September 06, 2022

How To Build Trust and Engagement With Remote Employees

  • With more workplaces embracing remote offices, how do we create a virtual water cooler to maintain employee engagement? Stephen Costigan and Thomas Fisher of MetaSpark, speak about the importance of employers intertwining passion and purpose to quench employees’ thirst for belonging.
  • Today, many blue-collar employees are working to “skill up” and move into white-collar positions. Will automation bridge the gap and make workforces more accessible, or will society remain entrenched in the traditional binary? 
  • The tables have turned: Employees now hold more cards in their career paths than ever before. In order to retain teams, employers need to begin by being vulnerable and walking a mile in employees’ shoes.

They say that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Unfortunately, for most of us, doing the things we love doesn’t pay the bills. But what if it could? 

Would you believe in a future that combines artificial intelligence (AI) technology and passion-focused workplaces? What if mundane tasks became automated? Could employee skill sharing across departments and intentional training become the norm? 

Looking ahead, this reality might be closer than we think.

While remote work culture ushered in new frontiers, tools like MetaSpark have been pivotal to transforming relationship dynamics. The future of planning, executing, working and rewarding teams in one unified online environment has never been more accessible. That’s where Stephen Costigan, founder of MetaSpark, and Thomas Fisher, head of Growth and Strategy at MetaSpark, eagerly step in.

On this episode of the TribePod podcast, Costigan and Fisher lead a walk down memory lane, exploring and commenting on the living museum of the world of work. They start with the distinctive legacy of Henry Ford and share their opposing otherworldly views on the future of AI. But they agree on one thing: The workplace will never be the same. 


Driving Down Memory Lane With Henry Ford

Remarkably, one man’s decision from over a century ago is still paving the way for workplace evolution. In 1914, Henry Ford did the unthinkable: He began paying employees five dollars per hour and guaranteed an eight-hour work day. 

His decision was a gamble on two things. First, he wanted to attract dedicated employees and knew everyone would respond to higher wages. He also wanted to change the market by making employees able to purchase the vehicles they helped build. 

His instincts were right. Two years later, Ford referred to this employee wage increase as the best “cost-cutting move” he ever made.

While MetaSpark isn’t in the automobile industry, they are in the industry of people. Costigan and Fisher highlight the importance of making employees feel valued and what “the five-dollar wage” means in 2022. 

“Money’s not everything,” Fisher points out. “You can get people to do more for less, be more loyal for less and stay longer for less.” Even so, what truly matters is how employees feel. 

Costigan explains that Ford’s impact made a difference in how companies viewed their employees. By introducing a 40-hour work week, Ford gave people their first chance to develop a “work-life balance” — and he also turned employees into potential consumers. 

This mindset is still relevant today, if not even more so. “That little change in how companies viewed employees as not just creators but consumers … set the stage for what today is a workplace where the consumer holds a lot of the power,” Costigan says.

From Balance to Integration: Present-Day Priorities

With a shifting power struggle between employee and employer, it’s relevant to look back on how the work-life evolution began. 

Consider, for example, how going on a run fits into your day. Fisher notes that his parents’ generation would plan to go for a run after work, calling it “work-life separation” and viewing time for exercise as a perk of finishing the work day.

That mentality then transformed into the idea of “work-life balance.” Fisher points out that it became acceptable to leave work early to fit in a run, with the understanding that you would make up the hours by working late or coming in early the following day. 

With the push for remote work in the past two years, we are now seeing “work-life integration” — many employees use a treadmill during their lunch break or push for standing desks. 

The next stage is one Fisher is excited to witness: “work-life harmonization.” 

Continuing with the running example, work-life harmonization acknowledges that taking a jog helps employees with creativity, gives them a vital mental break and is a part of their path to success. 

For traditional employers, it feels like the biggest threat to a traditional worker mentality — and they have every right to be scared. 

With Generation Z entering the workforce, offices have had to change and tailor their brands to attract and retain talent. The biggest thing this new pool of job seekers looks for is alignment with their values. At their core, Gen Z wants to work for a company they feel is making a difference, and they aren’t scared to jump ship if they see a better opportunity. 

According to LinkedIn, a whopping 80% of Gen Z employees wouldn’t think twice about leaving an employer within six months of their hire date if they find a new opportunity that aligns with their passion. Unlike their parents or grandparents, they aren’t playing the long game, and their boldness is shaking up the entire global office.

Costigan points out the previous generation didn’t have the luxury of following their passions. He also encourages employers to embrace this Gen Z mentality as it will “connect people to the mission and the values of your company.” In return, you’ll find loyalty and employees aligned with your company’s long-term success. 

working from home

Employee Engagement Through Building Trust 

While it’s easy to acknowledge that employers need to connect with their remote teams, they face the obstacle of doing so across a computer screen versus a boardroom table. 

When businesses began transitioning into home offices, the use of telemetry equipment to track employees’ locations and activity increased. While productivity seemed to be greater, employers were struggling to trust that their employees were being honest. 

But take it from Harvard Business Review: As soon as employees feel they aren’t trusted, they are more likely to let their productivity slide, and morale follows suit. 

Telemetry equipment doesn’t give you the full picture. In a traditional office setting, it might reveal whether an employee was unfocused or did not complete tasks. But what if this employee works better at night, or what if they are most productive from 6-8 a.m.? 

Costigan and Fisher believe remote work lifestyles are here to stay. They encourage employers to reframe their mindset towards productivity and employee-driven scheduling. Costigan explains that managers have a unique opportunity to stop using telemetry data, and he encourages them to pursue new measures of productivity. 

Passionate Predictions for the Next 10 Years

Costigan and Fisher agree that we are only at the tip of the iceberg for remote work and gig economy potential. Now is the time for employers to learn how they best connect with their teams — soon, that relationship will be vital to their business’s success. 

“Every day we’re automating the mundane tasks out of the workplace [and] getting them away from people,” Costigan explains. “With AI, the value of a person will be their passion for companies.” 

Employers need to stop making two key mistakes to pave the way to a promising future. 

Remove promotion structure

Successful and inspiring managers today aren’t printing reports on employee performance. They’re taking the time to understand and empathize with employees as human beings

They know what’s happening beyond the workplace and even offer mentorship or skill-building relationships for the employee’s benefit. Costigan notes that we still live in a “fear of failure mentality,” which makes teams stagnant. 

If employees aren’t focused on climbing the corporate ladder but on developing their own passions and strengthening skill sets, their work will continue to improve. They’ll also remain loyal to the organization that provided them with safe opportunities to explore. 

Don’t mourn for serendipity 

Without having the entire team within eyesight or collaborating together in the boardroom, we've lost what Fisher calls the “age of serendipity.” However, moving into a skillset-focused environment allows more voices to be heard and results in a new era of creative potential. 

MetaSpark’s mission is to promote individual purpose and alignment with company values. The organization realizes employers today need to show more concern for employee welfare than ever before. These concerns and professional empathy provide the foundation to understand how people impact the organization’s overall success. 

Fisher reminds employers that it is a privilege to understand your team’s hearts and minds in the workplace. Connecting the dots between tasks employees do every day and their impact is just the beginning.

The Future Is Friendly

Overall, Costigan and Fisher are both optimistic about the future. They view the world of work through a lens that is slowly sharpening with AI assistance. The best advice both leaders have for employers is to recognize the value of a person and the passion they bring to your company. 

“Organic integration will give our passion superpowers,” Costigan says. He also reminds companies to embrace mapping out employee structure based on individual skill sets and letting those talented employees fly. 

The world of work in the next decade might be completely unrecognizable. In the end, pursuing passion, mentorship and purpose will only increase each employee’s value and benefit the company that believed in them from the beginning. 



This article is based on an episode of TribePod, a HR community podcast by Proactive Talent, a recruiting, employer brand and retention consulting firm. Subscribe via Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts for more insight into best practices in human resources. 


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