Building Trust as A Remote Worker: Essential Tips for Creating Strong Relationships in A Virtual Environment

By: Jordan Carroll

Have you ever faced challenges of trust in a remote work environment? 

One email, Slack interaction, or off-handed comment during a Zoom call can break the most valuable resource you have with another human, and you may not even know what you did.

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, remote work has become increasingly prevalent. As more and more professionals embrace the flexibility and convenience of working from home or other remote locations, a new set of challenges emerges.

One of those is: HOW do we create and maintain trust in an environment where everything is virtual?

Trust is one of the most critical factors for success in a remote work environment. It is the foundation upon which successful collaborations, long-term relationships, and high productivity are built. Let’s dive into how you can build trust as a remote worker.

Understanding The Pillars of Trust

Trust is a multifaceted concept, and its pillars are essential for fostering a thriving remote work culture. The pillars of trust include:

  • Valuing Long-Term Relationships:

In remote teams, building enduring relationships is crucial. Trust is nurtured over time through consistent communication, empathy, and understanding.

  • Being Honest and Transparent:

Openness and honesty are vital in remote work settings. Being transparent about progress, challenges, and expectations creates a strong sense of trust among team members.

  • Honoring Your Commitments:

Delivering on promises and commitments is a powerful way to demonstrate reliability and build trust in remote teams.

  • Admitting When You Are Wrong:

Vulnerability and humility are key traits of trustworthy individuals. Acknowledging mistakes and taking responsibility fosters a culture of trust and learning.

  • Being Vulnerable and Open:

Encourage open dialogue and vulnerability in remote teams. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and concerns promotes a deeper level of trust.

  • Being Helpful and Caring:

Support and assist your colleagues in their professional and personal growth. Genuine care and assistance build strong bonds and trust within the team.

  • Standing up for What Is Right:

Upholding principles and values, even in challenging situations, demonstrates integrity and strengthens trust within the remote workplace.

Failure to adhere to the pillars of trust can have severe consequences. When trust is compromised, it can lead to reduced productivity, increased misunderstandings, and a toxic work environment. Without trust, communication breaks down, collaboration suffers, and team morale declines.

Communication in the Remote Workplace

All of this trust talk comes down to effective communication. Effective communication is the lifeblood of remote teams. Without face-to-face interactions, communication must be intentional, clear, and inclusive. To build trust through communication, consider the following:

Going Beyond the Messages

Communication goes beyond just exchanging messages. It involves active listening, empathy, and understanding the context of each interaction. Regular check-ins, virtual meetings, and collaborative platforms are essential for maintaining strong communication in remote teams.

Proactive Ownership and The Power Of Trust Phrases

Taking ownership of tasks and responsibilities shows accountability and reliability. Trust phrases, such as “I’ll take care of it” or “You can count on me,” reinforce commitment and instil confidence among team members (assuming you actually follow through!).

Utilizing Affirmative Words for Better Communication

Positive language can make a significant difference in remote communication. Use affirmative phrases like “yes, and” to show support and build on ideas. Especially when brainstorming, avoiding using the word “but.”

Here are some other powerful trust phrases I love:

“Let me clarify so you know I understand you. [Paraphrase].”

“I trust your judgement.”

“What I don’t want is [xyz]… What I do want is [xyz]…”

“Yes, and…”

“How can I support you?”

“Can I make an observation?”

“What do you need from me to make this a success?”

Introduction to Nonviolent Communication

NVC is a communication approach developed by Marshall Rosenberg that emphasizes compassionate listening and speaking to resolve conflicts and build trust.

Elements of NVC

Non-Violent Communication (NVC) is a valuable framework for fostering empathy and understanding in remote teams. NVC involves four key elements:

  • Observation: Clearly stating the observed behavior or situation without judgement or interpretation.
  • Feelings: Expressing emotions and feelings related to the observation.
  • Needs: Identifying the underlying needs and values behind the feelings.
  • Requests: Making clear, positive requests to address the needs and feelings.

Using NVC in remote communication fosters a culture of empathy, understanding, and trust among team members.

Balancing Asynchronous and Synchronous Work

Remote work allows flexibility in managing schedules and working hours. Balancing asynchronous and synchronous work effectively can lead to increased productivity and better work-life integration.

Understanding Asynchronous and Synchronous Work

Asynchronous work involves completing tasks without real-time communication, while synchronous work involves immediate interactions and collaboration.

Strategies To Practice Both Effectively

Utilize asynchronous channels for tasks that don’t require immediate responses and synchronous communication for discussions, brainstorming, and decision-making.

Maximizing Productivity with A Hybrid Approach

Combining both approaches strategically ensures that team members can work efficiently while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Setting Work Goals and Priorities

Beyond communication practices we’ve covered, getting clarity on output is a game-changer for trust. Goal setting is fundamental for remote workers to stay focused and motivated. Clarifying objectives and priorities enhances productivity and trust within remote teams.

Differentiating Outcome Goals and Behavioral Goals

Outcome goals focus on the desired results, while behavioral goals emphasize the actions needed to achieve those results. Balancing both types of goals leads to better performance and accountability.

Techniques For Setting and Achieving Goals

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goal setting and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are effective methods for setting and tracking goals in remote teams.

Tools to Enhance Goal-Setting Effectiveness

Utilize project management tools, task trackers, and collaborative platforms to set, monitor, and achieve goals in the remote workplace.

Enhancing Productivity

Productivity is a critical aspect of remote work that leads to trust. It takes all the communication principles, plus the goals, and puts them to action. Ask: are you delivering what you’re saying you’re going to? Your actions need to speak as loud as your words. These are some strategies that enhance productivity and foster trust within remote teams:

  • Prioritizing Tasks for Remote Work Success:

Use techniques like Eisenhower Matrix or Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) to prioritize tasks and focus on high-impact activities.

  • The Focus Funnel (Rory Vaden’s Concept):

The Focus Funnel involves eliminating, automating, delegating, and concentrating on essential tasks to maximize productivity.

  • Utilizing ChatGPT for Task Management:

Artificial Intelligence-powered tools like ChatGPT can assist in managing tasks, setting reminders, and providing valuable insights for better productivity.

Sharing Weekly Updates

Regular updates are essential for keeping remote teams aligned and informed. Sharing weekly updates by documenting actions each week keeps everyone on the same page, promotes accountability, and strengthens team unity. When sending a weekly update to management, stakeholders, or team members, include the basics: a weekly summary, relevant details, issues/concerns, and upcoming leaves. This also gives each worker an ability to review their work and everything they’ve done.

Building trust and productivity in the remote workplace is a dynamic process that requires commitment, clear communication, and continuous improvement. Trust is the bedrock for successful remote teams, enabling collaboration, innovation, and resilience. 

Emphasizing effective communication, goal setting, and productivity-enhancing practices lays the foundation for a thriving and cohesive remote workforce. By embracing trust and prioritizing the well-being of team members, organizations can unlock the full potential of their remote workforce and achieve greater success in the digital age.