B. Build Trust in Remote Teams


If you cannot see your remote contractors, how do you know they are working?

If you have not employed a virtual team before, you may have some initial concerns:

“Are my remote contractors working instead of doing the laundry?”

“Will they be there when I need support?”

The truth is you do not know. But it all comes down to developing trust.

It is natural to have these concerns, but there are monitoring technologies that give you a comprehensive understanding of what your remote contractor has been working on. However, you should not rely on these monitoring technologies. Neither should you monitor your remote contractors at all times. Healthy remote work relationships are built on a foundation of trust.

Shifting from a traditional office setup to remote work can have a dramatic impact on your working relationships. It can lead to feelings of isolation for your remote contractors if you do not continue to build and nurture those relationships in your virtual working environment. Just like you, they may also develop trust issues. They may worry about not getting paid on time or doubt your ability to lead them in a new work setting.


Trust is the foundation of every relationship and with it, you can do great things.

If you want your business to succeed, you have to nurture your work relationships because businesses are built on them. And trust is the foundation of all work relationships. With trust, no matter how many times you and your team disagree, no one feels like they are being discriminated against or victimised. You feel free to express your ideas without the fear of being treated unfairly. This freedom and lack of fear can help you come to an agreement and make decisions much faster. The sooner you make decisions, the sooner your team can get work done.

Having a strong sense of trust within your team cuts down the time you spend discussing issues because you trust each other’s judgment and expertise. It also increases morale among your team, giving you the ability to work more effectively as one.


What Is Trust?

Trust is a decision you make to believe in another person’s character and capabilities. It is a decision because trust does not come naturally or easily. It is earned or given, depending on a lot of factors. In the workplace, trust can be earned or given based on two things: Reliability and Likeability.

Trust Based on Reliability (Performance-Based)

It is only natural to trust reliable employees more than incompetent ones, especially in terms of getting the job done and getting it done right. That is because the reliability factor has a huge impact on how your team can deliver well on your goals, make good decisions, and be a strong pillar of support for your business.
Ask yourself the following questions to assess your trust on your remote contractors:

1. Do I trust my remote contractors to follow through?
2. Do I trust my remote contractors’ judgement?
3. Do I trust my remote contractors to represent me and my business?

Trust Based on Likeability (Principle-Based)

Another factor that affects our ability to trust someone is likeability. When we like someone, we feel safe around them, and we think that they will not do anything to harm us or put us in a dangerous situation. We can be who we are without any fear of being judged and maligned. It’s the same in the workplace. The level of likeability among your team affects how your team engages with one another, your level of happiness and satisfaction, as well as your perceived integrity.

Gauge how much you trust your remote contractors in terms of likeability by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Do I trust my remote contractors to practice discretion?
2. Do I trust my team members to respect others?
3. Do I trust my team members’ intentions?


Mutual trust is at the heart of your success in the digital workplace.

Aside from requiring deliberate effort, trust is also something that should be mutual. As a leader, trust that your employees will act responsibly when working remotely. Also, your employees must trust that you will act in their best interest and help them to be successful.

However, creating a culture of trust is a top-down responsibility. It starts with you, the leader of your team. Your role is vital in establishing trust among your team. If your team members sense that you trust them, they will surely follow your lead.

Difficulty of Building Trust in Remote Work

Of course, trusting someone is not easy now that we are at an age wherein we have already experienced a lot in life. By now, we know that there are people who are worthy of our trust and who are not. We also know the consequences of trusting someone we hardly know.

This is also true for a remote team. It is harder to trust someone you hardly know and who is working with you all the way from the other side of the world. The distance makes it hard to create a bond in order to get to know each other. You will have to hurdle through a number of challenges. It’s a lot of work, and you will have to muster enough patience to succeed.

How can leaders create, enable, and sustain this culture of trust in a remote setting?

“I repeat… that all power is a trust–that we are accountable for its exercise–that, from the people, and for the people, all springs, and all must exist.”– Benjamin Disraeli

The same principles you applied to establish trust and respect with your co-located team can be applied in a remote setting. You just need to be more deliberate about it. Here are ways that can help you set the tone for your whole team in building trust among yourselves.

Ways to Build Reliability

1. Set up regular online meetings or virtual coffee chats to help remote contractors with challenges or obstacles.
2. Encourage independent decision making regarding their productivity, time-management, and work-space environment.
3. Ensure your technology is secure and that you offer support for your remote contractors to complete work efficiently.
4. Make sure your team understands clear goals.
5. Actively participate (don’t multitask) in team meetings.
6. Take the time to assist your remote contractors when they reach out to you.
7. Use collaboration/project management tools to keep everyone accountable.
8. Set tasks, projects, and goals with timelines.
9. Track progress towards milestones on a longer-term basis rather than on an hourly or daily. Focus on the outcomes, not just activities or the amount of time spent on tasks.
10. Support your managers who oversee remote contractors and make sure they have a healthy attitude toward them.
11. Compare the outcomes of remote contractors with co-located workers and look for ways to keep them both consistent.


Ways to Build Likeability

  1. Allow time at the beginning of team meetings for personal discussions. Sharing and getting to know each other on a more personal level is a uniquely Filipino way of building trust. Asking
    them about their family and other personal matters may appear intrusive for you, but Filipinos take it as a sign of concern.
  2. Encourage your remote contractors to get to know each other and spend time in building their social networks using online technology. This helps nurture trust.
  3. Allow collaboration and allocate buddies between co-located workers and remote contractors who will check in with them occasionally, especially in meetings, to see if they have something
    to contribute.
  4. Support remote contractors’ personal and professional development and offer them incentives, such as attending local events to prevent feelings of isolation.
  5. Give opportunities to increase remote contractors’ visibility. Assign special projects where remote contractors can work with other teams. This is another way to nurture your people and
    build trust.
  6. Set ground rules on how to go about everything, especially when communicating and collaborating. Before you start a meeting, for instance, you can tell your remote contractors
    that everyone will be given the chance to speak, so there’s no need to butt in during someone’s turn.
  7. Be there for them when they need you. Your remote contractors need to know that you are always available to support them or provide advice when necessary. If you are unapproachable or always out of reach, your remote contractors might feel abandoned or out of place.
  8. Let them know that conflict is fine as long as it is healthy. Conflict, if handled well, is a great way to come up with the best decision. Make sure that your disagreements do not go as far as insulting each other or causing each other physical harm.
  9. Be clear that bullying is unacceptable. Let your remote contractors know that any form of bullying is not welcome in your workplace. Encourage them to report instances of bullying no matter what.
  10. Consider that people may not be the problem. When something goes wrong, do not assume that it is your remote contractor’s fault. Enquire about the circumstances surrounding the situation first.
  11. Be willing to have a direct conversation. Difficult conversations are inevitable, so you have to be prepared to be in one at some point while working with a remote team. Your honesty will be greatly appreciated. 



Final Thoughts

“Without trust, you have nothing.”–Tamara Ecclestone

Successful remote working relationships are based on trust. Without it, you won’t be able to get your remote contractors to accomplish anything for your business and help them advance their skills. You will always have anxieties about entrusting important tasks to them, which can be detrimental to the growth of your business. Sooner or later, they will feel that you don’t trust them enough, forcing them to find new opportunities where they can contribute more and feel valued.

Establishing trust in a remote work setup should be intentional. It will not happen organically. You have to take risks in order to show your remote contractors that you trust them and that they can trust you as well.



In a Nutshell

Quick Guide to Trust Building with Remote Teams

Getting to Know Activities Template (coming soon)