Future of work

Hybrid work: how to build trust when working remotely

85% of UK workers want a hybrid schedule. But, how can you build trust with remote teams? Read to find out the four most practical ways to build trust with hybrid teams.

Ivor Colson


The reality - Post pandemic, there has been a  rise in workers wanting flexible or hybrid schedules.
Trust - With remote work, the lack of trusting relationships between managers and employees is becoming a prominent issue.
Competence & interpersonal trust - The former refers to trust in the employee’s ability to deliver with high quality; while the latter is the trust in good intentions and high integrity.
Communication - Trust between workers and managers can be fostered by using applications that enable effective communications and work updates.
Technology & transparency - Encrypted messaging services and software ensures workplace communications are safe and private, hence helping to build trusting relationships.
Flexibility - Without proper negotiation and expectation, a lack of trust will prevail within the divided workforce.
Outcomes not progress- Letting go of micromanagement will decrease anxiety, increase productivity and build trust within the team.
Our take - This two-way street of trust in remote working can be facilitated with the aid of management applications and integrations.

A recent report by the Office of National Statistics shows that 85% of UK workers want to adopt some kind of hybrid work approach in the post-pandemic future. Therefore, it is clear that the idea of teams being divided by different time-zones, locations and working styles will be the reality for many years to come.

However, with this rise in workers wanting more flexibility and the option to organise their own hybrid schedule, there are challenges faced by managers as they have to build and install trust within their teams. This may include allowing their workers to work asynchronously, and therefore not having instantaneous communication with them throughout the standard 9-5 day.

This article will explore the main reasons why managers feel trust is difficult to foster across teams that work in a remote or hybrid environment, and provide the four most practical ways of how to build trust during hybrid work.

The issue of trust in hybrid work

There are a variety of reasons why managers may feel distrust toward workers that engage in hybrid or remote work.

As the Harvard Business Review (HBR) points out, many businesses did not have the choice in bringing hybrid or remote work into their company. As it was spurred on by the pandemic, it was out of the control of companies which usually would only allow specific employees to work remotely. These employees would have a trusting relationship with their manager, therefore the risk would be lowered in the manager’s eyes. Now, if 85% of the workforce want some kind of hybrid structure, managers have less control of the situation.

Additionally, a researcher at HBR found that there are two kinds of trust that employees and employers need to have in order to have a productive and successful working relationship.

The first kind of trust is labelled as competence trust and refers to the belief that others will deliver and that their work will be of high quality.

The second kind of trust is labelled as interpersonal trust and refers to the belief that others have good intentions and high integrity.

Both of these kinds of trust are harder to foster during hybrid work.

For competence trust, there are factors beyond the worker that may lead to managers viewing them as less efficient. An example of this may be the lack of transparency of activity.

In remote work, teams are often unaware of what their colleagues are doing. This can lead to communication problems and feelings of distrust, as workers may believe that others aren’t working as hard as they are. This comes from a lack of transparency which is only heightened by the presence of fragmented applications.

With Omnifia, our beta guarantees workplace transparency as it automates knowledge discovery between all business departments. By integrating different workplace applications, users can see a centralised data feed that displays activity updates in real time. You can find out more about, and sign up for, our beta here.

The solution: how to build trust remotely

However, just because there are challenges to building trust through a hybrid working approach, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible. We have compiled four key ways that managers and workers can build trust when working on a hybrid or remote schedule.

1. Communicate the right way

Communication is absolutely essential in how to build trust when working remotely. However, it is crucial that managers understand what kind of communication can be used to develop trust across the team.

For CEOs, it is important that there is clarity and consistency in any communication. Workers rely on the CEO to lay out the expectations for communication. It is also reported that C-level executives also need to create a level playing field for communication so that everyone in the team is able to communicate and express their views.

Communicating about work updates and ensuring that everybody knows where and when everyone in their team is working is essential. Calendar applications such as Calendly or project management applications such as Trello and Basecamp can all be used to ensure that workers can communicate efficiently. They can also foster trust as workers are able to see everyone else’s schedule even if they are working remotely.

However, it is also very important that workers and managers are able to communicate about non-work related things. This is how more interpersonal trust can be developed, as workers will be able to get to know each other better. Many businesses rely on weekly social zoom meetings that workers can choose to attend to get to know each other better as this is how to build trust best across virtual teams.

2. Have the right technology & transparency

In order to communicate effectively across teams split working remotely and in the office businesses need to invest in the right technology and ensure their sensitive data is protected.

Teams will certainly need some kind of video conferencing application such as Zoom or Skype, as well as an encrypted messaging service such as Slack or Chanty. This is essential as it will allow for basic modes of communication across teams and therefore, will help to build trust.

However, beyond this simple need for the right technology, businesses need to ensure that their workers are protected when working remotely to avoid major incidents occurring outside of the office. TechRadar offers a variety of solutions for protecting data when working remotely. These include: introducing safeguards that IT leaders can deploy to reduce risk, ensuring that workers use a virtual private network (VPN) when working remotely and to only use cloud security software when it is encrypted.

By ensuring that workers have the means to communicate through the right technology, and knowing that this communication will be safe and private, it will allow for workers to build more trusting relationships with their managers.

3. Respecting flexibility

One of the main reasons why workers are opting for hybrid work is because of the flexibility that it offers. This flexibility refers to both the specific hours that somebody may work during hybrid work, and also how the company itself may operate. In a survey by Flex graph, it was reported that 57% of the surveyed workers wanted hybrid work, whilst 21% workers wanted to work fully remotely, and 22% in the office.

Businesses will therefore have to expect a situation wherein they have a divided workforce: where some operate entirely in the office, some entirely from home and others on a hybrid schedule. Embracing this flexibility will allow for better trust across the team, rather than forcing workers to choose to work either entirely from home or entirely in the office.

Certain workers may also opt to do hours that differ from the standard 9-5 day. In a report, it was found that 57% of employees wanted flexibility in their working. Therefore, it is clear that managers and workers will have to negotiate their flexible working hours in a way that doesn’t compromise the benefit of hybrid working. Ultimately, communication about such flexibility is how to build trust within the team.

4. Outcomes not progress

However, respecting flexibility can only happen if employers know that tasks are being completed.

Whilst there are applications that exist to track and monitor how much time an employee is spending on work, this is not an effective way that business should use when navigating how to build trust across teams.

Already 34% of employees feel that their supervisors have a lack of confidence in their work skills, and by monitoring their day-to-day progress, this will only increase their anxiety. Surveys show that 49% of employees subjected to stringent monitoring also self-reported severe anxiety, compared with only 7% of employees who had low levels of monitoring.

Whilst as a manager you may want constant reassurance that your workers are getting jobs completed when they are working remotely, reports suggest that this energy should be redirected to a focus on outcomes. If a worker completes a task by the date and time their manager asks them to, then this arguably should be more important than tracking how many specific hours they spent on it.

Ultimately, letting go of extreme micromanaging control can allow managers to gain better trust across their teams and allow their workers to feel less anxious and therefore, become more productive.

Our take:

Trust is essential to the success of hybrid and remote working. However, it is a two-way street and managers must allow their employees to have flexibility and not be micromanaged.

Additionally, employees must show their managers that they are able to work just as efficiently in their own chosen environment and on their own schedule by utilising digital tools to build both interpersonal and competence trust.

Task management applications such as Trello or Todoist are essential to ensuring managers know their employees are working effectively from a remote environment, and applications like Zoom and Slack are great for allowing workers to begin to communicate with one another and develop a natural trusting relationship.

With all of this in mind, there is no reason why hybrid work should be viewed as less trustworthy than any other kind of work, especially if you follow our four steps for how to build trust!

But, what do you think? Which method of building trust across remote teams does your business use, and did we miss any? Let us know by sending us an email at team@omnifia.com or send us a message on our Twitter or LinkedIn.