You found our guide to trust building activities for work.
Trust building is a way to create stronger connections between employees. For example, you could play icebreaker games, problem solving activities and co-working. The purpose of trust building is to create a thriving company culture where employees feel comfortable relying on each other and collaborating.
This article covers:
- trust building activities for teams
- trust building exercises
- trust team building activities
- team trust building activities
- how to build trust in a team
- trust exercises for teams
Here is everything you need to know.
How to do trust building at work
From meeting to communicating to showing vulnerability, here is a list of tips for achieving swift trust in virtual teams.
1. Meet regularly
Trust comes as a result of spending time together, yet virtual work tends to be independent. Remote teammates often receive direction and complete tasks solo. Team members can go weeks or months without meeting if managers do not plan calls.
Although virtual work tends to be independent, teammates still collaborate indirectly. Spending time with teammates is a reminder that the employee is part of something larger, and is a way to encourage remote teamwork. These meetings remind employees that there are other coworkers who support and rely on them.
Plus, meetups serve a purpose beyond accomplishing tasks. Face to face time breeds familiarity, and gets teammates more comfortable around each other. These calls help team members connect the names on emails or Slack with real human beings.
Leaders should enact and maintain a regular meeting schedule for both group meetings with the whole team and one-on-one meetings between employees and managers. These meetings can be short, and can include optional social time at the beginning or end of the call.
2. Follow through on promises
Dependability is important in the workplace, virtual workplaces especially. Being so far away from colleagues puts workers in a precarious position. When issues arise, remote teammates can not simply swing by each other’s offices to see the cause of the holdup or talk through issues. Emails and phone calls might go unanswered for hours, especially if teammates work in different time zones or on different schedules.
To function in such vulnerable circumstances, remote workers need faith. Teammates are much more likely to take each other’s word when there is a track record of coming through in the clutch. Remote teammates and managers can build trust by delivering on promises and consistently completing tasks quickly and correctly.
Fulfilling promises proves that team members have each other’s backs, and eliminates unnecessary anxiety. Not to mention, trusting teammates spend less time double checking each other’s work or chasing down updates.
To develop a reputation for dependability while working remotely, reply to messages quickly and provide updates, complete work correctly and on time, and circle back to unresolved questions or issues. Also, make good on offers to help when coworkers come to you with needs.
Silence can cause doubt. Lapses in communication can give employees the impression that teammates are slacking or ignoring issues, and can lead to misunderstandings. Also, communication is essential in virtual offices, since employees often work alone for long stretches of time. Breakdowns in communication can lead to bottlenecks or mistakes, which can rock teammates faith in each other.
Not to mention, conversations help teammates form stronger bonds. At best, remote coworkers will have neutral feelings towards each other if they do not regularly speak. Team members may not mistrust each other, however they will not swear by each other either. The same rule applies to management. Remote employees may not dislike a boss who rarely checks in, yet may not feel supported by these kinds of managers either.
When working on a remote team, set regular schedules and weekly minimums for meeting or checking in with each other. During Zoom meetings, repeat important points and check for understanding before signing off, and encourage employees to reach out with any questions.
One of the most helpful communication tips for remote teams is to provide documents for reference. Virtual team members often have conflicting or differing schedules, and teammates and managers may not be available at all times to answer questions. Having an easy-to-access resource such as a Wiki or shared Google Doc helps to clear up questions and prevent delays.
Also, choose quick and convenient communication tools and methods to compel teammates to reach out. Knowing that help is only ever a Slack message away brings most virtual teams a sense of relief.
Here are remote work platforms you can use to communicate.
4. Plan virtual team building activities
Virtual team building is one of the best means for building relationships with remote teams. Online team building activities show off distant colleagues’ skills and problem-solving abilities and help coworkers understand each other on a deeper level. Not to mention, spending time together and getting to know each other helps coworkers form relationships. Social ties help teams feel more responsible for each other and compel employees to do their best work.
Getting to know each other outside of work during virtual happy hours, remote coffee breaks, and storytelling exercises makes it easier for teammates to depend on each other during work. Online group challenges make teams work together to accomplish goals, showing teams they can count on each other when issues arise.
For more inspiration, check out this list of remote team building exercises.
5. Foster casual conversations
Casual conversations help to build rapport between team members. However, virtual offices have fewer opportunities for spontaneous interactions and non-work chats. Unfamiliarity can contribute to uneasiness among teammates. Natural conversations can break down barriers and help team members let their guards down.
To encourage chats between peers, you can start Zoom meetings a few minutes early and keep the room open after the meeting ends. You can also start Slack channels for banter or send informal emails with reply-all prompts, as well as pairing up coworkers for random video chat breaks.
The more team members talk, the more they learn about each other, and the more they know about each other, the more they will trust each other.
6. Play connection games
Sharing personal details can be intimidating, however when done in the course of games the act is much less daunting. Playing connection games is a way for teammates to quickly find out more about each other. These games uncover defining characteristics about colleagues and traits that teammates have in common. Examples of these activities include Mingle Bingo and This or That.
After sparking an initial connection, teammates can continue the conversation and turn a momentarily link into an ongoing relationship. These activities can serve as a foundation for teammates to build trust upon.
Check out more team connection games.
7. Make a point to get to know teammates
Making an effort to get to know team members is one of the most important tips for earning trust when working from home. Coworkers are more likely to build bonds with colleagues who show genuine interest. Asking questions about remote teammates outside-of-work-lives shows that you care about them as human beings, not just as fellow workers.
Virtual managers can set up calls to welcome and learn more about new team members, and other teammates can follow suit. You can direct message colleagues a simple “hello,” or “how is your day going?” or start Slack threads about weekend plans. Consider also starting each meeting with icebreaker questions or ending meetings with personal updates. Be sure to reciprocate by sharing personal details in turn.
Taking an interest in coworkers’ interests and asking questions is a way to have long conversations that build better relationships. Remembering those personal details earns goodwill.
Most importantly, when team members are struggling with non-work obstacles, reach out with kind words and shows of support. Even just noting a bad day and reaching out with a simple, “are you alright?” can earn points with remote teammates.
Here are getting to know you questions that kick start conversation.
8. Trust your teams
Trust is a two way street, and one of the fastest ways to get trust is to give trust. Mistrusting or doubting others can lead to your team questioning your integrity and trustworthiness. Also, folks tend to mirror behavior in social situations, and believing in other people encourages those people to believe in you too.
Mistrust and micromanagement is one of the most common traits of a bad manager, while granting autonomy and having faith in the team is a sign of a good manager. You may be tempted to install employee monitoring software to keep tabs on your team or check in frequently to keep employees on task, yet these behaviors can backfire and negatively affect productivity.
When you give your employees space, time, and the benefit of the doubt they often rise to the occasion and exceed expectations. Feeling grateful for the vote of confidence, your remote teammates will usually return that faith.
9. Establish an update process
Trust tends to be based not only on proof and patterns, not just blind faith. To establish teammates as reliable, use a clear update process. This procedure might take the form of having teammates submit a weekly self-report, or making a team scoreboard in a spreadsheet. You can also use project management software as a non-invasive way to measure progress. This approach gives remote teammates and managers assurance that team members are completing work and eases anxiety about tasks getting done on time. These measurements serve as proof of team members’ performance. Not to mention, if you regularize the update process, then team members are less likely to feel offended or defensive when you check in and ask how things are going.
10. Be vulnerable
Many folks mistakenly think that appearing perfect is a requirement of earning trust. On the contrary, individuals are more likely to trust teammates who admit mistakes and flaws. Being vulnerable is one of the fastest ways to earn trust from others, because this gesture gives others permission to let their guards down and be vulnerable around you in turn.
Showing your humanity makes remote teammates feel more comfortable around you and inspires a “we’re in this together” mentality. Witnessing other coworkers’ struggles can be a comfort in remote offices especially, since often teammates only see the finished product and not the work required to achieve that end.
Also, being honest and reflective shows self-awareness and accountability. Team members are less likely to worry about teammates who can catch and admit to their own mistakes. As long as you take steps to change and fix the source of the issue, remote teammates are unlikely to hold these mistakes or shortcomings against you.
You can encourage teammates to embrace this attitude by fostering a no-failure-feedback policy and creating an environment where teammates feel safe in admitting errors and asking for help. The key is to put importance on the learning process, and one of the best ways to achieve this end is to admit that you are still learning too.
11. Enforce accountability
Accountability is important on all teams, yet is doubly important on virtual teams. When unsupervised, teammates can often get away with unproductive and unhealthy work behaviors. However, over time, these actions erode the trust of the team, and that confidence can be hard to regain.
Working with teammates you cannot see or immediately talk to can be a nerve-wracking experience. Accountability helps to ease team member anxieties and avoid conflict and bad feelings. The knowledge that all team members are held to the same high standards promotes harmony among teams. Plus, when managers correct team members who have failed to meet expectations, team members feel as if leaders have their back and care about each team member pulling their weight.
Accountability does not have to mean punishment. Instead, it may mean that when an error occurs, you speak to the team member and come up with a corrective action plan, or that you talk through the issue as a team and treat it as a learning moment.
When each team member owns his or her actions, other remote team members can relax and rest assured that the work will get done correctly.
To encourage accountability in remote offices, create a system where employees feel safe to bring up concerns, provide clear expectations, rules, and outcomes, and address issues in a timely manner. Be sure to also do regular performance reviews to ensure that work from home teammates do not slip or struggle in silence.
12. Involve teammates in the decision making process
Managers tend to make decisions behind the scenes, especially in virtual offices. Remote teammates also tend to make independent and individual decisions. To promote transparency and trust among virtual team members, you can make the decision making process more public. For example, message team members to ask for advice. Or, explain your reasoning for making a decision when delivering an announcement or update. This act will make team members feel more valued and more like collaborators, thereby earning greater levels of respect and trust.
13. Practice employee recognition
Employee recognition can go a long way in building trust remotely. Peer to peer praise makes employees feel valued and appreciated, which can foster feelings of gratitude and trust towards teammates. Also, applauding teammates for great work helps coworkers see those team members as capable. Plus, compliments are one of the fastest ways to make connections and build friendships, another tactic or sowing trust virtually.
For example, TeamBuilding has a #you-are-awesome channel on Slack where coworkers can shout each other out for teamwork, positive attitude, accomplishments, or amazing work feats. This channel helps teammates get to know each other and learn more about each other’s strengths, which in turn inspires greater levels of trust among the staff.
14. Gratitude activities
Another great way to build trust in the workplace is to do gratitude activities with employees. For example, you could do a gratitude wall, gratitude journal or an icebreaker question focussed on appreciation. These activities are helpful for building trust, because employees can show appreciation for the effort of others.
Here is a list of fun gratitude activities to try at work.
Trust building games and activities
Playing games together can help team members create valuable connections. Interacting outside of work helps colleagues become familiar, which increases productivity, efficiency, and trust. Here are a few games and activities you can try to help build trust.
1. Improv games
Improv relies on quick thinking and cooperation, making it a perfect trust building activity! One example is Scenes from a Chat, inspired by the popular show Who’s Line is it Anyway? In this game, group employees together in small teams. The teams can decide who wants to go first, and any participant not acting will write scene ideas into the chat. For example, players could suggest rejected movie sequels. The host will choose which prompt they think sounds the most entertaining, then Team One has five minutes to act it out. Once the scene is complete, the next team begins their scene!
This improv game is just one example of many you can play together. Check out our list of improv games.
2. Colleague courses
Hobbies make life exciting, and your team likely has one or several hobbies they do outside of work. Whether it be baking, playing an instrument, or sports, employees are sure to have a special talent. To teach colleague courses, have employees sign up to demonstrate their hobby or special skill. Depending on the skill, presenters can either make a video to share or do a live demonstration. Then, set a schedule for your presentations. If colleagues can participate in the activity during the presentation, then you can organize DIY classes. For example, an employee may host a cooking class and have their coworkers cook along. Otherwise, the demonstrations can just be informative.
Learning about colleagues’ hobbies is a great way to get to know them personally. Additionally, allowing team members to show off their skills demonstrates their value to the whole team. Coworkers are likely to trust each other more if they know they are passionate, driven, and skilled.
3. Asking for favors
Even though it sounds counterintuitive, asking acquaintances for favors makes them like you more. Essentially, this effect happens because we base our feelings about others on our own past actions. If we do a colleague a favor, then our brain assumes we did so because we like them. This effect is known as the Ben Franklin effect.
To utilize the Ben Franklin effect as a trust building activity, have your team ask each other for favors. For example, maybe one colleague could proofread another’s report, or one employee could send another the notes from the last meeting. Whatever it may be, getting your team to interact and rely on each other fosters trust.
Learn more about the Ben Franklin effect.
4. Dungeons and Dragons
Tabletop roleplaying games are a great way for your team to communicate, collaborate, and laugh! In DnD, you create a character and choose their class, which includes options such as bard, barbarian, and wizard. A dungeon master, or DM, creates a scenario for your adventuring party to experience. Players roll dice to see if their attempts to interact with the world are successful. The party will work toward the DM’s goal to see if they prevail!
To play DnD remotely, you can use D&D Beyond to create character sheets and Roll20 to make maps. Both sites offer digital dice to roll as well. For newbie DMs and players, check out the official Player’s Handbook for rules. The good news, though, is the rules are all made up! You can choose to create new ones if you would like. New DMs can also purchase premade campaigns, so their only job is to lead players along the story.
DnD is a great option for team building because it relies on strong teamwork and communication. Without good collaboration, party members may die or not complete the quest! DnD fosters trust and encourages colleagues to depend on each other.
Plus, you can either run a quick two-hour adventure or a months-long campaign!
5. Personality tests
Personality tests are some of the most well-known ways to get to know yourself and others. There are many options to choose from. One of the most popular is the Myers-Briggs test, which assigns you one of 16 personality types.
The test analyzes the following traits:
- introversion and extraversion
- sensing and intuition
- thinking and feeling
- judging and perceiving
After the assessment, you will learn about each personality trait’s strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing your own and your colleagues’ personality type paves the way for more thoughtful interactions. The team will know how to communicate more effectively and can feel more comfortable being vulnerable.
Learn more about personality tests.
6. Team fitness challenge
Staying active can be a challenge, especially for remote teams. Thus, competing in a team fitness challenge is a great way for colleagues to connect and keep each other accountable. Fitness takes dedication, and attending these group events shows your commitment. Plus, you get the benefit of exercise!
inKin is a collaborative wellness app with many challenges to choose from, including weight loss, team battles, and group challenges. You can compete individually, or you can create teams to battle it out! inKin focuses on corporate wellness, so it is a great option for trust and team building.
Check out inKin.
7. Gift exchange
Gift giving is an inherently thoughtful process. To get a colleague a present they will love, you need to get to know their likes, dislikes, and needs. You can host several gift-giving games, including White Elephant and Secret Santa. If you have a remote team, then you can use White Elephant Online or Elfster to help with your digital gift giving.
To help connect colleagues, you can host a meeting where employees discuss what they would like for the holidays. Then, assign an employee for each team member to shop for. Colleagues will need to trust that they each paid attention to the meeting in the hopes that they will get the gift they wanted. Giving presents is a great way to get to know one another, and you get a fun present out of the process!
8. Not-so-undercover boss
Undercover Boss is a popular TV show where CEOs disguise themselves and go undercover as new hires at their businesses. Leaders can coordinate this same activity with their teams, sans fake mustaches. For a day, pretend you are a new employee and ask your team to train you. This activity will give employees a chance to demonstrate their knowledge. Additionally, seeing your team’s day-to-day will give you a new appreciation for their efforts, and you may learn something new along the way!
9. Back of the napkin
Many entrepreneurs claim to have gotten their initial ideas from doodling on the back of a napkin. Sometimes, inspiration strikes when you do not have a notebook! Developing ideas on such a small surface area is a challenge that takes thoughtful coordination. To host an event around this idea, create a list of problems your team could solve. These problems could be real business issues or silly hypothetical questions. From there, split your team into pairs, and ask them to solve the problem on the back of their napkin. For remote teams, participants can write on a Google Doc, but give them a word limit for their digital napkins. After the time is up, have each team present their solutions. This activity fosters teamwork and problem-solving, and you may solve a real-world issue in the process!
There is no secret hack or trick to winning trust with employees. Building trust is about building relationships, and relationships take time, work, and patience. Regardless, there are techniques you can use to speed up the process and have a higher chance of success. For example, meetup and do online team building, get to know each other and be vulnerable, and keep the lines of communication open. Remembering that your colleagues are human beings and not just computer screens is the first step in earning your coworkers’ confidence.
Once you build the trust it is important to maintain it. Trust can be tough to regain when broken, especially in virtual offices where teammates have fewer daily opportunities to interact.
If you practice respect and healthy relationship habits and make efforts to connect your remote coworkers, then you will increase the amount of trust in your virtual office and reap the benefits of working with a team that believes in each other.