Remote workers prefer trust over technology

PM News
October 12, 2020

It’s something project managers working with remote teams have always known: it is more effective to build a working relationship based on trust than to rely on surveillance technology to monitor team members’ productivity.

Confirmation that remote workers respond better to trust that technology comes from research conducted by experts from Edith Cowan University’s School of Business and Law.

“Quite simply, managers have got to build a relationship based on trust, not monitor how much time employees are sitting at their computers,” reported Professor Tim Bentley. “Surveillance will not only kill the trust engendered through the collaborative efforts to make remote working work during COVID-19 restrictions and beyond, but also have potential mental health and privacy implications for workers.”

Bentley said goal-setting and output-based approaches worked better than presentee-ism, which “has done little for raising productivity” and negatively affects motivation, morale and retention of staff.

ECU School of Business and Law researchers studied several major Australian public and private sector organisations during COVID-19. They found working from home was surprisingly successful in terms of both productivity and employee wellbeing.

“The results of this global experiment were so positive that organisations and workers alike are looking to a future where flexible working will be the norm, rather than an imposed short-term business continuity response,” said Bentley.

The research also revealed that the extraordinary circumstances prompted many workers to find innovative solutions. “Results showed how the human spirit can prevail where line managers and work teams are willing to innovate to get the job done and support each other through formal and informal processes,” Bentley noted.

“Managers made additional efforts to communicate well with staff and ensured all team members felt supported and trusted.

“Colleagues were invited into each other’s homes and lives through informal e-meetings and the net result was more understanding, empathy and resilience.”

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