With further lockdown restrictions being imposed across the UK, businesses are once again having to set up operations for home working and to manage a remote workforce. Unlike last year, when the coronavirus first took its toll and remote working came about quite suddenly, organisations should now be more or less armed with the tools for a remote office. But when it comes to managing employees remotely, there is evidence of organisations taking it a step further.
As discussed during this episode of the Today in Focus podcast, some organisations are seemingly using remote working as an opportunity to “spy” on their employees. Some going as far as to install surveillance technology to monitor employees’ actions on their devices or screensharing applications to check whether their employees are really working from home. Whether these types of monitoring services are necessary or indeed measure an employee’s quality of work remains questionable, but there’s a bigger concern – is there a lack of trust between employers and their people?
The importance of trust in the workplace
All industries and organisations require some amount of trust in one way or another. Whether it is between your employees, your suppliers or your customers, trust is what keeps a business moving and is fundamental for making business decisions. It acts as one of the most important communication drivers between two parties and can take some time to develop, but only a second to eliminate. Think about when you order something online for a specific delivery date, for example. The company makes a promise to you that it will arrive on your chosen date, and because of that, you put your trust in them for it to arrive. But when it ends up not turning up on time, your trust in that company or brand quickly diminishes, resulting in you potentially never ordering from them again.
Similar scenarios can take place between people in the workplace too. Let’s say you’re a manager and you give a task to one of your peers during a meeting. A week later, you ask for the completed task, only to find that the employee has forgotten to do it. Naturally, your trust in that employee is jeopardised, leaving you unsure as to whether you can trust them with another task.
But whilst one wrong foot can put a spanner in the works when it comes to trust between employees, it can be rebuilt quickly if both parties are honest and collaborative. This is where communication and having a culture of trust in the workplace is key.
Developing a culture of trust
A healthy, trusting relationship with colleagues, managers and executives often derives from certain behaviour patterns and qualities, such as reliability, loyalty, engagement and commitment. Ask yourself: am I listening to my employees, am I open to their ideas and suggestions? Am I setting my employees realistic goals and objectives? Am I treating employees the way I would like to be treated myself?
All these questions can help set the standard for trust in the workplace. Even when working remotely, setting up regular calls with colleagues to discuss priorities for the week or simply having open team chats to spark brainstorms and ideas can further cement trust between colleagues because it provides an open environment for communication. Employers must also bear in mind the effects of the pandemic at this time and the situations their employees might be in – you could have colleagues that are home schooling their children, off sick or who simply need to step away from work for mental health reasons. Acknowledging the different scenarios that your employees might be facing during this time and having plans and support in place to deal with them can also help boost trust. Having those continuous and meaningful conversations with employees can also have a positive overall impact on an employee’s performance, driving further productivity for the business and keeping employees happy.
So, whilst surveillance and monitoring technology might be needed in some organisations for regulation purposes, it doesn’t necessarily need to be used as a trust tool to make sure your employees are doing what they say they are when working from home. Keeping communication as open as possible, creating an honest environment by harnessing collaboration platforms effectively, as well as gaining regular feedback on how to improve the remote working environment, can all ensure trust becomes a natural behaviour in the workplace.
For more tips on how to navigate the new normal, hear from our Chief Talent Officer, Kimberly Cassady and our Chief Learning Officer, Jeff Miller, as they discuss what leaders need to know in the new normal, in this video here.