Yoram Solomon, PhD
8 Things to do to not lose trust while everyone is working remotely
Using the framework in The Book of Trust, here are a few ideas that would help make the time working remotely efficient and effective, and help prepare you for the day you go back to the office.
1. Avoid losing trust between interactions
As a defense mechanism, when we don't see someone for a while, we tend to challenge their trustworthiness. And they start challenging yours. If you haven't communicated with someone (whether it is an employee, customer, supplier, or anyone else) for a while, you start losing trust in them, and they start losing trust in you. Keep communicating regularly. If you can't meet face-to-face (the best way to build trust), do the next best thing: a video call with them (FaceTime, Facebook messenger, Skype, and the like). It's better in building (or maintaining) trust than a phone call, which is better than email.
2. Sensitivity is going up, so use more empathy
People don't want to be sold to these days. I've heard too many people trying to increase their selling efforts to compensate for the loss of in-person business. Ask yourself, is the person on the other side of my sales message in the mood for buying? Use your empathy. See things from the other person's perspective as if you were them, not you.
3. Focus on shared values
The Shared Value component of trustworthiness is very important now, and a big part of it is to show that you care about them more than you care about yourself. One of the best approaches is to adopt the mantra of giving more than you take. What is it that you can offer that would help people at this time? I made The Book of Trust available for people to download from Kindle free of charge for as long as Amazon would let me (which was five days), because I knew people are more likely to read now and would appreciate having access to books. Especially eBooks that can be obtained immediately and not put anyone at risk of handling the physical book.
4. Be realistic about what you are selling
We are in a special time. Not everyone needs everything you have to sell. This would not be the best time to advertise low-fare cruises, for example. Think about what people really need, rather than what you have to sell. Can you modify your offering such that people might want to buy it now? If not, don't sell! There is no point in pushing products or services that nobody will buy. It's a waste of effort and marketing dollars.
5. Think about the future after this
This period will be over, and life will go back to normal. Normal might be a little different than it was before, or it now. Start thinking pragmatically about what will happen next. How will your business be different? Conducting a strategy planning session once on a very hot summer day, I asked the participants at 8AM when we started: Who parked their cars in the shade? Almost all hands went up. Then I asked them: Who parked their cars where the shade is going to be at 4PM when we are done and you need to get into your cars? Not a single hand. We tend to think in terms of the present, or the past, not the future. So it's an effort, but it's worth your while. Start planning for the day after. It may not be the same as yesterday, but not the same as today, either.
6. Build your competence
A significant part of your trustworthiness is based on your competence. Working remotely with fewer opportunities to do some of the "usual" things you do at work gives you the opportunity to build new skills and learn more about your domain knowledge. When this is over, you will become more knowledgeable and more skilled in what you do, and thus more competent. You will deliver more value to your customers, and thus have a better competitive advantage over your competitors.
7. If you have to track what your employees are doing...
... when they work remotely, then you are either not a good leader, or you don't have trustworthy employees. Either way, productivity, creativity, and effectiveness will be lower. Look up "software for monitoring remote employees" in your favorite search engine. You'll be shocked at how many solutions are offered there. "Simple, accurate time tracking and proof of work to ensure they’re doing the job you hired them to do" is what they offer. Really? Employees need autonomy to do their jobs the best way they know how. If you monitor them, or consider the time they are spending in front of the computer as a proxy to their productivity, you are wrong. And if they are not trustworthy, monitoring them will not increase their productivity.
8. Make information available, communicate what's necessary
More than ever before, information flow is important. Lack of information can cause a loss of trust and inefficiency. However, you can over-communicate, too, and overwhelm people. Use the following rule of thumb to communicate: make all information available and accessible to everyone. If someone needs to access information, s/he would know where to look for it and it will be well-organized. Communicate (email, text, calls, etc.) what's necessary for the other person to know now, either because they asked for that information, or because you know it will affect what they are working on. Don't communicate just to show that you are working.
I hope this helps. Be safe, stay vigilant, remain positive, and may trust always be with you!