The article was originally published on HelloRaderCo.com
Do you have a hard time trusting your remote employees? Are you a remote team member that feels you aren't trusted? The good news is that trust and working remotely can go together.
I've worked remotely since 2001. I worked in the field in various hospitals and labs or conducted training on-site. I traveled almost weekly for a decade, so working from home was a great compromise to being on the road.
When COVID hit, and everyone quickly shifted to working from home, I was inundated with requests to train teams to work well remotely. I'd been delivering training on that topic for over a decade so I was happy to help companies shift and thrive in the remote working era.
Some of the things I heard from companies, managers & leaders shocked me.
Challenges to Workplace Trust
1. Leaders were afraid they couldn't trust their employees to actually be working.
2. Leaders feared lost productivity due to employees not working.
3. Leaders didn't believe employees were putting in their hours.
There was a huge disconnect between what leaders believed and what I knew to be true.
This disconnect is documented in Microsoft's Work Trend Index Special Report: Hybrid Work is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong?". The portion of leaders who say they have complete confidence that their team is productive (12%) is contrary to the percentage of employees who report they are productive while at work (87%). It's called the "productivity paranoia,"
"Paranoia" is a particularly descriptive and accurate word for the situation.
And with an active productivity paranoia, there can be no trust afforded. (This, regardless of the fact that the number of meetings, hours worked, and other activity metrics increased significantly during COVID-19).
In some instances, I was speechless at what I heard and saw. One employee stated that she was required to be logged in to Zoom the entire time she was clocked in. She (understandably) felt smothered. I felt enraged.
If you as a leader cannot trust your employees to work from home, then they shouldn't work for you in the office either. And really, the number of work hours is arbitrary.... If employees can get their work done in less time, celebrate that! Don't make them continue to sit there and surf the web!
(Do you monitor your staff's web browser tabs?) I guarantee there's some ordering from Amazon going on, whether they are working at the office or at home.
If the time of day doesn't really matter when things get done, understand that we all have high and low points of productivity and energy during the day and allow people to capitalize on that. Don't punish a night owl by making them start work at 8:00 am unless there's a real need. Could you have a block of hours required, especially for certain kinds of work, and then any other work could be flexible as to the time of day?
This concept is best summarized by Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO of Microsoft:
“Our new data shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid & remote work, as employee expectations continue to change. The only way for organizations to solve for this complexity is to embrace flexibility across their entire operating model, including the ways people work, the places they inhabit, and how they approach business process.”
When people lack trust in others, I wonder if they themselves are untrustworthy and not able to work efficiently from home and projecting that behavior onto others.
The Truth: We Work More Hours When Working Remotely
Did you know that people who work from home tend to work more hours, not less?
Especially during the pandemic, the increase in work hours shot up by an average of three hours per day for US employees. (Ostensibly, since there wasn't anywhere to go, we just worked more). Now that things have opened up again, it is still the case and always has been for most people…we work more hours when we're remote.
And we're also more productive! Why?
The short answer is that there aren't as many drive-by conversations or idle chats. We don't need to go across a building or another floor to go to the bathroom or refill our water. It's just a few steps. We're less likely to go out for lunch and even less likely to take a break at lunch. People eat more in front of their screens when they work from home, which isn't healthy or productive.
Remote workers feel nervous about stepping away. They're afraid if they go out for lunch (which is something they would do in a typical workplace), they may get a message during that time and ‘get caught' not working.
They make excuses if they can't be reactive to your Microsoft Teams or Slack chat. They don't turn it off at night because their office is right there, often going back to work after dinner or checking email before bed.
Please re-look at your stance on trust with your remote workers. Don't create a culture of secrecy and hostility because that's what a lack of trust is. If you can't trust them at home, you can't trust them in the office.
Moreover, suppose you continue to not trust your employees. That situation could lead to "quiet quitting" (doing the bare minimal tasks of your job description well enough that you don't get fired). Consequently, this can affect your business KPIs like employee retention, attraction, bottom line, and much more.
To succeed in remote work, the not-so-secret secret is to keep your employees as human beings at the center of your decisions. This would motivate them to give their 100% to you and succeed at the job. Trust breeds trust.
Per an employee from Alaska, "if my company is going to come in and give me this flexibility, then I'm going to be the first to give them 100%."
Help for managing well remotely
Per the Digital Wellness Institute Playbook, 83% of employees look to their employers for guidance in navigating the pressures of remote work. Yet many employers feel ill-equipped to deal with these new pressures.
Thus, there is a vast need to upskill & train on "working well remotely" and creating a thriving remote work culture. It's also one of the training topics in our Work Well Remotely series, where we train managers and team members on how to work well together from home so that there is a culture of trust and flexibility while keeping our employees at the center of this new change & transformation.
How are you planning on thriving in this new remote & hybrid work era?