Valoli Aad Vredenbregt

Aad Vredenbregt owns and runs Valoli.

19 May 2021

The pandemic has taught businesses the importance of placing trust in employees. Let’s keep it that way.

Covid-19 has changed how and when we shop, eat and travel. It has accelerated all kinds of virtual transactions, such as telemedicine and online banking, and gave streaming entertainment an enormous boost. But, most of all, Covid-19 has changed how we work. Almost overnight, the pandemic forced middle managers and employees to change their WOW. Companies were forced to try things that they knew were possible but that they had always feared wouldn’t be effective or efficient.

Remote working posed an enormous challenge. We all had to learn by doing during this crisis – there was no time to train. Business leaders and managers had to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of having employees work from home. Initially, at least, they struggled to lead those who were out of their sight. Many tried to deal with the uncertainties of remote work by controlling and monitoring their employees even more. But, over the past year, managers quickly learned that such a controlling strategy is counterproductive.

Covid-19 taught organizations to reap the benefits of trust. Business leaders learned that when they put trust in their managers, these managers similarly passed on this trust to their employees, thus empowering them.

Trust implies that interacting parties have positive expectations about each other and no longer fear opposition of the other party. Trust is the ultimate collaboration tool for knowledge-intensive organizations. As opposed to a micromanaging or micromonitoring approach, a coaching approach allows management to assess and measure progress while simultaneously boosting team productivity.

Trust provides benefits to organizations because of its indirect effect. When a climate of trust exists, information is communicated openly, staff is more willing to help each other and to experiment without the fear of failing. Such behavior makes companies resilient, more innovative, collaborative and agile – factors that all drive performance. Trust has become an important leadership responsibility, one that will hopefully be exercised continuously.

This transition of management during the pandemic I consider to be disruptive since our Western culture has been permeated with the belief in the depravity of mankind for centuries, as documented by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman in his book “Humankind: a hopeful history.”

Longing to gather in the office, we all wonder whether the pandemic way of working will be a blueprint for the long term. No matter what happens, the valuable lessons about employee engagement shouldn’t be forgotten. Senior management and C-suite should prolong the trust culture of the pandemic and foster relations to lower employee turnover, improve productivity and motivation.

It looks like it will become quieter in offices, though. Research indicates that 20 percent of the workforce in advanced economies could work from home between 3-5 days a week. As a result, companies anticipate fewer employees coming into the offices each day.

That’s not necessarily a good thing. Working together physically sparks creativity and relieves us from strings of tiring online meetings and from working overtime excessively at home. So even trusting employers should promote people coming back into the office.

They’ll probably have to tempt them, by making the office a better workplace. Offices should support us in living a healthier, happier and more energized life than we have while working from home. Having our workplace enhance our vitality becomes a new ambition for the Brainport region: to become the most vital in addition to the smartest kilometer.