Trust is the foundation for remote work and successful distributed teams.
When it comes to remote work, we must trust employees to get the actual work done. In co-located companies, too many hiring managers are looking for people with a good personality who can show up to the office, look busy, and make small chat. That type of employee may fill the slot in a traditional work setting, but remote work is all about “the work” itself—not great personalities.
The key to hiring remote workers is looking for people whom we can trust and who are self-driven. We can equip people with skills they are lacking or supply them with the tools they need to do their jobs better. But, we cannot “teach” autonomy. Inner drive is either there, or it’s not.
Ultimately, the trust we put in our remote workers is that they are going to work and not take advantage of clocking time when they are not being productive. We’re not paying them to goof off in Slack, hang out on virtual standups, or clutter our emails with dancing turtle GIFs. When the chaos happens in their lives, we must be able to trust them to figure out ways to still accomplish their tasks. There is little room for excuses in a remote work setting, and it’s not a good fit for everyone.
Trust can get a bit tricky when the remote worker seems to break the agreement, the trust we put in them. As a leader, we must approach these situations with a strategic balance, not only being understanding and communicating about blocks, but also working through a solution. If it comes to the point when results are not happening and people are not being served, the economics don’t make sense to pay somebody who’s not working.