While studies during the pandemic have shown virtual teams are highly productive, many managers can’t shake the suspicion that remote employees are doing laundry or going out for lattes when they’re supposed to be working.
So, should virtual managers trust their teams… or are they right to keep a closer eye on remote staff?
Let’s start with the numbers.
So, why are so many managers distrustful of virtual team members? Sometimes distrust of virtual workers is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Studies found that managers who are uncomfortable managing virtual or hybrid teams will often hold virtual workers to higher levels of availability and responsiveness than on-site workers, taking even a minute’s delay in answering a message as a sign of dereliction.
But these unreasonable expectations can increase workers’ stress and disrupt their productivity, which distrustful managers take as confirmation, leading to more monitoring and micromanagement in a vicious cycle. In fact, a University of Michigan study found that virtual team managers who take a “high trust, low monitoring” approach to accountability achieved 8% higher productivity versus those who took a high-monitoring approach. Another study found 49% of closely monitored workers experienced high levels of anxiety on the job, compared to 7% of their less-monitored peers.
So how can organizations help virtual team managers overcome their trust issues?