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Remote work has proven to be more than just a temporary solution for a number of highly successful companies. Sean Maguire, President of Synivate, provided me with a fascinating perspective on this question in a recent interview with him. 

Founded in 2011, the company adapted to the shifts brought on by COVID-19 and the evolving demands of the IT industry. This strategic pivot not only continued business operations but also markedly improved team rapport and productivity.

In my interview with Maguire, we discussed the transformative impact remote work has had on his company, offering insights that could reshape how businesses view remote operations.

The Evolution Of Remote Operations

When the pandemic hit, Synivate faced an urgent need to adapt. Initially rooted in traditional, face-to-face interactions, the company recognized the benefits of remote work not just as a temporary solution but as a strategic opportunity.

Here's how the transition unfolded.

Rethinking Work Dynamics

The switch to remote operations wasn’t just about changing locations—it involved reimagining how every aspect of work could be conducted.

For instance, team meetings transitioned from conference rooms to virtual huddles, and watercooler chats moved to Slack channels. This shift helped preserve team dynamics and even improved communication efficiency.

Cultural Shifts

The move to remote work also required a cultural adjustment.

Synivate’s leadership worked to foster an environment where every team member felt valued and supported, understanding that the physical office was no longer a pivot for their professional interactions. This involved regular virtual social events and structured check-ins to ensure no one felt isolated.

A key part of the cultural shift included boosting automation.

Automating the onboarding and offboarding processes for new organizations is crucial," Maguire said. "Automating that process provides for a very clean start for a new user. The worst thing is having someone start at a company and their first day is like, well, how come I don't have access to this system or that system? It really starts things off on the wrong foot."

Leveraging Technology

Adopting tools like Slack was crucial. More than just maintaining communication, these tools helped enhance team coordination.

Synivate didn’t just use Slack for communication, they customized it to mirror their operational workflows. Specific channels were created for different projects, departments, and even social interactions. This structure helped keep conversations focused and relevant, reducing noise and improving information flow.

Recognizing the potential for remote work to feel isolating, Synivate implemented scheduled daily huddles and weekly team check-ins through Slack. These were short, structured sessions designed to align team goals, share updates, and address any immediate concerns.

This practice helped maintain a rhythm and kept everyone on the same page, fostering a sense of unity and purpose.

To maximize the benefits of Slack, Synivate invested in training sessions for all team members, focusing on best practices for communication, file sharing, and using Slack’s features effectively.

They also created a set of guidelines on Slack etiquette to ensure communications were respectful and productive.

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Advice for Other Companies:

  • Structure Your Channels Thoughtfully: Organize Slack channels around clear themes or projects to keep discussions organized and reduce information overload.
  • Leverage Integrations: Utilize integrations with other tools to make Slack the hub of your work environment, minimizing the need to juggle multiple applications.
  • Establish Communication Norms: Set clear guidelines on how and when to use Slack, including expectations for response times and appropriate message types for different channels.
  • Regular Training: Continuously offer training and updates on new features and best practices, keeping the team skilled and efficient in using the platform.
  • Scheduled Interactions: Implement regular virtual meetings and check-ins to keep team engagement high and ensure everyone feels connected and valued.

The transition wasn't without its challenges, but the outcomes were clear. Productivity saw a measurable uptick, projects were delivered on time more consistently, and team members reported higher job satisfaction.

Core Values And Communication

For any organization, a transition to remote work is deeply intertwined with its core values, which are more than aspirational ideals—they are practical directives that influence everyday actions and decisions.

For Synivate, here’s how these values are actively cultivated:

Extreme Ownership

This means every team member, regardless of their role, takes full responsibility for their contributions and the outcomes of their work. To encourage this, Synivate has implemented a transparent feedback mechanism where employees regularly present their projects to peers for critique, fostering a culture of accountability and continuous improvement.

Customer Satisfaction

This core value is about exceeding customer expectations through proactive service and rapid response to issues. Synivate measures customer satisfaction regularly through surveys and has a responsive system in place, ensuring that every team member knows and reacts to the feedback. This visibility helps everyone understand their direct impact on customer experiences.


Synivate promotes a strong sense of team unity by facilitating regular virtual team-building activities and using collaborative project management tools that require active participation from all members. This ensures that no member feels isolated despite the physical distance.

Following Processes

Adherence to established processes is critical, especially in a remote setting.

Synivate uses detailed process maps that are integrated into their project management tools, ensuring that all team members follow the same procedures and guidelines, which are routinely reviewed and updated to adapt to changing needs.

Being Resourceful

Encouraging resourcefulness, Synivate offers training sessions on problem-solving and creative thinking.

They also maintain an internal wiki where employees can share innovative solutions and shortcuts they’ve discovered, promoting an environment where resourcefulness is recognized and rewarded.

Using platforms like Slack not just for task-related discussions but also as a venue for reinforcing these core values is also part of it. For instance:

  • Dedicated Channels: There are specific Slack channels for shout-outs and acknowledgments, where team members celebrate displays of core values in action.
  • Regular Check-Ins: Daily and weekly check-ins are not just operational updates but also include a segment on core value reflections, where team members share how they’ve embodied these values in their work.

Values serve as a compass, guiding team members in their daily tasks and interactions, and ensuring a unified approach to work that transcends physical barriers.

An active commitment to core values is key to maintaining 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 the principles of teamwork 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 organization.

This approach democratizes feedback, making it a collective responsibility rather than a managerial task. It serves a dual purpose: it not only motivates individuals by recognizing their contributions but also strengthens team bonds, as members feel valued and seen by their peers.

Maintaining Focus And Accountability

In transitioning to remote work, there is the potential for reduced oversight to lead to distractions and a dip in productivity.

To address this, they implemented Slack huddles, but with a strategic approach that enhances, rather than disrupts, productivity.

Purpose and Timing of Slack Huddles

Unlike impromptu desk stop-bys that can interrupt workflow, Slack huddles at Synivate are meticulously planned and purpose-driven.

These huddles are reserved for discussions that are crucial and time-sensitive, ensuring that the timing aligns with the workflow rather than interrupting it.

Guidelines for Conducting Huddles

Establish clear guidelines on what triggers a huddle and what they are meant to include. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Trigger Points: A huddle is triggered when a decision needs collaborative input beyond what asynchronous communication can efficiently handle, or when a project reaches a critical checkpoint that requires synchronous feedback.
  • Content Guidelines: Each huddle has a focused agenda. Participants are expected to come prepared with relevant information, questions, or updates that need immediate attention. This preparation ensures that huddles are concise and productive.
  • Integration with Workflow: To further integrate huddles into the daily routine without them becoming a distraction, Synivate employs scheduling practices that respect natural work rhythms. Huddles are often set during times when team members are less likely to be deeply engaged in individual tasks, such as mid-morning or right after lunch.

Team members report that these focused, time-boxed discussions help clarify objectives, align efforts quickly, and make efficient use of everyone’s time. This approach turns potential distractions into opportunities for enhancing teamwork and accelerating project momentum.

Embracing Remote Work

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 modernization, it's about enhancing efficiency and streamlining processes, particularly for onboarding and offboarding.

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, you can ensure that transitions in the 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.

3 Key Take-Aways

  • Strategic integration of communication tools can significantly improve team dynamics and operational efficiency by customizing workflows and integrating various productivity platforms.
  • Strongly embedded core values are crucial in maintaining team cohesion and motivation in remote work settings, guiding interactions and decision-making processes in the absence of physical presence.
  • Regular measurement of key performance metrics like client response times, project delivery, and customer satisfaction is essential to assess and demonstrate the effectiveness of remote work models, offering insights that can lead to further improvements.

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By Gleb Tsipursky

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is a best selling author, consultant and behavioral scientist. A proud Ukrainian American, Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio.