EMPATHY & TRUST-BUILDING IN REMOTE WORKSPACES


As we shelter in place, we are grateful for the various connectivity tools that allow us to keep working, communicating and otherwise engaging with each other and the world. And in these unprecedented times, when many of us are adapting to new, digital ways of functioning in work and personal life, it’s important to remember that digital connectivity is not the same as human connection. It is with this distinction in mind that we are glad to share the tools and research we’ve collected on fostering empathy, trust and compassion across space and time, no matter where in the world you and your teammates may be, and no matter what tools you happen to be using. Be safe and be well!


It is said that teamwork makes the dream work. So what makes the remote team work well?  In a word: trust.

Teams working remotely need additional care and attention in order to feel supported and connected. When away from a central office or working space, it can be difficult to foster authentic human connection between employees.

Research tells us that the most successful, fulfilled teams and workers are those who trust each other, because they feel free to innovate and show up more fully without risk of judgment. Especially when teams are working in digital spaces, it is vital to create an atmosphere where coworkers feel heard, understood, and appreciated as whole people.

Here are some suggestions and resources to help you and your colleagues cultivate empathy, establish psychological safety and build trust, so you can work better together, even and especially when working from home.


What’s needed to build trust in remote teams?  Three things:

  1. Consistency of interaction: it is vital to keep in mind that trust is built incrementally, never all at once. Engaging with team members at regular intervals makes people feel seen, heard, valued and invested.
  2. Reciprocity: mutual, balanced, respectful dialogue is essential for building rapport, understanding, respect and trust. Co-workers who are willing to be open, to share and to be vulnerable with one another build better things together.
  3. Progressive Self-Disclosure: Social Penetration Theory posits that people are like onions: you have to peel one layer at a time to get to the center of who someone is. Making and taking the time to let people in and to hear them out, a little bit at a time, is the best way to establish trust.

OK, sounds great. But how do you do that remotely?   The same way you would IRL: by engaging each other in conversation.

Conversation lights up the part of our work that’s about process, not product (but the product naturally benefits anyway)

One conversation at a time is how teammates become teammates: there to support each other, rely on each other, forgive each other, encourage each other and build magnificent things together.

So if you want a great team, start talking!



RESOURCES

You don’t have to take our word for it. If you like a rabbit hole, this is a good one to go down to gain insight into what makes great relationships, communities and teams thrive.