Skip to main content

The COVID-19 pandemic came quickly, and the safety of employees needed to come first before any business outcome. Many businesses were left with no choice but to go remote in March 2020. So businesses switched to fully remote work, leaving a lot up in the air regarding timelines, expectations, and what will happen next. 

With so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, Suzy, a consumer intelligence company, decided to close its office for the rest of 2020. Suzy CEO, Matt Britton, shared that Suzy was one of the first New York tech startups to announce their closure for the entirety of 2020. Not long after, many of the big tech players such as Facebook and Google announced similar news. 

More and more companies remained remote as the pandemic charged on. Although productivity wasn’t being impacted, many companies were facing similar cultural challenges. Plus, not everyone is well equipped to be fully remote or knows how to navigate a remote work lifestyle. 

“As the year went on, we continued to be quite productive and efficient, but not without a cost,” shared Matt Britton. “There’s definitely a lot of cultural downsides to being a remote office.”

Matt Britton joined Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence. He shared his insights on embracing a digitally native mindset, retaining company culture, managing employee expectations, and how Suzy helped its local community during the pandemic.

Embracing the digitally native mindset

What is a digital native? This might be your first time hearing the term, but you’re likely no stranger to the concept. Many people in today’s workforce are digital natives. They’re individuals who grew up native to a digital world. They grew up with technology as a significant component of their lives. 

“When I think of the word digital-native, I think of Millennials,” shared Britton. “Millennials are the first generation that grew up with the internet in the household. Gen Z is the first generation that grew up with the mobile phone in their household.” 

As companies shift to remote work, they need to embrace digitally-native employees and align their workflows with that upbringing and mindset. 

“I think an organization that aligns around those principles are ones that use tools like Slack to communicate, and they’re ones that understand that you need to move at the speed of culture, at the speed of business, and deploy the right amount of training and tools to your teams so they can act accordingly and really thrive,” shared Britton.

“You need to move at the speed of culture, at the speed of business, and deploy the right amount of training and tools to your teams so they can act accordingly and really thrive.”

Reframing workplace expectations for a digital world

As the world shifted to working remotely, many employees didn’t know what expectations were for working fully remote. 

“What we found is that a lot of our employees didn’t know what was expected of them in a remote environment. How late should they be expected to answer emails? What are the response times expected? How do they treat different channels, text messaging versus Slack versus email, et cetera?” said Britton. 

To help combat some of that confusion and set clear expectations with their employees early on, Suzy reframed their operating manual to align with their new way of work. 

“We essentially rolled out a completely new remote operating system to our employees, so they understood how we use different tools and what was expected of our team,” said Britton.

“That was incredibly impactful, getting people to reset to this new world and not making the assumption that they would just figure it out.”

This built a strong foundation for the Suzy team to thrive in a remote world. It also built trust between the Suzy leadership team and the rest of the team, which positively impacted the business.

Increased productivity for the Suzy team

With the new expectations in place and new technology leveraged, the Suzy team was well on its way to being successful in a remote world. In fact, their sales team was performing better than ever before with this new work model. 

Pre-Covid, their sales team was only connecting with one prospect per day. They would fly to meet a prospect in person, have one meeting, then fly back—consuming their entire workday. Now that everyone is remote, in-person sales meetings are a thing of the past. The Suzy sales team can meet with more prospects in one day than ever before. 

“I think the biggest benefits have just been productivity and efficiency. I think that our sales team can speak to a significantly higher quantity of prospects than they were prior,” notes Britton.

Suzy enables everyone to thrive

Suzy took all the proper steps in ensuring their employees were set up for success when they switched to remote work —but it didn’t happen overnight. 

Now, more than ever, companies need to listen to their employees to keep business running smoothly, keep morale high, and combat burnout. So the Suzy team listens to their employees and solicits feedback on a weekly cadence using a tool called Peakon

“We have an amazing chief people officer named Anthony Onesto, who really is a pioneer in this space at making sure that our employees not only feel heard, but we’re extracting data from that feedback to benchmark in a variety of different categories across departments, across employee cohorts, and then we can act on that data,” shared Britton. “If the engagement is low from a certain cohort in our organization, how do we over-index in that to make sure that we level it off the next time?” 

To grow as a company, Suzy relies on the data and feedback from their employees, especially now with the loss of office camaraderie. The team knows that if they didn’t solicit this feedback from their employees, employee dissatisfaction could fly under the radar and negatively impact culture and, ultimately, business outcomes. 

By checking in with their employees, they ensure that employee voices are heard and remain part of their foundation.

Giving back to the community

Not only is Suzy aligning their internal strategy to allow their employees to succeed in a remote environment, but they’re also ensuring their local community is able to maintain a sense of normalcy during these hard times. 

While every office went remote during the pandemic, schools also had to switch to a remote model. Remote learning, much like remote work, wasn’t an easy adjustment for everyone. Not every child had access to the technology needed to attend their classes virtually. So, the Suzy team wanted to do something about it. 

In collaboration with a New York tech association, Suzy led the charge in collecting unused laptops and donating them to children in need. There were many unused laptops across New York City offices that the Suzy team put to good use, helping underprivileged students continue their education. 

Matt Britton and the Suzy team have built a strong business model and uphold core values that they love to impart to their local community.

Advice for companies embracing hybrid and remote work

As Britton mentioned, there are high cultural and emotional costs to working remotely. It’s the responsibility of the leaders to help employees fight burnout and keep the business running as normal as possible.

For example, in an office, all of your coworkers are just a few steps away, so it’s easier to make connections. But now, you have to be more intentional about how you interact with coworkers, and for junior-level employees, it might not be as easy to get in front of the c-suite as it once was. 

“I think people who are embracing remote work have to be really intentional about having an ongoing curriculum of in-person meetups, especially for the more junior people in your organization who have never had the ability to build close personal relationships and are at a disadvantage.”

At the end of the day, success in a remote world comes from listening to your employees, building trust, reinventing a healthy culture, and embracing the mindset of a digital native.

“I think everything is going to be more digitally native, and I think it’s going to continue to become more and more globalized over time. I think your ability to have a global outlook is going to be increasingly important for companies to be able to succeed moving forward.”

Leave a Reply