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New research reveals trust is the key driver of productivity

New Slack survey reveals a crisis of trust in the workplace, with more than 1 in 4 desk workers saying they do not feel trusted by their employers

Author: Eliza Sarasohn26th July 2023Illustration by Giacomo Bagnara

Quick take: A new Slack survey reveals that more than 1 in 4 desk workers do not feel trusted at work, despite the data also showing that trust boosts both experience and performance in the workplace. This article details these findings and more to help bring trust into focus.

New research from Slack on the future of work shows that feeling trusted in the workplace has the greatest impact on employee productivity. 

The latest results from Slack’s quarterly survey of more than 10,000 desk workers around the world show that while many companies looking to increase productivity have been overly focused on tracking individual activity metrics, these measures don’t get to the root of what’s holding companies back from stronger performance: trust.

Trust cultivates better employee performance and experience

Slack’s latest survey shows that trust is critical for setting employees up for success. Desk workers who feel trusted show exceptionally higher performance and report a better work experience than those who don’t feel trusted by their employers. Trusted employees report:

  • 2.1x better focus
  • 2x higher productivity 
  • 4.3x greater overall satisfaction with work

Trusted employees are significantly more likely (1.3x) to say they put in more effort at work. They’re also 1.2x more likely to say they’re willing to go above and beyond than those who don’t feel trusted at work (40% vs. 33%).

“Companies across geographies and industries have been, for years, experiencing an erosion of trust. The data shows this widespread problem unlocks opportunities for businesses to focus on trust to achieve both cultural and worker productivity benefits.”

Christina JanzerSVP of Research and Analytics, Slack

The survey results quantify this trust issue at work, with more than 1 in 4 employees believing “my employer doesn’t trust me.” This phenomenon is present globally, across industries and lines of business. It’s also equally present across all ages and tenures, indicating it’s not just a problem among newer or more junior employees. Nor is it a performance problem: among those who don’t feel trusted, 87% report meeting or exceeding manager expectations.

Employees who don’t feel trusted by their employers report:

  • 2.3x higher stress and anxiety levels
  • 2.1x worse access to relevant people, files and resources at work
  • 4.2x lower sense of belonging

The data also shows that distrust creates a trickle-down effect in the workplace. Managers who don’t feel trusted by their employers are twice as likely to express doubts about the work ethic of their direct reports. Employees who don’t feel trusted are also more than twice as likely to look for a new job.

“This research reveals a new path for leaders: to build trust in the workplace, focus on showing your employees that you trust them. Feeling trusted breeds hard work, which leads to more trust. This is a virtuous cycle all leaders can take advantage of to boost employee performance and well-being.”

Christina JanzerSVP of Research and Analytics, Slack

Transparency builds trust between leaders and employees

The research identifies transparent, two-way conversations between company leaders and employees as the foundation of trusting and healthy work cultures. Thirty-two percent of respondents say they lack information about changes at work. The number-one reason workers say their company isn’t transparent? Not taking into account employee feedback. 

Compared with employees at “non-transparent” companies, desk workers who say that their leadership is transparent about company developments say they are:

  • 1.6x more likely to feel trusted
  • 1.8x more productive
  • 2.3x more focused

“Cultivating channels for employees to share their ideas and feedback is a win-win even when the feedback itself is challenging. It allows organizations to tap into their own subject-matter experts to improve work output and experience—and it’s the first step to ensuring employees feel valued and heard.”

Christina JanzerSVP of Research and Analytics, Slack

Technology enables more transparency in the workplace

Tools have come a long way since the old “suggestion box.” In a world where nearly three-quarters of workers say their coworkers are spread across multiple locations, technology can help in sharing information transparently and gathering feedback globally.

Data shows that employees at companies that haven’t put the right technology in place can feel the difference. Desk workers at companies considered technology laggards and late adopters are 22% more likely to say they’re lacking information about upcoming changes compared with companies that are technology innovators and early adopters.

Access to even basic information is a challenge at many companies, the data finds. Individual contributors are struggling to get company news, while younger workers say they’re not receiving the background information they need to do their jobs. 

Experimenting with new tools and technologies pays off. Employees at “innovative” companies are 2.4x more likely to say their company is transparent compared with those at “laggard” companies. The level of trust within innovative organizations is also significantly higher. At “innovative” companies, workers are 1.4x more likely to say they feel trusted than those at laggard companies.


This Slack research surveyed 10,387 workers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. between February 13 and March 6, 2023. The survey was administered by Qualtrics and did not target Slack or Salesforce employees or customers. Respondents were all desk workers, defined as employed full-time (30 or more hours per week) and either having one of the roles listed below or saying they “work with data, analyze information or think creatively”: executive management (e.g. president/partner, CEO, CFO, C-suite), senior management (e.g. executive VP, senior VP), middle management (e.g. department/group manager, VP), junior management (e.g. manager, team leader), senior staff (i.e. non-management), skilled office worker (e.g. analyst, graphic designer). For brevity, we refer to the survey population as “desk-based” or “desk workers.”


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