Building Trust: The First Step to a Successful Flexible Workplace

By Keti Malkoski / April 9, 2013

As many organisations look at redesigning their workplaces and shifting into flexible working approaches like activity-based working and teleworking, a structured change management program can have a big impact on how well employees and teams embrace such changes.

Flexible workplaces are often positioned as promoting positive employee and business outcomes such as collaboration and trust behaviours and attitudes. Indeed, trust in organisational cultures and team relationships are imperative to the success of many business processes, procedures and even flexible working approaches. Most importantly, trust in the leader-team member relationship must be actively ‘shaped’ through training as part of a structured change management program before the move to flexible working eventuates.

Today we look at building trust as part of the change management process, as studies show that trust behaviours and attitudes can play a significant role in business effectiveness, especially in more fluid, unstructured arrangements like flexible working:

Research demonstrates that trust has the greatest impact on the success of organisations that are team based. In particular with work tasks that are often complex and unstructured, requiring high levels of interdependence, cooperation and information sharing – which is becoming more and more common for the everyday knowledge worker (e.g. Creed & Miles, 1996).

A Deloitte survey (2010) demonstrated that 55 percent of employees feel that the organisational benefits of trusting their leaders included improved morale. Other benefits felt by employees include team building and collaboration (39%), productivity and profitability (36%), ethical decision-making (35%), and willingness to stay with the organisation (32%).

Flexible workplaces are often promoted as a way to build employee trust, but the reality is, trust must be established long before an organisation makes a move into flexible working in order for it to be truly successful.

So this begs the question: How do we build employee trust behaviours and attitudes?

Here are our top tips for positively influencing the relationship between leaders and team members:


1. Consulting team members when making decisions: This can demonstrate that leaders value and respect the opinions of their employees and can assist with the development of a collective direction that team members have positive ownership and responsibility over.

2. Establishing common values with team members: This can demonstrate a commonality between team members to assist with connections. Employees want to work with other employees that have similar values to them.

3. Communicating a collective vision and important values: This can maintain the change momentum. Communication helps employees feel supported and in control.

Check out some of Keti’s previous articles as well: