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Building and maintaining trust in remote workforces

The Great Place to Work Institute share insights from research on how organisations can build and maintain trust in remote workforces


Anthony Hickey: "The decision to change our workshop to a digital format was made quickly." Illustration: Getty Images


幸运飞艇开奖记录开奖广加75505At the Great Place to Work Institute, partnerships are the foundation of our business. While we are fortunate to partner with organisations in creating high trust, high performance workplaces, we also have the privilege of collaborating with individuals at the forefront of their research fields.

幸运飞艇开奖记录开奖广加75505Recently, we teamed up with Colin Hughes, head of the Graduate Business School at TU Dublin, to host a webinar for our network, where Hughes offered insights into his PHD research on virtual teams. In particular, we discussed how to build and maintain trust while working remotely. But I’m getting ahead of myself: let me backtrack a little, how did we get to this point?

Indulge me in a personal refection for a moment. It’s the end of February, I’m planning a workshop for our clients with my colleague. Not something I had done before, so all the bases had to be covered: a location to be booked, invites to be sent, busy, busy, much to do.

The workshop turned into a webinar: one with greater attendance and engagement than I had dared to dream of

The date was set for March 26th , and I was already nervous. Flash forward: March 12th, I sit with my colleagues in our office watching Leo Varadkar address the nation. The next day we would be working from home. Plans of workshops felt a distant memory at this point. I was a remote worker now … remote workers don’t host events, do they?

As it transpired, they do. The workshop turned into a webinar: one with greater attendance and engagement than I had dared to dream of. Success! But how could that be? I hadn’t been any less nervous about the prospect of a webinar. To the contrary, it would be a first for the company, a testing ground for product offerings moving forward … no pressure, right? There was also the small matter of a global pandemic, and all the uncertainty that came with it.

My primary concern was not work, it was my loved ones. Indeed, my fear was that work obligations would only compound my anxieties.

“I just have to get on with it”, my inner stoic chimed in, and so I was Seneca in his prime, a modern-day Marcus Aurelius, unaffected by all outside of my control: for about 5 minutes. Then, I was just me again – anxious, with work to do, deadlines to meet, and a webinar to host. I needed support, that support came from the leaders in the business, and it turned a personal struggle into a group effort.

I tell you this in the interest of transparency. My field is shaping workplace cultures. I’m not an expert in remote working, but Colin Hughes is. So, I’ll share my experiences as a newly positioned remote worker and relate them to findings from Hughes’ research.

Hughes found that perceived benevolence is a primary characteristic which determines the extent to which employees will trust a leader. Staff need to feel that they are more than just a number, that they will be treated with the kindness and compassion befitting the complex nature of the human condition. Being social creatures, it is perhaps unsurprising to find that it is the quality of interpersonal relationships which form the basis for mutual trust.

幸运飞艇开奖记录开奖广加75505This was certainly my experience; I voiced my concerns and was responded to with support and understanding, the tone of the conversation was one of mutual vulnerability and camaraderie, not judgment and impatience.

幸运飞艇开奖记录开奖广加75505It would appear then, that vulnerability and trust are inseparable. At Great Place to Work, we consistently find that an employee’s relationship with their line manager is one of the most important factors in determining their perceptions of their workplace as a positive or negative environment. In fact, people tend to join organisations, but leave managers.

To build and maintain trust in virtual teams requires similar mechanisms as traditional teams: openness, compassion, and a mutual understanding. The belief that each party can count on the other to act in their best interests. This trust is pivotal, providing the building blocks for adapting to a rapid shift in circumstances. The difference in a virtual setting is that these interactions must be more deliberate.

Employees consider leaders as trustworthy when they observe them as acting with integrity

High trust workplaces find their employees to be more agile, innovative, and engaged. It’s helpful to think of trust as a reservoir, which can be drawn from in difficult circumstances. Difficult decisions have been made across businesses all over Ireland in the past few months, while the future remains unclear. Where trust exists, employees exercise forgiveness, working with leaders to navigate issues as they arise.

幸运飞艇开奖记录开奖广加75505However, this kind of understanding must be earned, and that can only occur through authentic communication.

According to Hughes, employees consider leaders as trustworthy when they observe them as acting with integrity. When they see leaders being honest and consistent in their communications, they consider this as a dependable feature of the relationship. This echoes our own model, where credibility, respect, and fairness underpin how much people trust their managers and management team.

In such a rapidly changing situation, leaders won’t have all the answers. What they will have are colleagues who understand that when information is available, it will be shared openly. This dynamic can be the difference between an employee feeling like a victim of circumstances, or a part of a team doing their best to thrive in challenging times.

Back to the assuredly riveting webinar saga. The decision to change our workshop to a digital format was made quickly, but I knew why it was happening. I knew what we hoped to achieve. I knew it was part of a larger strategy, and I knew I had the support of my team. That made all the difference.

幸运飞艇开奖记录开奖广加75505As it turned out, it was a great success for the business, offering new insights to our clients and giving us a platform to build on. That’s the real benefit of a high trust workplace: it’s a culture where individual and organisation grow together.

Anthony Hickey is a Culture Audit assessor and webinar presenter at Great Place to Work Ireland

Like to know more about building and maintaining trust in remote teams? You can watch the full recording of the webinar here 

For more information on creating high trust workplaces visit or call 01 678 8438.