An online poll by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) revealed that the top challenge in implementing telecommuting was the inability to track employees’ work progress in real-time. More than 60% expressed that they had concerns about whether employees were as productive and doing their work as required.
The poll of over 600 employers reported that HR personnel and supervisors were keen to continue telecommuting post-Covid-19, and were willing to adapt to a new way of working. However, the lack of visibility and physical presence in the office remains a concern.
This highlights a subtle yet significant challenge that many companies face in the early stages of implementing flexible work arrangements (FWAs). While policies and systems can be updated to support flexible working, there needs to be a true shift in the work culture. Mutual trust is needed between employer and employee, as well as across teams, for FWAs to be sustainable.
These are some practical ways that employers can cultivate a culture of trust within the organisation.
1. Facilitate knowledge sharing
Progressive employers recognise the value of knowledge sharing in the workplace. Through this, mutual trust is built as employees learn to give and receive information from one another. The process of knowledge sharing has two critical components: the individual must be willing to generously share what they know, and the other party must be ready to acknowledge gaps in their knowledge that can be improved.
When employees share their varied experiences and skills, the overall capability of the workforce increases. Knowledge sharing allows employees to benefit from the diverse experiences of others, including,
- Using these as a springboard to refine strategies and processes
- Identifying the most efficient methods of addressing work challenges
As an employer, you can incorporate knowledge sharing segments into your current team meetings. As employees field questions from colleagues and engage in regular discussions, the quality of communication within the team is also likely to improve. Consider scheduling team members to do a brief sharing on:
- Takeaways from recent trainings they have attended,
- Learnings from a useful resource or,
- A case study on a challenging project.
2. Host effective check-ins
Regular check-ins are one way to support a remote working team. Supervisors who lead these sessions should reflect on whether these sessions provide a safe space for their team members to share candidly about work challenges.
- Do employees feel they can be open and honest about potential issues in a project or task and know they will receive constructive feedback?
- Can they ask questions during meetings without worrying that they will appear incompetent?
Rather than mere work-in-progress meetings, check-in sessions can foster greater autonomy if sticky problems can be shared freely, with everyone brainstorming to suggest solutions. When there is such a culture, you would observe the following changes to the team dynamics:
- Employees taking greater responsibility for work outcomes
- Employees proactively sharing productivity challenges they face, even as they work from home
- Supervisors identifying and addressing work needs quickly, without the need to monitor employees directly in the office
3. Invest in employee development
Building trust is a two-way street. When an employer is dependable and takes an interest in staff well-being, this encourages employees to be trustworthy and reliable as well. One common employee concern is that flexible working arrangements reduce their physical presence in the office and may lead to being overlooked when it comes to development and advancement opportunities.
Investing in the learning and development of your employees assures them that the organisation values their contributions. As an employer, you can:
- Support both formal and informal learning opportunities (e.g. professional certifications, webinars).
- Encourage staff to take ownership of their career development and to approach their supervisors directly to discuss training or learning opportunities.
This signals your support of their career progress and nurtures a loyal and committed workforce that is focused on organisational goals and performance – regardless of where they work from.
Cultivating a positive culture of trust is not a task that can be accomplished overnight. It takes time and sustained effort from the leadership to set the tone and gather buy-in from employees. However, employers who have stayed the course have seen that it contributes to the sustainability of the overall work-life balance strategy, and adds value to the company in the long run.
As an employer, we encourage you to take the first step to evaluate existing flexible work arrangements and consider how you can incorporate these practical ideas for a more effective work-life strategy.
Learn more about the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements.
This article is contributed by TAFEP.