Trust Building Activities for Work

Home » Resources » Trust BuildingUpdated: June 14, 2021

You found our guide to trust building activities for work.

Trust building is a way to create stronger connections between employees. For example, you could play icebreaker games, problem solving activities and coworking. The purpose of trust building is to create a thriving company culture where employees feel comfortable relying on each other and collaborating.

This ability is one of the key team management skills and helps to form successful virtual teams.

This article covers:

  • how to build trust between employees
  • building relationships with remote teams
  • tips for earning trust when working from home

Here is everything you need to know.

How to do trust building at work

From meeting to communicating to showing vulnerability, here is a list of tips for achieving swift trust in virtual teams.

1. Meet regularly

Trust comes as a result of spending time together, yet virtual work tends to be independent. Remote teammates often receive direction and complete tasks solo. Team members can go weeks or months without meeting if managers do not plan calls.

Although virtual work tends to be independent, teammates still collaborate indirectly. Spending time with teammates is a reminder that the employee is part of something larger, and is a way to encourage remote teamwork. These meetings remind employees that there are other coworkers who support and rely on them.

Plus, meetups serve a purpose beyond accomplishing tasks. Face to face time breeds familiarity, and gets teammates more comfortable around each other. These calls help team members connect the names on emails or Slack with real human beings.

Leaders should enact and maintain a regular meeting schedule for both group meetings with the whole team and one-on-one meetings between employees and managers. These meetings can be short, and can include optional social time at the beginning or end of the call.

Check out this guide to holding virtual one on one meetings.

2. Follow through on promises

Dependability is important in the workplace, virtual workplaces especially. Being so far away from colleagues puts workers in a precarious position. When issues arise, remote teammates can not simply swing by each other’s offices to see the cause of the holdup or talk through issues. Emails and phone calls might go unanswered for hours, especially if teammates work in different time zones or on different schedules.

To function in such vulnerable circumstances, remote workers need faith. Teammates are much more likely to take each other’s word when there is a track record of coming through in the clutch. Remote teammates and managers can build trust by delivering on promises and consistently completing tasks quickly and correctly.

Fulfilling promises proves that team members have each other’s backs, and eliminates unnecessary anxiety. Not to mention, trusting teammates spend less time double checking each other’s work or chasing down updates.

To develop a reputation for dependability while working remotely, reply to messages quickly and provide updates, complete work correctly and on time, and circle back to unresolved questions or issues. Also, make good on offers to help when coworkers come to you with needs.

3. Over-communicate

Silence can cause doubt. Lapses in communication can give employees the impression that teammates are slacking or ignoring issues, and can lead to misunderstandings. Also, communication is essential in virtual offices, since employees often work alone for long stretches of time. Breakdowns in communication can lead to bottlenecks or mistakes, which can rock teammates faith in each other.

Not to mention, conversations help teammates form stronger bonds. At best, remote coworkers will have neutral feelings towards each other if they do not regularly speak. Team members may not mistrust each other, however they will not swear by each other either. The same rule applies to management. Remote employees may not dislike a boss who rarely checks in, yet may not feel supported by these kinds of managers either.

When working on a remote team, set regular schedules and weekly minimums for meeting or checking in with each other. During Zoom meetings, repeat important points and check for understanding before signing off, and encourage employees to reach out with any questions.

One of the most helpful communication tips for remote teams is to provide documents for reference. Virtual team members often have conflicting or differing schedules, and teammates and managers may not be available at all times to answer questions. Having an easy-to-access resource such as a Wiki or shared Google Doc helps to clear up questions and prevent delays.

Also, choose quick and convenient communication tools and methods to compel teammates to reach out. Knowing that help is only ever a Slack message away brings most virtual teams a sense of relief.

Here are remote work platforms you can use to communicate.

4. Plan virtual team building activities

Virtual team building is one of the best means for building relationships with remote teams. Online team building activities show off distant colleagues’ skills and problem-solving abilities and help coworkers understand each other on a deeper level. Not to mention, spending time together and getting to know each other helps coworkers form relationships. Social ties help teams feel more responsible for each other and compel employees to do their best work.

Getting to know each other outside of work during virtual happy hours, remote coffee breaks, and storytelling exercises makes it easier for teammates to depend on each other during work. Online group challenges make teams work together to accomplish goals, showing teams they can count on each other when issues arise.

For more inspiration, check out this list of remote team building exercises.

5. Foster casual conversations

Casual conversations help to build rapport between team members. However, virtual offices have fewer opportunities for spontaneous interactions and non-work chats. Unfamiliarity can contribute to uneasiness among teammates. Natural conversations can break down barriers and help team members let their guards down.

To encourage chats between peers, you can start Zoom meetings a few minutes early and keep the room open after the meeting ends. You can also start Slack channels for banter or send informal emails with reply-all prompts, as well as pairing up coworkers for random video chat breaks.

The more team members talk, the more they learn about each other, and the more they know about each other, the more they will trust each other.

Here are guides to virtual coffee breaks and virtual water coolers.

6. Play connection games

Sharing personal details can be intimidating, however when done in the course of games the act is much less daunting. Playing connection games is a way for teammates to quickly find out more about each other. These games uncover defining characteristics about colleagues and traits that teammates have in common. Examples of these activities include Mingle Bingo and This or That.

After sparking an initial connection, teammates can continue the conversation and turn a momentarily link into an ongoing relationship. These activities can serve as a foundation for teammates to build trust upon.

Check out more team connection games.

7. Make a point to get to know teammates

Making an effort to get to know team members is one of the most important tips for earning trust when working from home. Coworkers are more likely to build bonds with colleagues who show genuine interest. Asking questions about remote teammates outside-of-work-lives shows that you care about them as human beings, not just as fellow workers.

Virtual managers can set up calls to welcome and learn more about new team members, and other teammates can follow suit. You can direct message colleagues a simple “hello,” or “how is your day going?” or start Slack threads about weekend plans. Consider also starting each meeting with icebreaker questions or ending meetings with personal updates. Be sure to reciprocate by sharing personal details in turn.

Taking an interest in coworkers’ interests and asking questions is a way to have long conversations that build better relationships. Remembering those personal details earns goodwill.

Most importantly, when team members are struggling with non-work obstacles, reach out with kind words and shows of support. Even just noting a bad day and reaching out with a simple, “are you alright?” can earn points with remote teammates.

Here are getting to know you questions that kick start conversation.

8. Trust your teams

Trust is a two way street, and one of the fastest ways to get trust is to give trust. Mistrusting or doubting others can lead to your team questioning your integrity and trustworthiness. Also, folks tend to mirror behavior in social situations, and believing in other people encourages those people to believe in you too.

Mistrust and micromanagement is one of the most common traits of a bad manager, while granting autonomy and having faith in the team is a sign of a good manager. You may be tempted to install employee monitoring software to keep tabs on your team or check in frequently to keep employees on task, yet these behaviors can backfire and negatively affect productivity.

When you give your employees space, time, and the benefit of the doubt they often rise to the occasion and exceed expectations. Feeling grateful for the vote of confidence, your remote teammates will usually return that faith.

9. Establish an update process

Trust tends to be based not only on proof and patterns, not just blind faith. To establish teammates as reliable, use a clear update process. This procedure might take the form of having teammates submit a weekly self-report, or making a team scoreboard in a spreadsheet. You can also use project management software as a non-invasive way to measure progress. This approach gives remote teammates and managers assurance that team members are completing work and eases anxiety about tasks getting done on time. These measurements serve as proof of team members’ performance. Not to mention, if you regularize the update process, then team members are less likely to feel offended or defensive when you check in and ask how things are going.

10. Be vulnerable

Many folks mistakenly think that appearing perfect is a requirement of earning trust. On the contrary, individuals are more likely to trust teammates who admit mistakes and flaws. Being vulnerable is one of the fastest ways to earn trust from others, because this gesture gives others permission to let their guards down and be vulnerable around you in turn.

Showing your humanity makes remote teammates feel more comfortable around you and inspires a “we’re in this together” mentality. Witnessing other coworkers’ struggles can be a comfort in remote offices especially, since often teammates only see the finished product and not the work required to achieve that end.

Also, being honest and reflective shows self-awareness and accountability. Team members are less likely to worry about teammates who can catch and admit to their own mistakes. As long as you take steps to change and fix the source of the issue, remote teammates are unlikely to hold these mistakes or shortcomings against you.

You can encourage teammates to embrace this attitude by fostering a no-failure-feedback policy and creating an environment where teammates feel safe in admitting errors and asking for help. The key is to put importance on the learning process, and one of the best ways to achieve this end is to admit that you are still learning too.

11. Enforce accountability

Accountability is important on all teams, yet is doubly important on virtual teams. When unsupervised, teammates can often get away with unproductive and unhealthy work behaviors. However, over time, these actions erode the trust of the team, and that confidence can be hard to regain.

Working with teammates you cannot see or immediately talk to can be a nerve-wracking experience. Accountability helps to ease team member anxieties and avoid conflict and bad feelings. The knowledge that all team members are held to the same high standards promotes harmony among teams. Plus, when managers correct team members who have failed to meet expectations, team members feel as if leaders have their back and care about each team member pulling their weight.

Accountability does not have to mean punishment. Instead, it may mean that when an error occurs, you speak to the team member and come up with a corrective action plan, or that you talk through the issue as a team and treat it as a learning moment.

When each team member owns his or her actions, other remote team members can relax and rest assured that the work will get done correctly.

To encourage accountability in remote offices, create a system where employees feel safe to bring up concerns, provide clear expectations, rules, and outcomes, and address issues in a timely manner. Be sure to also do regular performance reviews to ensure that work from home teammates do not slip or struggle in silence.

12. Involve teammates in the decision making process

Managers tend to make decisions behind the scenes, especially in virtual offices. Remote teammates also tend to make independent and individual decisions. To promote transparency and trust among virtual team members, you can make the decision making process more public. For example, message team members to ask for advice. Or, explain your reasoning for making a decision when delivering an announcement or update. This act will make team members feel more valued and more like collaborators, thereby earning greater levels of respect and trust.

13. Practice employee recognition

Employee recognition can go a long way in building trust remotely. Peer to peer praise makes employees feel valued and appreciated, which can foster feelings of gratitude and trust towards teammates. Also, applauding teammates for great work helps coworkers see those team members as capable. Plus, compliments are one of the fastest ways to make connections and build friendships, another tactic or sowing trust virtually.

For example, TeamBuilding has a #you-are-awesome channel on Slack where coworkers can shout each other out for teamwork, positive attitude, accomplishments, or amazing work feats. This channel helps teammates get to know each other and learn more about each other’s strengths, which in turn inspires greater levels of trust among the staff.

Check out this list of ideas for employee appreciation day and our guide to running employee of the month programs.

Final Thoughts

There is no secret hack or trick to winning trust. Building trust is about building relationships, and relationships take time, work, and patience. Regardless, there are techniques you can use to speed up the process and have a higher chance of success. For example, meetup and do online team building, get to know each other and be vulnerable, and keep the lines of communication open. Remembering that your colleagues are human beings and not just computer screens is the first step in earning your coworkers’ confidence.

Once you build the trust it is important to maintain it. Trust can be tough to regain when broken, especially in virtual offices where teammates have fewer daily opportunities to interact.

If you practice respect and healthy relationship habits and make efforts to connect your remote coworkers, then you will increase the amount of trust in your virtual office and reap the benefits of working with a team that believes in each other.

Next, check out our guide to managing remotely.

FAQ: Building trust with remote teams

Here are answers to common questions about building trust with remote teams.

How do you build trust with remote teams?

To build trust with remote teams, get to know each other, meet regularly, over communicate, and show vulnerability. By practicing these habits regularly, you will earn coworkers’ confidence and build healthier and more trusting virtual teams.

How do you get virtual teams to trust each other?

To get virtual teams to trust each other, hold remote team building sessions, make opportunities for casual conversations, and hold team members accountable. Getting remote teammates to trust each other is mostly about proving that there is no real cause for doubt and that virtual teammates can depend on each other even when far away and out of sight.

Why is trust important in remote teams?

Trust is important in remote teams because teammates cannot observe each other working. In the absence of proof, team members must have faith that teammates will not disappoint. Though far apart, remote team members rely on each other. Mistrust can waste time and affect productivity, while trust helps teammates feel more connected to the company and each other and enjoy greater work satisfaction.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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