May 27

6 Power Tips For Building Trust And Managing The Accountability Of A Remote Team

The Future of Work


Businesses all around the globe are now working offsite to keep their operations afloat. For most, this is uncharted territory and may not be as temporary as we initially thought - as more and more organisations realise this is the beginning of our new world of work. In the transition to working from home, managers are newly faced with accountability in a different way – how do they know if their employees are working?

Uncertainty around how to trust employees to get the work done, commonly lead managers to micromanage their employees - causing employees to overwork to prove themselves. The solution is, simply, trust.

By fostering a culture of trust, your remote team will thrive. Here are some tips on how to build trust and reliability in a remote team:

Be Completely Transparent - Always

When an entire team is working physically alone, accidentally withholding information or not providing enough context for other team members is common. Make a conscious effort to provide all relevant information – even it seems obvious. Be transparent about:

  • Working hours
  • Project expectations
  • Pay amount
  • Payment timelines
  • Status updates on projects

This also goes for contractors, freelancers and flexi-workers. Many managers make the mistake of telling freelancers to expect a workload increase over the coming months, when they aren’t sure if this will be the case at all. This might be well intentioned but it may string along freelancers and leave them feeling deceived when it doesn’t pan out.

Don’t risk negative reviews or unnecessarily stressed team members. To build trust, there can’t be any surprises.

Use Communication Tools

Communicate with your remote team openly and often by using a chat tool. Be aware not to treat team chat tools like MS Teams or Slack, like email – sending many private or direct messages. Rather keep almost all discussions public – ensuring that no member feels left out of important conversations.

If there is a miscommunication, escalate it privately. Once the issue is settled, return to a public channel and relay the outcome. This creates a culture of trust.

Be Social

The better you get to know your team, the more they feel they can trust you. Make team socialising and bonding a priority. Fun and light conversations on a chat tool loosen the tension for more serious conversations. Create channels devoted simply for socialising - spending time in these channels is not seen as slacking off, but as important bonding with colleagues.

Another way to encourage team members to know each other, is for managers to set up mixed chats with people throughout the company every week or to turn whole-company meetings into smaller group breakouts on a video conference tool. Inspire employees to chat about their personal lives and have real organic conversations.

This is not a waste of meeting or work time; it’s a way to ensure employees feel connected, which is crucial in building a trustworthy remote culture.

Set Clear Expectations

Perhaps the fastest way to build team trust is to create and share goals. This is beneficial for teams new to remote work or when you’re onboarding a new employee - consistent check-ins and establishing goals ensure all employees know what is expected of them.

Managers need to clarify their expectations for project or task progress. Employees can update their directs at the end of each day. An option is to send them a summary at the end of week or during a one-on-one. This also encourages employees to speak up if they have a problem.

Once expectations have been set, managers need to stick to them. Write meeting notes, send updates to entire teams, and be sure all expectations are written down and known.

Focus on Output

Trust in remote team means knowing that each employee is going to accomplish their respective tasks.

Managers need to be realistic – employees working work from home are going to do household tasks and be distracted. This is an opportunity to learn how to manage for output, not for “time-in-seat”. To trust that your team can manage their own days, time and responsibilities empowers every person to focus on their output.

Time-in-seat is not a true reflection of productivity. Ultimately, managers need to trust and hold their employees accountable for the work they do, not the hours they work.

Simplify your Job

It is impossible for managers to keep track of everything a team is doing - despite being able to follow each person’s individual online trail.

Be careful not to micromanage to be ensure employees are on track. Understand that you won’t be able to keep up and micromanage forever - you will lose touch with exactly what each employee is actually doing.

Set up automated workflows to follow work coming in from every team member. This allows managers to regularly check on who is submitting what and who is not, without having to do individual check-ins all the time.

In conclusion, the key to keep work-from-home employees accountable for their own work, is to trust. Trust among colleagues is the foundation of almost every aspect of a successful team and the greater business. It takes more effort to build trust in a remote team, but the above tips are proven ways to make it happen for managers.

About the author 

Julia Paton

Julia studied a Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in Film, English and Psychology followed by a Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing, both at the University of Cape Town. Whilst at university, she co-founded “Shots Fired Productions” a photography & videography micro-business. In addition to her entrepreneurial spirit, Julia brings to the team international experience gained from working at an advertising agency in Hamburg (Germany) and managing the marketing portfolio at an AI & Data Science Company in Sydney (Australia).

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