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The Science of Trust: Building Strong Relationships in Virtual Team


In today’s technologically advanced world, trust-building is fundamental to the effective functioning of virtual teams. 

As the digital revolution accelerates, more companies are turning to virtual teams as an innovative strategy to enhance efficiency and productivity. 

In fact, according to Gartner, 80% of businesses are expected to have significant remote work policies in place by 2023. But what is the secret sauce to ensuring that these virtual teams are not just efficient but also well-knit and cohesive?

The answer is simple yet profound: Trust. Trust lies at the heart of every successful team – be it onsite or virtual. 

It’s the invisible glue that holds people together, promoting collaboration, enhancing communication, and facilitating problem-solving. 

This blog post delves into the science of trust, offering practical, actionable steps for building robust relationships in virtual teams.

Understanding the Pillars of Trust in Virtual Team

The three primary pillars of trust in virtual team are reliability, communication, and emotional intelligence.

  • Reliability: Team members must be able to count on one another to complete tasks and meet deadlines. This predictability cultivates a sense of security within the team.
  • Communication: Transparency and open communication are key to fostering trust. Regular check-ins, updates, and the use of collaborative tools can help maintain clarity and prevent misunderstandings.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and respecting others’ emotions, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds is essential in a remote work environment. Encouraging empathy and understanding can lead to more productive and supportive virtual teams.

Practical Steps to Cultivate Trust in Virtual Team

“Trust is earned when actions meet words,” famously said Chris Butler, an entrepreneur well-known for his thoughts on business ethics. How then can we translate this to our virtual team? Here are some actionable steps:

  1. Set clear expectations: Clarity reduces ambiguity. Lay down roles, responsibilities, and deliverables right at the onset.
  2. Encourage open communication: Implement regular check-ins and updates, promoting open dialogue within the team.
  3. Promote reliability: Encourage team members to follow through on their commitments. Recognize and appreciate their efforts to boost morale.
  4. Cultivate a culture of empathy: Promote diversity and inclusion, encouraging team members to respect each other’s differences and support one another.

Overcoming Trust-Related Challenges in Virtual Team

Trust-building in virtual team isn’t without its challenges. Time zone differences, lack of face-to-face interaction, and miscommunication can be stumbling blocks. Here’s how to navigate these hurdles:

  1. Leverage technology: Use tools like Slack, Trello, and Zoom to streamline communication and coordination.
  2. Schedule regular virtual meetups: Overcome the lack of face-to-face interaction by setting up regular video calls to encourage bonding and team building.
  3. Be patient: Trust takes time to build, especially in a virtual setup. Keep consistent in your efforts and maintain an open, supportive environment.

A Success Story: Trust-Building at Buffer

Buffer, a social media management platform, has always been a pioneer of remote work. Their challenge? Building trust within a team spread across numerous time zones. Their solution? Transparency.

Buffer made a bold decision to practice ‘radical transparency,’ sharing everything from salaries to revenue. 

They leveraged technology, using tools like Zoom and Slack to keep their team connected and informed. Buffer’s story illustrates that trust-building in virtual teams is not just a theoretical concept but a practical strategy that can yield profound results.


As the world continues to shift towards remote work, trust-building within virtual team has become an essential aspect of team management. 

By understanding the pillars of trust and implementing practical strategies, companies can foster strong relationships within their virtual team, enhancing productivity and collaboration. 

Trust is not an overnight phenomenon. It needs time, patience, and consistent effort. But once established, it can be the foundation of a high-performing and harmonious virtual team. 

Remember, in the words of entrepreneur and author, Stephen Covey, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”


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