Trust is the currency we trade for flexibility.
When you are a caregiver, life is unpredictable. But if there is one thing you can predict, it is that caregiving will at some point interfere with your paid work. Before that happens, do what you can to build and maintain trust at work. Trust is the currency we use to weather the rocky patches and that we trade for the flexibility required to balance care and career.
Here are 7 ways to build trust at work so that you can access the flexibility your life requires:
1. Communicate! Let your manager know that something is amiss in your life and how you plan to manage. Suggest ways the work can be covered if you need to leave. Let them know in advance that you may need to take a call or check a text during a meeting. You never want to surprise the boss.
2. But don’t over share. Leave the gory bits for your friends. No one at work needs to know the details of any drama you are dealing with – especially not customers or clients. What they do need to know: the headline of the situation you’re facing, the status of your work, and how you plan to handle it and communicate with them.
3. Take time off if you need it. Of course there are times when taking leave is best. I believe my coworker was implying that if I had taken a full leave of absence I wouldn’t have lost trust. My team wouldn’t have had any expectations from me about when they could reach me. I could argue all day that my teammates should have been accountable to the information I shared about my availability, but I’m the one with the trust to repair, not them. So that’s irrelevant. You need to make that judgment call.
4. Use the resources available to you. Flexibility doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re going to be unavailable or slow to respond, set an auto response on your email and voicemail. Save your work to the server so your coworkers can access it when you are not in. Copy the team on emails so they have the same information you do.
5. If you’re at work, work. If you opt to work during a crisis, then you need to do just that. I used to manage a guy who would tell me, “Liz, I’m not 100 percent today, so I can’t do much.” What?! I would have been open to, “I’m not 100 percent so can we push that deadline, or get an extra set of eyes on that, or can I work on an easier task today?” If you show up for work, the expectation is you can work. If you’re less than 100 percent and therefore plan to play Solitaire all day, take a sick or personal day.
6. If you work from home, work. Sometimes I see emails that say, “I am working from home today. I will reschedule my calls.” Why? If you are working from home, then work. If you don’t have the tools to be productive (like a phone for making calls) then you are not working from home; you are giving flexibility a bad name.
7. Mind your manners. Personal crises are a great time to remember that please and thank you can go along way with your team. You will need a little extra help. Ask for it, with a little extra kindness.
Finally, you can do all of the above and still suffer a reputational hit. If that happens, fair or not, keep working to rebuild the trust, and know that you made the best decisions and did the best you could at the time.