can create a negative environment where employees feel pressured to be ‘always available’. This stressful environment reduces well-being and overall job satisfaction, which can demotivate teams. 

Demotivated and unhappy teams rarely work to the best of their ability. Some team members may push back against the strict work environment and refuse to give 100%. Others may be under too much pressure to focus and properly work. Overall, remote work productivity suffers. Only through trust can you ensure that your teams are willing and able to work at their highest level of productivity from their home offices, since removing constant surveillance gives them the relaxed headspace they need to perform.

How to unlock your team's remote work productivity potential

When you don’t trust your employees, this signals that you don’t believe in their ability and don’t value their work – and this rubs off on them. They too may begin to doubt themselves and feel inadequate or incapable of working from home. Feeling inadequate and under-confident when working from home becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Remote working teams that lack self-belief may be more reluctant to make decisions and seek more approval for their work, effectively increasing the time it takes to complete tasks and reducing productivity. In the end, self-doubting teams produce work that is far below the standard of what they really can achieve. 

The only way to unlock your team’s potential when they work from home is by believing in them to work independently. When we feel as if someone trusts in our ability, we often work harder and increase our productivity to prove that we’re worthy of this trust.

How remote working teams can establish trust

1. Regularly check-in with remote working teams

Regularly checking in shows that you care about your colleagues and value them as people, not just employees. Working from home means we don’t get to see each other as regularly anymore, so there are fewer opportunities to establish relationships with colleagues. This is exactly why you need to keep in regular contact with your team members who are working from home. 

Regular check-ins allow you to ask your colleagues how they’re getting on at work, with a certain task or just generally. They provide an opportunity for you to let your team know that you’re there for any questions or to help with anything if needed. Being friendly and offering support can really help you to establish trust within your remote working teams.

However, checking in should not be used as a tool for surveillance. The aim is to provide support, not to spy.

2. Use voice messaging for more personal digital interactions

You can increase trust within remote working teams using voice messaging and the power of your voice. With voice messaging, tone is properly expressed and the context behind the message is given. Recipients are therefore far less likely to wrongly understand the sentiment and emotion of the message, as can happen with non-vocal text messages.

A study in the International Journal of Business and Management supports this idea. Researchers discovered that one of the most important ways to establish trust is through avoiding misunderstandings and communicating with your team more personally, because this develops stronger connections with colleagues. This becomes particularly important when team members are working from home and you can’t talk with them in person. 

3. Establish feedback channels for your remote working team members

Giving and taking feedback from colleagues is a surprising way to establish trust. Praising your team shows that you trust in their ability and are thankful for their hard work. Voice messaging can again be particularly effective here for sending positive feedback to remote working teams, since such messages can adequately express positive emotions. Ultimately, rewarding and praising coworkers can motivate them to continue working effectively and help them to feel like valued members of the team.

Feedback also happens to be a two-way street. Giving your teams a channel where they can leave their own suggestions fosters a culture of trust where employees feel listened to and comfortable sharing their feedback. But of course, for this to work you have to be open to feedback and willing to act on it!

Take Away

Not trusting one another to work from home is a costly mistake that produces losses for every member of the team. Not only does it demotivate teams, but it also reduces their well-being at work. Both outcomes are enemies of productivity and prevent remote working teams from feeling and working at their best.

Ultimately, most remote workers want to work hard and will do so – but only if you trust them to.

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