3 Ways to Build Trusting Relationships in the Virtual Work Environment

Bob Schultek Author of The Gauntlet

One of the leadership challenges that our Covid experience is leaving in its wake is how best to preserve culture. What’s the most productive balance between in-person and virtual time together to ensure that the community which lives the culture and built the business continues to deliver progress and success?

Trusting relationships are the foundation of culture, so preserving trust is vital to sustaining culture. Trust has two dimensions – one is logic and the other is emotion. The logical assessment of trust considers competency and reliability, but our human DNA is attuned to react first to the emotional component. Trust thrives when we sense sincerity and care because we feel respected and appreciated. Conflict or cynicism sabotage trust, breeding frustration, anger, resentment, and fear. People remember what others say or do because of how those words or actions make them feel. 

Productive virtual work is likely to be an integral part of business operations going forward; it promotes agility and schedule flexibility. But working remotely can’t fully replicate the emotional connection and socialization that is a core element of human nature, the human touch that bonds a team, strengthens culture and is essential for building trusting relationships. 

Building trusting relationships at work is more essential than ever. Spending some in-person time together as a team is necessary to cultivate the trust and the bond that enables these relationships; but ensuring that virtual work also supports this effort is vital. These 3 ideas can support your efforts to build these relationships in your virtual working environment.

1. The genesis of trust is generosity. A great way to build trusting relationships is to offer time, skill, or expertise without expecting a quid pro quo. Encourage your team members to be generous in sharing their individual experience and expertise to support one another, particularly when one is struggling with a challenge.

2. Promote shared learning experiences. A shared learning experience can be a powerful way to promote professional development and build a meaningful, enduring team bond. Each teammate can move through the learning experience at their own pace, but then come together in a virtual group discussion, or a series of them, to share insights, questions, and next steps in a low stress setting.

3. Schedule virtual social meetings. Provide social meeting opportunities where team members can relax and learn more about one another. Include an enjoyable team exercise or foster a conversation about articles or topics of interest. Or, for a more relaxing but truly human connection, host a virtual team happy hour in which they can share stories and memories, perhaps over their favorite beverage.

How can you ensure that your virtual work supports the development of trusting relationships?

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