Trust in the workplace is essential. Managers need to trust employees to get work done without micromanaging or creating stressful work environments. Employees need to trust their coworkers to work just as hard as them and have their backs. And employees need to trust that a company where they wish to stake their professional careers has their best interests and holds itself to high ideals. In a remote and hybrid work world, trust becomes even more important. When employees trust each other, they can rely on each other for prompt communication and quality effort – all of which contribute to a successful team

Employees who work in a high-trust environment experience 74% less stress. Below are six ways to build trust and cultivate a work culture where employees feel less stress and more freedom.  

1. Lead by example 

While HR is its own separate entity in the office, encouraging open communication on your end can spark a healthy trend throughout the entire workplace.

An open-door policy is nice, but it doesn’t mean much if your actions don’t reflect it. By making an effort to reach out first, you remind employees they have a shoulder to lean on in the office. You could send emails reminding them that you’re available if they want to schedule a 1:1 on Zoom, send them a Slack message, or, if you’re in the office, you can walk by their desks for casual chit-chat. After a while, you could start checking in with workers for weekly status updates. You might be surprised by how much people have to say when you approach them first. 

As they observe you, employees may pick up your habits and start taking the initiative to communicate with their teammates on Slack or desk neighbors, leading to camaraderie among the staff. 

2. Welcome all concerns

HR’s no stranger to the occasional odd and sometimes trivial complaint. It can be tempting to dismiss these claims, but that’ll only put distance between you and the employee. If an employee takes the time out of their workday to bring an issue to you, it’s significant to them. 

Never turn away a worker. Doing so will imply that the employee can’t depend on anyone in the office–if HR won’t listen, who will? Opening your ears to any (and all) matters helps create a better culture throughout the office.  

3. Be discerning while hiring

Employers receive anywhere from 75 to 250 applications per job opening, which may make it easier for candidates to embellish their resumes–and get away with it. If they’re bold enough to lie during the hiring process, nothing will stop them from being dishonest in the office. 

Filter out those with poor character by warning them during the screening process. Something as simple as a disclaimer about false information at the end of your job application can deter them from their deceitful behaviors.   

4. Encourage team collaboration 

It’s easy to throw someone under the bus or barely put effort into an assignment when employees only know each other as “that person who sits over there” or “that name I see in Slack messages.” Letting down a teammate, on the other hand, is much harder. Encourage team bonding through group activities. These could be anything from a catered lunch to a Zoom happy hour. It’s important to make sure the interaction isn’t forced–get a feel for the closeness of your staff before planning anything. An awkward outing could end up driving the team further apart. 

5. Praise the group over the individual 

Incentives help employees feel appreciated for their efforts and boost office morale. Almost every company has its top workers–these employees most likely earn the most recognition. While it makes sense for them to get more praise, holding a few employees above the rest only divides the workplace. Other people’s success can make workers jealous, especially if they’re not friendly with them. 

The solution is to set up group goals and rewards. Instead of just rewarding the top performers, reward good overall performance. Instead of making workers compete for employee of the month, establish measurable company goals. That’ll make employees hold each other accountable and instill a sense of teamwork within the workplace, strengthening their bond.

6. Foster inclusivity

If your workplace has biased policies or practices, certain groups of employees may feel alienated. Isolating employees based on their differences is a surefire way to shatter trust in the office. 

Luckily, inclusivity starts with HR. Review your company’s policies and make sure they don’t single anyone out. Work with payroll to weed out any pay discrepancies and survey employees on their workplace satisfaction. Addressing these possible sources of negative employee experiences will resolve any skepticism about your company and its people.

Build trust and thrive 

It’s not easy to establish trust in the office, but the effort pays off in the end. A close-knit work culture makes it much more likely for employees to enjoy working at your company. Even if only one or two employees warm up to you at first, that’s a significant step toward a better workplace. Take it slow, and remember that relationships take time to build.


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From Annie Lubin

Annie grew up in Brooklyn, New York. On a Saturday afternoon, you'll likely find her curled up with her cats reading a magazine profile about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.