Modern Companies Succeed By Trusting Colleagues
The nature of office work is undergoing a significant transformation. Long-running technological trends like automation and cloud-based collaboration have been driving that change for a few years now, but the pandemic upended the way in which we work so suddenly and gave so many the push they needed to reevaluate how our working systems are set up, and why. Our research found that about 14 percent of workers in the US were working from home at least some of the time in December 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and that number stood relatively unchanged as of this August.
Distributed workplaces are here to stay. We don’t like to call them “remote” because there’s nothing “remote” about working from a living room in West Los Angeles instead of a desk Downtown, constantly connected to coworkers and clients via Slack, Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, and a telephone. That constant connectedness provides the avenues workers need to collaborate and be accountable to each other.
We can’t work the way we do, with the company culture we’ve built, without trust. It underpins almost everything, from the collective decisions we take to the structure of our teams. Being able to trust each other allows us to be a leaner organization and better researchers. It’s the foundation of our industry-leading Ultimate Agency benefits program.
To Trust, or to Micromanage
There are two ways for a company to ensure accountability in a working scenario like ours. The first has been around for ages and has grown in popularity since the start of 2020: micromanage to the extreme, monitoring workers at every chance. This goes beyond just punching a time sheet. From tracking mouse clicks and keystrokes to demanding a live video and audio feed into an employee’s home, this method poisons a workplace. At best, workers feel stressed and as if they can’t take a break to be human for five minutes during the workday. At worst, they feel spied upon as their employer literally shatters the concept of privacy in their own home. Running a company like that is a horrific mistake, with costs in human misery as well as revenue in the long run.
We prefer the second method: building a team you can trust. Our work is highly collaborative, and we use the tools we have to foster that mutual commitment to the task at hand to be sure that we meet our goals. And we also trust each other to know when we need to step back and reset before returning to the work as our best selves. There’s no tracking hours here, no managers that care more about having an employee sit at a desk than about that person doing good work, no willingness to throw away a family’s precious time together just so an email gets answered that evening instead of first thing in the morning. As a result, we’re a happier and healthier team. Our partners at Immersion, whose platform supports our Agile Neuroscience solutions, will also tell you that trusting teams are better for the bottom line because they’re more efficient and have higher retention rates.
Distributed Workplaces Require Trust
In a distributed workplace, building a culture of trust is even more important than it was when we were all office-based. We can’t physically see each other sitting at our desks anymore, but we trust each other to do the work, and doing so has worked for us. A previously-existing culture of trust supported being candid with each other, which is one of our core values. We trust each other to be open with issues and assume positive intent in resolving conflicts.
There will be a time when we begin to meet regularly in an office again. It probably won’t be a traditional 9-5, dedicated desk setup where we watch each other work. But we’ll keep on trusting, because it’s the healthiest option and it makes us, us.
About the Author
Clayton Southerly is the Marketing Communications Manager at Alter Agents, a strategic market research consultancy based in Los Angeles. He works with a team of super-smart researchers to translate data into actionable recommendations, build products, and get executives excited about insights that help them reach their target audiences. When he’s not building comms strategy and creating content, Clayton enjoys sitting on the beach, cooking, and traveling.
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