5 Ways to Enhance Trust on Your Remote Team

Remote work has offered employees increased autonomy. With that, the role of trust in the workplace has shifted.

October 19, 2022
Gabriella Alziari

The age of remote work

A recent New York Times article on productivity suggests that more companies are tracking remote employees’ activities to get a realistic picture of their hours and deliverables. In theory, this makes sense — but what message does this send, and is this really what’s best for our teams?

Is this Big Brother-esque style truly the way to go?

As more companies adopt hybrid and remote-first working models, the role of the employee is no longer the same as it was just three or four years ago. Remote work has offered employees increased autonomy. With that, the role of trust in the workplace has shifted.

This sparks questions for leaders, including:

  • How can I forge real relationships online?
  • How can I trust my employees, and enable them to trust me?
  • How can I give my team autonomy, while still ensuring high-quality results

In this blog post, we’ll outline 5 ways to enhance trust on your remote team.

Is trust harder to build remotely?

Research shows that trust is inherently harder to build remotely.

Typically, behaviors such as being consistent, reliable and kind-hearted prove someone’s trustworthiness. When working in an office, these moments are more frequent. For example, consider the classic “watercooler moments” like talking about your weekend or chit-chatting while making a coffee. These tiny interactions hold more weight than we think, and subconsciously convince us to “trust more” or “trust less”.  

Humans take in information through observing body language and behavioral cues. As Vanessa Van Edwards explains, humans inherently feel fear if they can’t see someone else’s hands. This traces back to when we were hunter-gatherers — we were constantly “on watch” for others hiding weapons that could cause us harm.

We’re in a different context today, but our subconscious mind still works the same. Not being able to see someone’s body language or their dynamics in-person can make things difficult.

Seeing our colleagues through a tiny Zoom window just isn’t the same.

Can I build trust online - and if so, how?

It’s important to be proactive about establishing trust. Get started with these 5 key ways to build trust.

#1. Establish open communication about working styles.

The first step is to clearly communicate how you prefer to work. Get on a team call and share your preferences — from the time of day you prefer to work, to sharing your commitments at home (like taking the kids to school).

After that, you can establish “communication norms” to anchor to. Since we get fewer cues when working remotely, we tend to micro-focus on our communications. For example, if someone doesn’t reply back immediately, we may be less inclined to trust them.

Communication norms can help ameliorate this and establish a solid foundation for trust. You’ll have a clearer sense of how others work best and what their schedules are like.


  • Have an open discussion about your working preferences as a team (ie. “I prefer to join meetings after 11 AM, so I can reserve my early mornings for focus.”)
  • Use your best discretion on how frequently to communicate. If your team is small, you likely don’t need to meet as often — there are fewer cooks in the kitchen! If your team is large and there are multiple dependencies, establish clear guidelines and times to meet.
  • Refrain from punishing employees who work quickly and still produce high-quality results. These employees typically need more challenges, so use it as an advantage instead of forcing them to “fit in”.

#2. Get on video sooner rather than later.

This is especially important for new teams and team members. Research shows that hopping on three video calls within the first three weeks of meeting someone can help to build trust significantly (Wilson et al., 2006). Don’t wait — after this time, trust can naturally begin to erode, even subconsciously.  

If you’ve been on your team for a while, better late than never! Schedule 30 minute calls with your team members and have a casual “coffee chat”.


  • Talk about what you like to do in your free time, how you’re spending your weekend, and your previous roles at other companies.
  • Ask probing questions that go beyond surface level (ie. “What did you like to do as a kid? What was your first job? How did you get into this company / role?”)

Scheduling casual chats and “catch-ups” can be extraordinarily beneficial. These calls allow us to get a clearer picture of who our colleagues are and how we can connect to them on a deeper level.

#3. Increase “humanizing moments."

When we work remotely, we have a tendency to jump straight into our call agenda or discuss deliverables. This leaves less time for getting to know each other, and can make work seem more mechanical.


  • Schedule 5-10 minutes of buffer time at the beginning or end of every call to catch up.
  • Host remote activities with the sole purpose of getting to know each other — you can play online games like Pictionary!
  • As a leader, push yourself to be a little more vulnerable than you would normally. For example, share a challenge you’ve encountered and what you’re doing to work through it. This gives your team permission to “show more of themselves” when working online.

#4. Be consistent with your communication and commitments.

Since the remote world offers fewer cues, online communication takes on more importance.


  • Communicate with consistency (for example: maintain the same tone, phrases, emoji use, and promptness in messaging). Research shows that being consistent increases others’ trust in you.
  • Let people know if you’re away from your computer by setting a status on Slack, or sending a message that you’ll be unavailable between certain hours (ie. “I’ll be away between 3-5 PM for a doctor’s appointment, and will get back to you after that.”)
  • Follow through with what you say you’ll do. If you make a promise, keep it.

When it comes to building trust remotely, the more predictable you are, the better! In doing so, you’ll send cues that you’re reliable and honest.

#5. Build a culture based on deliverables.

While tracking employees’ activities should theoretically give an overview of their work, this method isn’t actually a good representation of their focus or productivity. Largely, it only captures how much the employee’s mouse moves — more than their actual deliverables. Additionally, the implicit message it sends can be damaging. It indicates that employees are not to be trusted and will take advantage of their working situation. This is not the best foundation on which to build trust.


  • Optimize for quality deliverables, and focus less on the time spent. At the end of the day, you want to optimize for results.
  • If you want more insight into employees’ activities, ask them to track their hours and report those back to you. Installing a software to monitor them can be seen as invasive. Most people do not produce high quality work when they feel they’re being monitored. It can also increase feelings of isolation.
  • Have regular check in’s to see where your employees are with their work.


In this article, we covered 5 key ways to build trust remotely. By acknowledging that trust is inherently harder to build remotely, we can be more proactive and intentional about building it.

Building enduring relationships online is completely possible and simply requires a little more maintenance. So the next time you need to cultivate trust on your remote team, use these 5 tips:

#1. Establish open communication about your working styles.

#2. Get on video sooner rather than later.

#3. Increase “humanizing moments”.

#4. Be consistent with your communication and commitments.  

#5. Build a culture based on deliverables.

If you follow these tips, you’re sure to build trust in no time.


(Wilson, J.M., Straus, S.G., & McEvily, B. (2006). All in due time: The development of trust in computer-mediated and face-to-face teams. *Organizational Behavior and Human
Decision Processes*, 99(1), 16-33

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