Remote work isn’t just about technology – it’s also about culture of trust

By Masako Takagi, - Employee experienceFuture Workplace

Trust. We use the word all the time in technology.

As companies pursue digital transformation, they can easily underestimate the importance of trust. We’re so busy chasing the latest technological innovations, we sometimes forget that, at the end of the day, it’s people who drive change.

And I don’t just mean individuals. I mean people working together to accomplish a common goal. And to achieve that, they need to believe in each other.

Trust is important, and not just the clinical assurances about our infrastructure and systems security. Just as important are the bonds that connect people, whether it’s a manager to her team or a business to its global workforce.

A workforce bonded by trust benefits from improved agility, flexibility, and overall staff morale. When there’s trust, progress is supercharged, and businesses move faster on their digital transformation journeys.

Most importantly, “Trust” must be baked into company’s culture and be the DNA, not only between employers and employees, but also between the company and employees.

 

The Benefits of Remote Work

Remote work is just one example of how a trusting relationship can benefit a business. Being able to work outside the office is one of the great workplace revolutions of modern times.

This is especially important considering our current challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed remote work to the top of the digital agenda, from a point of discussion for select groups within an organization to a strategic priority for everyone.

But businesses are still nervous at the prospect of allowing their employees to work and collaborate outside the office. Why? The issue isn’t just technology. Companies can find vendors with solutions that support remote work. It’s also culture and trust.

 

Remote but Not Alone

Let’s consider Citrix.

None of us are working in the office right now. And what has become clear over the last few weeks is that, really, the majority of us do not need to be in the office to get our jobs done.

This doesn’t minimize the human need for social connection. Collaboration and relationship building come more naturally in person. But, with all employees working at home, the business can function just as well as it did before our work-from-home requirements went into effect.

At Citrix, we get weekly updates in our inbox from CEO David Henshall, and we have the technology we need to work remotely. But the human element – that sense of belonging – doesn’t just happen through deployment of new technology. It’s baked into the company culture. How leaders guide their people and run the company have a real impact on making remote work a success for employees and the company.

I know that both in Fujitsu and Citrix, since shelter-in-place orders have gone into effect in many of the communities where our employees live, we’ve seen tremendous support from leadership and from our own colleagues to help us stay focused on priorities and, most importantly, balanced, despite our new normal (which feels anything but normal).

Businesses around the world face similar challenges in transitioning to remote work. But in most cases, it’s company culture, not technology limitations, that keeps employees from being comfortable and productive working remotely. And it’s culture that will prevent organizations from embracing remote work once we’re past COVID-19.

If there’s one thing that will define the workplace of the future, it’s employee empowerment. Employees are coming to expect greater flexibility, whether in the face of our current challenges or to manage ordinary commitments outside of work. Leaders should know that expectation is only going to grow, especially considering how swiftly we’ve moved to remote work when it became a necessity.

Flexible working policies will be table stakes for hiring, retaining, and developing the best employees. Anything less, and you’ll lose ground quickly. But in return, employees will be more loyal and more engaged with their work. A lot of good will can come out of providing even a little flexibility.

We’ve seen incredible trust among our teams the last few weeks as we’ve all had to make adjustments in our professional and personal lives. I suspect many people have experienced the same. When we do return to the office, my hope is that leaders will recognize the value of remote work for their employees and their organizations. We’ll all be better for it.

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