Since ‘Freedom Day’ on the 19th of July, there have been many discussions around what the world of work should look like as businesses fully re-open. Obviously there are too many components to discuss in one blog – inclusion, wellbeing, productivity and safety to name a few. The aspect that is being explored here is the fine balance between trust and transparency.


For some people, a job is just a job. For others, the overarching hope is that a job is a source of fulfilment because it provides a sense of meaningful contribution to society. This means that individuals want to be motivated and engaged by their work.

Daniel Pink said the intrinsic (or internal) motivation has three aspects:

According to this model, feeling trusted to do your work with a degree of freedom is a key aspect of what it means to be fulfilled at work – and therefore happier and more engaged at work. Trust is a key component of workplace wellbeing.


Trust is often about a sense of confidence in the self, in an organisation or in colleagues. This may be confidence that they are good at what they do or that they will support you.

Trust is really important in organisations for building healthy cultures but also for the measurable impact on the financial bottom line. In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey explains that the level of trust in a business relationship affects the performance outcomes.

If trust is low, the speed of communications is slower because people spend more time checking the process. They’re less committed and they are perhaps more sceptical. This means the cost of work goes up.

If trust is high then the speed of communications is fast, people collaborate and synchronise quicker, they get things done efficiently. This means that the cost of work goes down.

Therefore it’s vital for business success that there is a sense of trust between team members as well as trust between the organisation and its clients.


Although trust and transparency are on the same spectrum, they mean slightly different things and can create a difficult balancing act for leaders to manage. Transparency is about carrying out activities in an open way, without secrets so that people trust that you are being fair and honest. An individual in their work may be transparent by saying what they are working on, how, when and whether they are achieving targets. An organisation may be transparent, by saying how it is funded, sharing its supply chain details or outlining the hiring process.

Generally speaking, transparency is a good thing to promote because everyone knows where they stand, has clear expectations and can interact with an organisation feeling fully informed. The challenge here is balancing trust and transparency.

Trust expert, Rachel Botsman, notes how transparency is needed for accountability and compliance. However, workplaces with intense levels of transparency, where everyone has to declare everything and prove what they’re doing, actually diminish employee trust because people feel like they are being micromanaged.

It’s therefore important that teams and organisations on the whole are transparent, but that individuals are still allowed some degree of privacy and freedom to do their work as they see fit.


Serious conversations are now being had about organisational and individual preferences when it comes to work patterns and environments. It has been interesting to see examples on Linkedin of some business leaders and team managers communicating their urgent desire to get employees back into the office. Going back into the office can be a positive for a great many people; team building, social connection, face to face conversation and being able to collaborate together in real time with physical resources.

The difficulty is when the implicit (or explicit) message to employees is “You need to be in the office because we do not trust you to do your job.” This diminishes trust between employees and their managers or organisations which has massive negative effects on businesses. Employees who do not feel trusted in their work may…

This also has a knock on effect on the general culture of the workplace, creating a general feeling of awkwardness, mistrust or negativity which can spread to other team members.


Many people have worked at home for the last 18 months and have succeeded in carrying out their tasks, meeting their objectives and doing so with a high level of autonomy. Suddenly taking that away from people is problematic. However, some organisations have rightly identified a number of advantages to having their people back under the same roof. Whether your team continues working from home, comes into the office or works on a hybrid model, the key question is

“How can we work in a way that maintains and builds trust?”

There’s no easy answer to this question as every organisation and team member will have different preferences, but some handy starting points may be:

The truth is, there is no one answer to the ‘new normal’ solution. Excellent leaders will use this as an opportunity for consultation and co-creation in order to build high trust and high fulfilment workplaces where team members are able to flourish.

Pink, D. H., (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. Riverhead books.
Covey, S. M. R., (2008), The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, London, England: Simon & Schuster.
Botsman, R. (2019). The  Currency of Trust

The world of work has evolved so much over the last year that it’s normal for leaders to need a little extra support for their teams. The Self Leadership Initiative is here to support you in developing your own skills as well as helping you to identify and address your teams’ emotional and psychological needs. Whether it’s trust building, coaching, productivity or wellbeing, The SLI is on hand so that you can focus on what you do best. Get in touch today to help nourish your team.