Remote work has taken the economy by storm, and it’s very much here to stay, especially with more and more people choosing to work freelance every year.
For companies, the rise of remote work was once resisted, but its sheer momentum has left business leaders with no choice but to embrace this trend.
However, remote work does present some challenges, as is always the case when a digital solution replaces a traditional one.
And one of the most prominent of these challenges is trust. Unlike a traditional work environment where you work with people face-to-face, remote work takes place entirely online, meaning you’ll likely deal with people you’ve never met and may never actually meet in person.
This is especially true when you work with freelancers and other contractors.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t build trust, especially if you keep the following tips in mind as you build relationships with your remote colleagues.
Give them the Benefit of the Doubt
For trust to happen, someone must make the first move. If everyone is always doubting each other, then the relationship will naturally develop into one of skepticism and doubt. However, you can break this cycle by giving people the benefit of the doubt and showing you trust them.
This starts with something as simple as communication. When working with people online, there is a tendency to want to micromanage. Since you can’t just walk over to their office and see what’s going on, it can be really tempting to send lots of messages asking for status updates and to “see how things are going.” Even if you mean well, this can be perceived as you not trusting them to get the job done. And if they think you don’t trust them, they’re more likely not to trust you.
One good way to start is to set firm deadlines and then make yourself available to people to ask questions and resolve doubts.
Unless something changes with the assignment, don’t reach out to your remote staff unless they do first. If you’re worried about money, then consider managing your relationships through a third party site, such as UpWork. They have protections in place to make sure you get what you pay for and to make sure freelancers get paid when they work, which is, after all, what everyone is worried about.
Make the Relationship About More than Work
We tend to mistrust those we don’t know. So how can you build a relationship with a remote worker you’ve never met? Well, simple. Get to know them!
When you get the chance to do so organically, ask people about their lives outside of work. Even just basic small talk about where people are from and what the climate is like in their hometown can break the ice and make people more likely to open up.
Another thing to consider doing—and this is especially effective when you work repeatedly with someone—is to set up one-on-one meetings where you can discuss things not related to work. Offer to pay people for this time, and then simply chat about what’s going on with them.
This will show you that you care, and it will also help give the relationship more substance, both of which will help build trust.
Pay on Time
However, for all the time you spend relationship building, it’s still critical that you follow through and make your words mean something. And nothing says trust like paying people the right amount at the right time.
Remember, you don’t need to adjust yourself to their demands. If your payroll system is set up to cut checks once every two weeks, then just let them know in the beginning that you’ll pay invoices bi-weekly. But just make sure to actually do this.
After a few rounds of on-time work and invoices, both you and your remote employee will feel more comfortable about the relationship and will be far more likely to trust each other.
Do Everything By the Books
With remote work, everything is online, which can make it a little easier for you to do things in a less than traditional manner. For example, you could ask people to invoice for less time and pay them bonuses to try and keep your wage tax liabilities down. Or, it could work in reverse, with remote workers asking to get paid through unapproved channels so that they can avoid fees.
These may seem like okay enough options, but starting off on this foot is going to cause people to be suspicious, which breeds mistrust.
Make sure all the remote workers you deal with are accounted for in your system, and make sure you’re fully compliant with all relevant laws, especially if you’re working with people based in another country.
When dealing with lots of remote workers, consider hiring a professional employer organization (PEO). They will help you set up an onboarding process that’s safe, effective and legal. Plus, if you refer new remote workers to your PEO, then it makes you look more professional, increasing the chances of building trust with your digital employees.
It Takes Just One Second to Break
Trust takes a lifetime to build but just one second to break.
While most of us will remember this saying from our days in grade school, it’s still just as true as ever. If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to building trust with your remote workers.
But it’s important to maintain good practices at all times to keep this trust and to establish meaningful and productive relationships with your digital employees.
Contributor Post at SylvianeNuccio.com