Is Culture of Trust in Remote and Hybrid Teams Eroding? Implications for Organisations and Employees

Trust is the backbone of every high-performing workplace, translating into happier employees, increased productivity, better-served customers, and a strong sense of camaraderie.

However, as remote work becomes more prevalent in the post-Covid era, the issue of trust is rising, provoking tension in a triangle among leaders, in-house employees, and remote workers. Admittedly, 55% of managers and employees believe that it’s easier to trust colleagues in a physical office than colleagues working remotely.

When lockdowns forced individuals to work from home, trust was there by default; but, when companies resume operations and employees are hesitant to return to offices, trust becomes a top priority on executives’ agendas. So, what has changed?

In this article, we will examine the issues surrounding trust in remote and hybrid teams and the ramifications for organisations and employees.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Barriers to Trust in Remote vs. In-Office Teams

Whether you’re a leader or an employee, you will perhaps agree that certain obstacles negatively impact trust among on-site and remote teams.

Physical Distance and Discordant Time Zones

Geographical distance means that remote employees feel less connected to their counterparts in the office, and no Zoom calls can bridge that gap. Due to differences in time zones and asynchronous work nature, in-office, and virtual colleagues have few opportunities to work together in real-time, resulting in delays, reduced efficiency, frustration, and lack of mutual trust.

Lack of Face-To-Face Interactions

Equally, one of the key ingredients to building successful relationships in the workplace is interpersonal trust based on human interactions and integrity. However, remote work means fewer opportunities for informal interactions between on-site and remote employees.

The lack of such interactions means that colleagues cannot build meaningful relationships, share information freely and feel empowered to work for the benefit of the whole group. Indeed, developing a sense of group identity and togetherness could be challenging to achieve in an online environment.

Limited Visibility Into Team Member’s Work and Contributions

Office presence is usually perceived as a precondition for productivity, ergo creating issues regarding the visibility and performance of remote workers.

In-office employees and managers somehow feel like they cannot unequivocally see and define the contributions that remote colleagues are making, which leads to tensions and a lack of workplace equity. Meanwhile, virtual team members feel that their efforts are not recognised, resulting in isolation and shunning.

Improper Matching of Technology

Inter-office and remote collaboration must be bolstered using suitable technology. All too frequently, companies that wish to blend on-site and remote work rely on numerous software solutions, which, rather than enabling interactions, create dissonance and siloed communications.

While it’s natural for virtual team members to use technology, those who work from offices struggle to integrate virtual tools into their day-to-day work. On top of that, for permanent enablement of hybrid or fully remote settings, businesses must invest in company-wide technology to create a more connected organisation with a sense of belonging and interpersonal trust.

The Negative Implications Due to the Lack of Trust

Leaders Inadvertently Distrust Remote Workers

Are you a manager thrown into leading remote teams, but you hadn’t been prepared or trained for it? Do you feel that you can’t share your enthusiasm and inspire virtual employees the way you can in the office? Tellingly, two-thirds of employers do not trust their staff when it comes to remote work, or rather, they do not trust their management abilities.

Without a doubt, managing a hybrid workforce has numerous challenges and unintended consequences, including loss of control, inability to properly support virtual teams, micromanagement, the perception that remote work is poor quality or that the remote workforce is slacking rather than being productive.

Remote Workers Are Anxious while In-House Teams Feel at Disadvantage

Employees who work for high-trust employers experience 74% less stress. However, a growing number of virtual workers are feeling anxious and stressed. Why?

On the one hand, coworkers, primarily based in offices, are unwilling to collaborate or help out remote colleagues due to the lack of authentic connection and honest face-to-face conversations that usually bond team members.

Moreover, in-house team members assume their remote colleagues are held to a lower standard of accountability and enjoy greater independence. As a result, virtual team members feel isolated from day-to-day office life, while in-house employees believe there is a lack of workplace equity and fairness.

Likewise, virtual employees suffer from decreasing morale and emotional distress, as they feel like bosses are not supporting them either. On the contrary, remote workers are increasingly convinced that leaders somehow do not trust that the work is getting done within the optimal time frame or to a satisfactory level, resulting in increased micromanagement and lack of freedom to work on your own terms.

What Can Be Done?

Remote work presents an excellent opportunity for organisations, leading to desired outcomes, such as enhanced productivity, happier employees, and lower overhead costs.

Nevertheless, there is an undeniable need to foster trust by building virtual relationships where both in-office and virtual employees can socialise and hold casual impromptu conversations, enhancing collaborative work and enabling high-performing teams.

Appropriate technological infrastructure shouldn’t only serve to move projects forward – it must facilitate casual communications. 

Metaverse for work, such as My Digital Office, moves beyond tools that facilitate collaboration between employees. The feature-rich virtual office solution allows to replicate watercooler convos, celebrate birthdays, and throw virtual office parties to connect in-office and virtual teams on a personal level.

These events ultimately help you build trustful organisational culture without physical barriers, but with a strong sense of belonging and increasing employee morale.

Do you want to see for yourself how you can build a strong company culture even in a wholly digital office, just like in the real world?

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