The efforts to control the spread of the pandemic in Germany are now increasingly being intensified. Many companies have already switched from the traditional workplace to home office, if conditions permit. While in the past only digital start-ups offered this option, COVID-19 has now enabled almost the entire German business environment to switch to this method of working, based on the precondition that the job can be carried out at home.
Home Office confronts many companies with new challenges. Many employers find it very difficult to let their employees take control over their daily work. By means of different tools they try to control every single step of their team to ensure the productivity of their employees. Measures such as time recording, chat monitoring, attendance tracking and webcam recordings are supposed to help them. But are such drastic measures really necessary? This article explains the importance of a high-trust culture and how it can be encouraged in your company.
A high-trust culture
In sales companies, home office work is rarely offered in order to optimally use the energy that is created during telephone calls to motivate colleagues. And: Would our team members then still be appropriately motivated? Would they also be able to work productively on their projects in their home office? These were also questions that our management asked itself from time to time, but with the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 virus, the daily routines of Taledo employees changed sooner than expected. Within a few hours, our regular office routine was moved to the living rooms and study rooms of our colleagues. In discussions with our founders, this was often described as a “new challenge”. Now, after two weeks of working remotely, the results are indeed more than satisfactory. But how have we been able to achieve this? – With a culture of trust.
So what does it actually mean to have a corporate culture with a high degree of trust? To us it means particularly the following:
Even if employees are more flexible in their working hours, they are trusted to work reliably and complete their projects on time and with the required level of accuracy.
We trust our employees to be experts in their field. There is no doubt that they do their jobs conscientiously and pay attention to even small details that others might easily overlook.
The communication between colleagues is clear, concise and reliable regardless of the complexity of the subject matter explained. The dialogue partner is treated with respect on both, personal and professional level.
Colleagues treat each other with the necessary mutual respect. In general, the working environment is based on the principles of fairness, honesty and equality.
Often greater success can be achieved as a team than by lone fighters, which is why a collaborative working atmosphere is considered standard. Mutual support and cooperative teamwork is required and guarantees our success.
Employees independently take care to establish a good work-life balance in their everyday lives. In addition, employees pay attention to their own health, the well-being of their team colleagues and people surrounding them.
Employees are able to analyse problems independently and thus contribute to their solution. Critical questioning is the key to corporate success. Certainly we rely on our employees to never lose track of the final result.
(Click on the points listed for more detailed information).
Managers have to face up to the challenge and establish basic principles like those mentioned above if they want to successfully run their company remotely. However, this is impossible if you don’t build a trust based relationship with your employees right from the beginning. How can this be achieved? With an appropriate framework at every career stage:
1. Onboarding: Building trust right from the beginning
Being accepted into a team as a new employee is often accompanied by a high degree of nervousness. Especially if the whole process is realised from home. A challenge lies not only in getting to know the new colleagues (virtually), but also in introducing them to important tools, processes and projects digitally. For this very reason, the most important message an employer can give a new employee is that
trust is assumed and not earned.
For this critical phase, there are a few steps you can take as a supervisor to ensure that the new person feels familiar from the first day on:
Especially in the beginning a new employee will have many questions. Therefore, as a supervisor, you should show your new team member that you are always available as a contact person for questions or problems.
Frequent two-way feedback helps to promote mutual understanding and process optimisation. Your employees should notice right from the start that they are taken seriously on both a personal and professional level and that they are integrated into important decisions right from the very beginning.
Show your new employee that you trust him and his expertise. How? Give him/her relevant tasks that are important for the company straight away. This motivates and shows that you trust in the employee’s work.
During the first weeks and months, new employees may feel a little uncertain about what is expected of them. Let them know that it is okay to make mistakes and support them in their learning process by setting clear and achievable goals or working together on defining them.
(Click on the points listed for more detailed information).
As new employees flourish in their roles and become more familiar with the culture of your company despite physical distance, it is your responsibility as their manager to ensure that trustful personal relationships and teamwork continue to flourish.
2. Establish trust through autonomy
If you have already set a clear focus on trust during the onboarding process, the first step has already been taken and you can establish your corporate culture based on this. Even in your daily working routine, it can be important to recall the previous steps from time to time and to re-examine your way of working. Don’t forget to tell and show your employees repeatedly how important trust is for the company’s success.
While you should support your team, you must also ensure that they are able to work autonomously if you want to continue to establish trust. Micromanagement should be used with caution, as it can quickly damage trust that has already been built up when relying on it in the wrong situations.
The only aspects that should count are: COMMUNICATION & PERFORMANCE!
Obviously, every now and then you may feel the need for more control in a process. The most important question you should ask yourself in this case is the following:
Is this a trust issue or a control issue?
You may find that your tendency to micromanage is due to your difficulty in handing over control and delegating blindly. Especially in a company that has just switched to “home office”, this is perfectly reasonable. Over time, however, you will quickly learn that a culture of trust can also foster a company and lead to a performance improvement.
3. Collaboration is the key
However, by giving your employees more personal responsibility, it might also happen that they show a different approach to a problem than you would. If your team member is not doing something fundamentally wrong, try to resist the urge to interfere in his way of working. In case you have to, collaborative behaviour is the key, which means in a nutshell: no blaming!
In this context, the way of expression already plays a significant role. In order to understand the difference between solution-oriented communication and blaming, we have compiled a small comparison which may also serve you as a guideline:
|You messed up the code delivery.||The implementation of the code seems to be more delicate than expected. Is there anything I can help you with?|
|Why did you publish a post with so many typos?||I have noticed a typo in the post. Can you please update it?|
|You are wrong in that case.||I understand your approach, but option XY offers the following advantages: …|
|Customer XY has complained about you!||I just had a conversation with XY. I guess there have been some communication problems? What happened?|
|I was expecting the project to be at my desk by yesterday! Why haven’t I received it yet?||I had actually expected the finished project last night. What caused the delay?|
In case of a malpractice, take the opportunity to troubleshoot, learn and build trust by working transparently with the team member concerned (and your team as a whole) to find a solution.
“Home Office” is always associated with uncertainty and trust. It is therefore advisable to build a high-trust culture in the company from the beginning, because this does not only reduce uncertainty to a certain extent, but also helps to ensure that employees work with full motivation, energy and productivity even when working remotely. So please show confidence in your team that – especially in exceptional situations such as the current Corona pandemic – they can also achieve great success in the “home office”!