How to Build Trust with Your Employer as a Remote WorkerCareers Experts Guides Inspiration Productivity Tools
A few years back, I was the first employee at my company to pitch the CEO on transitioning from full-time in-office work to full-time remote work. My well-prepared presentation secured the approval I wanted, but that was only the first step in working remotely long-term.
It was crucial to prove that I would continue producing above expectations even when my manager could no longer see me physically sitting at my desk every day. Through many trust-building efforts, I never set foot inside an office again.
If you want to build a trusting relationship with your employer while working remotely, it boils down to one thing: clear communication. In order to maintain that from a remote setting, consider these actionable practices when you’re no longer at arm’s length.
Share Your Weekly To-Dos
Start every week with an update to your manager in the form of a bulleted agenda.
On Monday morning, I refer to my to-dos in Asana, my preferred project management tool, and take 5–10 minutes to bullet out my weekly goals into the form of an agenda using Google Docs. This process is quick because I keep an agenda template handy in my Template Gallery with consistent section headers and important links.
I use this agenda in a 30-minute video call with my manager to show that I’m prepared to tackle the week. We briefly discuss each point, and I comment within the document during the meeting with any feedback or takeaways. This process keeps the two of us on the same page, and, even better, the consistent format of the agenda keeps our meetings short and efficient.
Discuss with your manager how often to check in and through what channel: Slack pings, video calls, project management notifications—whatever your company prefers. By creating a game plan together and sticking to it, you’ll establish a foundation of trust.
Stay (Virtually) Within Sight
Remote work experts suggest that it may be time to rethink meetings, as they take away from productivity. But when your employer is resistant to long-term remote work, you can leverage video meetings as a way to mimic the face-to-face interactions to which they’re accustomed.
You can touch base with your manager on, say, Mondays and Wednesdays, using your bulleted weekly to-do list as the agenda for the video calls on both days. On Monday, you can run through your to-dos. On Wednesday, you can discuss any road blocks that have come up, provide context for any delays, and share what you’ve learned since Monday.
These meetings can also be used for relationship building. You don’t always need to get down to business at the start of the call. Take a few minutes to talk about what you did over the weekend, a new recipe you tried, or anything you’d like to chat about outside work tasks. The same way you’d connect with a colleague over lunch or coffee in person, you can strengthen a trusting virtual relationship with your manager during video calls.
Consistent video meetings not only allow you to regularly share your progress with your manager but also show that you don’t need to be bound to an office to remain connected.
Make Your Work Visible Through Communication
The last thing you want is for your employer to wonder where you are or what you’ve been up to.
Aviva Pinchas, head of growth at Parabol, a remote meeting app, says, “One of the biggest challenges with remote work is that we are invisible to one another by default. If you want your colleagues or boss to see what you're doing, you need to share it openly and intentionally.” That can look different for different people. For Pinchas, it’s posting in-progress work in Slack, distributing written documents about her thought processes, and recording videos when ideas arise.
And a big part of being visible is giving access to your schedule, whereabouts, and progress.
First, be transparent about your work hours with your entire team. For me, that means setting my working hours and availability in Google Calendar and including my local time zone in my Slack profile. I also like to go a little further by updating my status in Slack during work hours, such as “out to lunch,” “on a walk,” or “taking a coffee break.”
Second, communicate the progress of all of your projects through a project management tool. I use Asana to schedule, plan, and communicate with my team without an overabundance of back-and-forth. On the platform, my task list is formatted as a board, separated into four columns: to do, in progress, in review, and done. Because I can update tasks in real time, my manager and team members can see the status of what I’m working on at any point.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t have a full understanding of a project up front, just ask for clarity to keep you and your manager aligned and to equip you with the information you’ll need to submit a final product that meets expectations.
Get Involved with the Team
Working as a remote employee doesn’t mean you’re alone on an island (figuratively or literally). But it can definitely seem that way in a hybrid setting where most employees see one another in person daily.
You can continue building trust with your employer by staying involved and penetrating the invisible walls of your team. For example, get involved with company Slack channels—share relevant news articles, upload a picture of your dog to a pet-related channel, or post a case study that supports a new concept for your company’s consideration. If your company doesn’t have non-work-related channels to foster connection, start one! It will send the message that you’re not only committed to your work but dedicated to promoting relationship building with your colleagues.
Another way to get more involved is by sharing your remote work insights with your employer. If your manager isn’t convinced that remote work works, the burden is on you to show that it does. You can take the same measures I have—structuring your agendas, constantly communicating with your team, organizing your projects—to build that trust with your employer.
Personalize a project flow that’s proven to push your projects to the finish line, and then share that strategy with your employer. You’ll demonstrate that you’re valuable beyond your job description, that you’re an integral part of the company. Not only that, but you’ll provide evidence of why remote work should be not just tolerated but encouraged.
It goes without saying that in life, you build trust by doing what you say you’re going to do.
The same holds at work—if you have a deadline to meet, strive to meet it every time. Jason Morwick, coauthor of Remote Leadership, is a big believer in that _idea: “Nothing builds (or breaks) trust faster than performance, so remote workers should focus on delivering the best results they can.”
This doesn’t mean that all projects will go exactly as planned. But the way you approach the topic of missing a deadline is the key to avoiding a tarnished relationship with your boss.
First, get ahead of it. Notify your manager as soon as you can if it looks like you’re not going to hit the due date. Second, provide context about why you’re missing the mark and what you’ll do to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Missing a deadline every once in a while won’t pour trust down the drain, but not communicating about it punctually and with context could.
Provide a Preweekend Recap
Before you sign off for the week, follow up with your manager on what you did and did not accomplish and why. I usually provide my recap as a brief bulleted list in a Slack message, but if any point needs more detail, I’ll link to the Asana project or documentation in Notion.
An end-of-week status report shows your manager and team that you covered your bases before heading into the weekend and can also act as a reminder of where to pick up on Monday morning.
Ask for Regular Reviews
If you work for a large company, quarterly or annual reviews are likely a given. But for many start-ups or small companies, regularly reviewing employee performance might not be top of mind.
If that’s the case for you, ask your employer for a quarterly and annual performance assessment. Use this as an opportunity to showcase all you’ve accomplished and reinforce your worth. Your manager likely has a lot of people and projects to juggle—a review will serve as a reminder that you’ve helped move the company toward its goals, from a remote setting. That will only further build trust over time (and maybe even score you the recognition or promotion you deserve!).
How to Negotiate Remote Work When Your Company Returns to the Office
If you’re like millions who shifted to working remotely due to the pandemic, you might have spent the last year wondering what’s next. Whereas some companies have announced that they’re taking the remote-first or distributed approach, others are ready to recall all employees to the office ASAP.
If your ability to work remotely is soon to be hampered, your freedom might not be completely off the table. You’re in a good position right now to negotiate ongoing remote work, having proved yourself over the past year or longer. Here’s how to leverage your experience to make a case to your boss.
Start by presenting your case during a one-on-one with your manager. Come prepared with concrete evidence of your performance results and communication throughout your time away from the office. Share screenshots of positive client feedback, recount instances when you went above and beyond for the company, and create graphics of tangible data from project outcomes.
Next, explain exactly what you want and why you want it. If your company is offering one to two remote days per week but you want three to four, explain why. For example, if remote work saves you an hour’s commute each day, specify how you would use that time to better prepare for client meetings in the mornings. Or if you’ve learned that you’re less stressed working remotely, describe how that translates to improved output throughout the day.
Lastly, propose a schedule that outlines how your plan will work. If you want to go to the office no more than two days per week, clarify that you will use that in-person time wisely by scheduling all your one-on-ones with your direct reports on those days. Make it clear that your schedule won’t cause any disruption and will support the business.
Find an Employer That Believes in Remote Work
If you’ve taken all of these steps to build trust with your employer, consistently delivering above expectations, but you still don’t have the support to continue working remotely, ask yourself if this is the right company for you.
More and more companies are transitioning from the office to a fully distributed environment because they believe in remote work. Consider joining the talent pool, and apply for a remote job with a company that realizes your value, regardless of where you sign on.