Do you think the remote workplace feels more human or less human?
We polled our LinkedIn connections to find out, and the people have spoken!
The majority (71%) of poll-takers said they feel working from home has ‘humanized’ the workplace. Looking at the last 21 plus months, we weren’t surprised to see this response. As workers across the globe were forced home, co-workers, managers, constituents, and others got an intimate view into each other’s home spaces. Home-schooled kids making the occasional Zoom debut and dogs barking in the background gave us insight into the lives of those we only saw in the office.
Since the first year of the pandemic, many things about working from home have already shifted. For some, kids are back in school, and their interruptions have decreased. Others have capitalized on the chance to move into a more remote area and larger home with a dedicated home office. Even among pandemic variants sometimes interrupting the ‘new normal’ of how we work, most have adjusted to their work environment changes.
So how do we hold on to the vulnerability, the ‘humanness,’ of the early-COVID workplace?
You do so by taking the first step and fostering connection. To develop relationships and build trust, you must first establish a connection with someone. Sustaining a human-feeling and focused environment will require leaders to be more intentional. They need to think about how they communicate, lead, and bond with their teams. Connection is one of the four pillars essential to developing capable remote managers. It’s the backbone for the soft skills needed to humanize a remote or hybrid team.
Build a deeper kind of trust with your remote team
You won’t get far without building trust, no matter where you start as a manager. Unless your team believes that you’re looking out for their best interests, you can’t offer a psychologically safe workplace – a low fear, high candor environment. This trust is key to forming genuine connections.
Leaders must cultivate two types of trust:
- Cognitive (mind-based)
- Affective (heart-based)
Cognitive trust is the familiar one. We rely on it to make decisions about the people to whom we give our business. But in a remote workplace, managers must also focus on building affective trust. Intentionality is key in this as our society is not accustomed to building affective trust in the workplace.
Ways to build Affective Trust
- Let Down Your Guard. Don’t think you always have to be perfect, checking off all the items on your list and knowing the exact path forward. For nearly two years, we’ve all been living with uncertainty. No one can claim to know the correct path forward since the pandemic continues to disrupt and surprise. Your team knows you can’t guarantee certainty about the future, so don’t fake it. But what you can offer them is clarity. Admit you’re not certain, but provide what you do know and promise to always look out for their best interests.
- Model the behavior you want to see. Let them see that you, too, are human. A good place to start is being more candid about the challenges on your plate or things happening in your life. Talking about your own wellbeing and showing a healthy level of vulnerability can open the door for others to share with you.
- Value the person, not just the work they do. Managers must continually work on building trust; it’s not a one-and-done deal. Trust develops when people realize you are truly looking out for their best interests. But first you must learn what their best interests are—both personally and professionally. Strive to have meaningful conversations with your team by asking what matters most to them outside of work, or how they most enjoy spending their free time. And don’t forget about the lighthearted conversations, too — ask them about a picture in their background or their cat that just walked across the screen! Your example will foster trust, connection, and collaboration within the team.
Connection and trust are not given but earned. According to Rick Hammell, CEO and founder of Elements Global Services, “It’s important for business leaders to create a culture in which employees are comfortable with approaching their superiors with mistakes made, questions or concerns.” The process of creating such a culture begins with establishing a connection.
If you are looking for resources to build better connections and trust with your team, check out our Remote Manager Training Series. You will not only learn how to build better connections with your team, but our training will also help you establish new connections through our peer and alumni network.