TMCnet Feature
April 05, 2021

Challenges of Remote Teamwork in IT

The year 2020 was a remarkable one in many ways. The challenge of a worldwide pandemic the likes of which had not been experienced in recent times brought widespread changes to the lives of just about everyone.

Subjected to restrictions on movement and with businesses forcibly closed, the upheaval and turmoil have been felt across the world. What has been remarkable is how commerce and industry have reacted to the crisis, and how eyes have been opened as to the power of IT and how we rely on technology.

The following article explores the challenge that has been endured especially by the IT industry, and why certain practices have come to the fore. We’ll also look at how best to organise remote working, and how to keep productivity high in such situations. Finally, we will look briefly at how the past year’s forced changes may influence the future of our working lives.

Rising to the Challenge

We are so used to our routine – get up, travel to the office/place of work, get the job done and then repeat the journey in reverse – that the impact of suddenly not having to commute was a difficult task to handle.

It is in our nature to follow routines, and for children, it is even more important. When the governments of many countries imposed lockdowns the impact was severe for many, but for industry and commerce across the board, it spelt disaster.

However, what was soon noticed was the way people rallied to the cause and rose to the occasion. Life had to go on, and businesses still had to operate even if they could only do so with remote teams. When it came to organising a home for remote working, the onus lays firmly on the IT industry and its many offshoots.

Businesses that followed the Agile (News - Alert) method of working were able to make changes surprisingly quickly. Soon, the job of the remote scrum master became doubly important, similarly to the development team. Being able to react and reorganise at speed helped not just in keeping business afloat, but also delivered some remarkable efforts to help with the crisis.

For example, demand for PPE and medical equipment rocketed very quickly. Manufacturers of vehicles and other engineering companies switched from their usual products, reprogramming their computers and machines to produce equipment as required.

This hands-on approach was seen across the world, with the automobile industry providing vital manufacturing capacity. This could not have happened without the 21st century IT industry and the technology therein, and not just in manufacturing capacity.

Working from Home

Most homes in the developed world have a computer and a connection to the internet. That enabled fast reorganisation of office staff to work remotely from home. However, in many cases the hardware – and software – in place was not capable of handling the sort of traffic that an office network was used to.

Thus, the IT teams came into their own once more, enabling connections across the world and installing video conferencing technology that brought face to face meetings to people many miles apart, even in groups. Hardware such as headphones and microphones, not to mention laptops, also experienced massive rises in demand, leading to the IT industry being one that was in full flow despite the pandemic due to necessity.

These enforced changes to the way we work may in fact have led to a different future, especially for desk-bound office staff. Is it really necessary for a small company to endure the expense of permanent premises when we now know that many roles can be carried out efficiently and effectively from home? For many people, working from the home has benefits. However, as we will see in the next section there are also some drawbacks, yet they can be easily overcome.

How to Organise Remote Working

It’s a fact that over the last couple of decades more people have gravitated towards at least part-time home working. It makes a lot of sense for those who have small children, for example.

The power of the IT hardware and those in the industry who facilitate networks for home working is suddenly enhanced. Many of the smaller businesses – and even large-scale corporations – are evaluating the possibility of extending or perhaps making permanent some roles as remote. It works, we’ve seen it work, and that’s almost entirely down to the IT industry making it work.

There is plenty of advice on remote working available, but what are the main considerations an employer and employee need to make when going down this route? Here are a few important points that need to be looked at:

  • Equipment: the employee needs a computer, a connection, and any other hardware that is necessary to do the job, just as they would in the physical office.
  • Communication: the general advice on communicating with team members and managers is to over-communicate. Ensure you keep up to date with your teams, and perhaps use a workplace monitoring software package that allows staff to report daily on their progress.
  • Be At Work: for the employee working from home, it is vital that a mental barrier is placed between work and family. Dedicate a space as the office, stick to usual office routines, and take breaks as you would normally.
  • Socialise: the missing social aspect of working in an office is one of the drawbacks for many, but you can talk to others using Zoom or other video apps, and perhaps arrange a meeting together on a regular basis.

The above few tips should help both employers and employees understand the differences between an office-based team and a remote team. Many businesses will start to organise their desk-based staff to work from home, as it makes sense for all on a cost basis.

Now that we know the IT infrastructure and equipment is capable, this will the way forward for small to medium businesses and could see a gradual move away from expensive city-centre office headquarters that are suddenly looking out of date and unnecessary.

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