Remote Work Improved Our Productivity

Remote Work

By Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Can remote work really improve productivity? Sean Maguire, President of Synivate, offers a fascinating perspective on this question in my interview with him. Founded in 2011, Synivate began as a traditional in-person IT service provider. However, the nature of the IT industry, coupled with the advent of COVID-19, prompted a natural progression towards remote work. The result? A remarkable improvement in team rapport and productivity. 

The Evolution from In-Person to Remote Operations 

Synivate’s transformation from a traditional in-person operation to a remote work model encapsulates a significant shift in the business world. This evolution was not merely a reactive measure to the pandemic but a strategic pivot that tapped into the latent potential of remote work. Initially, the company’s operations were firmly rooted in face-to-face interactions, emblematic of the conventional business approach. However, the IT industry’s inherent flexibility and the unforeseen circumstances of the pandemic catalysed a paradigm shift. 

The transition to remote work, though born out of necessity, unveiled numerous unforeseen benefits, fundamentally altering Synivate’s operational DNA, according to Maguire. The shift went beyond mere physical dislocation; it involved a complete rethinking of work dynamics, communication patterns, and team management. By leveraging digital communication tools like Slack, Synivate not only maintained but enhanced its operational efficiency. The remote work model allowed for more flexible working hours, contributing to an increase in productivity and a better work-life balance for employees. 

Importantly, the shift to remote work was not just about adopting new technologies but also about embracing a new mindset. Synivate recognised that remote work could offer more than just a continuation of business; it could improve it. The team discovered that distance could be bridged effectively through technology, leading to a more focused and streamlined workflow. This transition also proved that physical presence is not the sole driver of productivity and team cohesion – a realisation that has profound implications for the future of work.  

Core Values and Communication: The Foundation of Remote Work Success 

The transition to remote work, though born out of necessity, unveiled numerous unforeseen benefits, fundamentally altering Synivate’s operational DNA, according to Maguire. The shift went beyond mere physical dislocation; it involved a complete rethinking of work dynamics, communication patterns, and team management.

The success of Synivate’s remote work model is deeply anchored in the company’s core values: extreme ownership, customer satisfaction, teamwork, following processes, and being resourceful. These values, far from being mere corporate slogans, are the lifeblood of the company’s culture and operations. In a remote work setting, where physical cues and face-to-face interactions are absent, these core values become even more critical. They serve as a compass that guides team members in their daily tasks and interactions.  

Communication, especially in a remote setting, can be challenging. However, Synivate harnesses tools like Slack not just for task-related discussions but also as a platform for reinforcing its core values. This approach transforms routine communication into an opportunity for team building and value reinforcement.  

This practice of aligning daily interactions with core values has multiple benefits. It ensures that team members are not just working independently but are united by a shared set of principles. This unity is crucial in a remote setting, where the physical separation could otherwise lead to a sense of isolation. By consistently reinforcing core values, Synivate maintains a strong team rapport and a shared sense of purpose, which are vital for long-term success in a remote work environment. 

The Role of Feedback and Recognition in Building Team Rapport 

Feedback and recognition play a pivotal role in fostering a positive and cohesive work environment, especially in remote settings. Maguire, understanding this, has instituted “Feedback Friday” at Synivate, a dedicated time each week for team members to acknowledge and appreciate each other’s efforts. This practice is deeply intertwined with the company’s core values, serving as a platform for reinforcing these principles in daily operations. 

Feedback Friday transcends the traditional notion of feedback as a top-down process. Instead, it encourages a culture of peer-to-peer recognition, where appreciation and constructive feedback flow freely among all levels of the organisation. This approach democratises feedback, making it a collective responsibility rather than a managerial task. It serves a dual purpose: it not only motivates individuals by recognising their contributions but also strengthens team bonds, as members feel valued and seen by their peers.  

Navigating Remote Work Challenges: Maintaining Focus and Accountability 

Remote work, with its inherent flexibility and freedom, also introduces unique challenges in maintaining focus and accountability. In a remote environment, the lack of physical oversight can lead to distractions and a potential decrease in productivity. Synivate tackles this issue head-on by utilising structured communication methods like Slack huddles. These huddles are specifically designed for important, time-sensitive discussions, differentiating them from regular, ongoing communication.  

The concept of Slack huddles in Synivate’s workflow is akin to strategic, focused meetings in a conventional office, but with the flexibility and immediacy that remote work allows. By having a dedicated space and time for these huddles, team members can prepare and engage more effectively, ensuring that the discussions are concise and productive. This structure helps in maintaining the team’s focus on the task at hand, minimising the distractions that can often arise in a remote setting. 

Moreover, these huddles contribute to a sense of accountability. When team members come together in a dedicated communication space, they are more likely to be attentive and contribute meaningfully. This accountability is crucial in a remote setting, where the physical cues of an office environment are absent. The huddles provide a platform for team members to update each other on their progress, discuss challenges, and collaboratively find solutions, thereby ensuring that everyone remains aligned with the team’s goals and expectations.  

Measuring Productivity in a Remote Setting 

The measurement of productivity in a remote work environment is a complex yet crucial aspect for businesses. Synivate, in its transition to remote work, has adeptly navigated this challenge by focusing on tangible performance metrics. These include client response times, project delivery schedules, and customer satisfaction — all of which offer quantifiable insights into the company’s operational efficiency. 

In a remote setting, client response time is an excellent indicator of team responsiveness and agility. With team members working in various locations, Synivate’s ability to maintain or even improve response times is a testament to the effectiveness of its remote work systems. Fast and efficient responses to client queries not only enhance customer satisfaction but also reflect the company’s overall operational efficiency. 

Another critical metric is the adherence to project delivery schedules. In a remote environment, where team members don’t share a physical space, coordinating complex projects can be challenging. Synivate’s success in maintaining or improving project delivery times post-transition to remote work underscores the effectiveness of their project management and team coordination strategies. This is particularly noteworthy given the additional challenges remote work can introduce in terms of coordination and communication. 

In a remote environment, where team members don’t share a physical space, coordinating complex projects can be challenging.

Perhaps the most telling indicator of productivity is customer satisfaction. This metric reflects not only the quality of the product or service delivered but also the overall experience of working with Synivate. The fact that customer satisfaction has remained high or improved in a remote setting indicates that the company has not only managed to maintain its service standards but possibly even enhance them.  

Embracing Remote Work: The Future of Business Operations 

Looking forward, Maguire’s vision for Synivate aligns with broader trends in the business world, with an emphasis on SaaS solutions and automation. This focus is not just about leveraging technology for the sake of modernisation; it’s about enhancing efficiency and streamlining processes, particularly for onboarding and offboarding.  

The efficiency of onboarding new employees or transitioning out departing ones is crucial in maintaining operational continuity. In a remote environment, where physical interactions are limited, automating these processes can significantly reduce delays and misunderstandings. By investing in systems that make these processes seamless and user-friendly, Synivate ensures that transitions in their team do not disrupt the overall workflow.  

The shift towards SaaS solutions and automation is a strategic move that aligns with the demands of a modern, remote workforce. These technologies offer scalability, flexibility, and accessibility — essential qualities for a distributed team. By adopting these tools, Synivate not only positions itself at the forefront of technological advancements but also ensures that its team has the best resources to maintain productivity and connectivity regardless of their physical location. 

Conclusion 

Synivate’s experience is a testament to the potential of remote work to enhance productivity and team rapport. When I talk to clients considering a remote-first model, I’ll be using Synivate as a case study. By prioritising core values, effective communication, and strategic use of technology, businesses can thrive in a remote or hybrid environment. The future of work is not just about where we work, but how we work together, even when apart. 

About the Author

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is the best-selling author of 7 books, including the global best-sellers Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and The Blindspots Between Us: How to Overcome Unconscious Cognitive Bias and Build Better Relationships. His newest book is Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioural scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.