Effective remote working requires a higher level of trust in employees and between employees and employers.
5 min read
This story originally appeared in the World Economic Forum
By Bianca Ghose, Chief storyteller, Wipro
If we look back and analyze the 2020 pandemic, we will not only see the human and economic losses that the virus will leave behind, but also an important benefit: an increased awareness of the value of trust on a global scale.
This spring, as businesses struggled with falling demand, employee anxiety, and volatility in costs, a shift in executive priorities to gain everyone’s trust became clearer. The interested parts. As with the 2008 economic crisis, survivors of COVID-19 will increasingly have the equivalent of a strong immune system over the long term, not only on their balance sheets but also in terms of the level of trust they have been able to develop between their stakeholders.
Work together but separately
This spring, we showed that we need to learn to build trust from a distance. But: How can you create and regain trust in a world in which everyone’s health depends on how effective our distancing is?
One of the things I’ve learned over the past four months is the value of spending more time with my colleagues and customers outside of our business meetings, not just on specific topics, but also to see how they handled this difficult situation are. While these brief, non-business conversations were not a substitute for face-to-face conversations, they did add something very positive: they helped me understand the personal lives of my co-workers and my clients much better.
For example, I was on a video call recently and an executive’s son appeared on screen, so I asked him to join the conversation. A few months ago this situation would have been a bit embarrassing for everyone, but the three of us talked in a relaxed manner for a while. Meeting my partner’s son and adding context to what I knew about his personal life enriched our working relationship.
Because of the commuting restrictions, I couldn’t hang out with people like before, but to make up for this, I spent a lot more on video calls. Adapting to this new style of leadership has been challenging because when it comes to working during a global pandemic, I am as inexperienced as the rest of humanity.
A moment that requires patience
A look into the lives of my colleagues reminded me of the challenges that all people face in their daily life. Whether they live alone or with young children, or what anxiety the health of their family members creates, most people are very busy at this point. For professionals who work from home, the day is one of their many priorities. As managers and colleagues, we have to be patient with one another and let people set their limits and schedules to balance work and family.
This requires a greater commitment to instill more trust in all of our professional relationships, be it with colleagues, customers, investors or regulators. And to achieve that trust, we must all show an unprecedented level of transparency. Whether it is a managing director who finds out about the uncertain prospects for the next year, or an employee who explains that the project will be delayed because his mother is not doing well and she has to be constantly looked after when we face our challenges together With sincerity and patience we will make it.
Of course, without neglecting work, but we have to be flexible with everyone in order to take their responsibility. This flexibility means moving away from micromanagement. Focusing on hours worked (and hours worked) has never made much sense in managing employees, but now that there are some teleworkers, this is not even practical. Instead of monitoring 100% of employees for bad behavior in the 5%, we need to find ways to cope with the difficulties of that 5%.
Now managers need to focus more on results than on hours. Workers should also understand their supervisors and remember that the pandemic is new to them too. Employees can appreciate the flexibility of their leaders by doing their best in the circumstances and working on behalf of the team.
The “she” no longer exists
Ultimately, the success of distributed work depends on the distribution of trust. We cannot expect “them” to learn to do things differently. There is no such thing as “they”: there is only us. From now on, a high-performing company will only succeed if we build a strong culture of personal responsibility. This means that “they” don’t work in your company – individuals – and we can make changes by taking the initiative ourselves.
Today more than ever, high-performance cultures require the best of people and the best ideas.