Remote work collaboration: 6 exercises for IT teams

As remote work redefines the traditional workplace, IT teams need to implement new collaboration initiatives that sustain growth and foster innovation. Consider these strategies
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remote work collaboration

Most businesses have spent the last several months getting their teams set up to work fully remote using collaboration and productivity technologies such as videoconferencing and chat tools. While collaborating remotely may be easier for departments like sales and marketing, IT teams have also found new ways to adapt to remote work and collaborate more effectively.

For Zoho, the transition to remote work has been mostly smooth. But because some IT teams have unique needs to successfully work in a remote environment, we’ve also faced some challenges.

Fostering collaboration within our company looks completely different than it did six months ago. Despite dealing with tricky issues like how to fix hardware issues remotely, how to interact better with users, and how to provide remote assistance, our teams have learned to shift their traditional work model into one that enhances collaboration and sustains future hybrid work environments.

[ Don't let your team burn out. Read Remote work: 3 ways to prevent IT team burnout. ]

Through strategic planning, clear communication, and lots of experimentation, our IT leaders have developed collaborative activities that will grow no matter what the future work environment looks like.

Here are six IT collaboration exercises that can help your organization increase efficiency and promote digital transformation.

1. Enable flexible work hours

Many IT teams offer 24/7 support to their customers and employees. Pre-pandemic, most support teams relied on strategic scheduling to ensure that support staff was always available. With teams now working fully remote, flexible schedules are essential.

Allowing your IT team members to choose a schedule that fits their remote work lifestyle and that also meets support needs will increase the efficiency of the entire team. We encouraged our staff members to set their own hours so that parents who need to help their children with remote learning in the morning, for example, can work in the evening.

Giving your team members the freedom to schedule their hours will boost productivity.

Giving your team members the freedom to schedule their hours will boost productivity. When employees are forced to work hours that aren’t compatible with their personal lives, the quality of their work will suffer. Additionally, flexible scheduling encourages employees to interact with team members they might otherwise never encounter.

The bottom line? Work with your employees to mitigate stress and encourage teamwork.

2. Implement a smart ticketing system

Implementing a robust ticketing software system can help make collaboration seamless between team members, customers, and others. Look for a system that automates tasks and does the work for you. Automating ticket assignment, sending email requests, and analyzing staff workloads will not only save your business precious hours of work, but also give your IT team objective insights on what areas need improvement.

Our IT teams use a system that assigns large tasks to multiple members on the same work schedule and notifies them so they can collaborate based on when the staff is online. It also distributes tickets equally so that employees are never overloaded.

Most important, a smart ticketing system should allow your IT team to collaborate effectively with clients. With smart features such as notifications, chat tool integrations, and SLA reminders, your team will keep up with tickets and communicate efficiently with customers.

3. Reimagine meetings

The traditional approach to meetings doesn’t translate to remote work environments. For example, our IT teams generally met once a month when they were in the office. Now they schedule bi-weekly meetings to discuss pressing matters and ways to increase efficiency.

Scheduling regular, more frequent meetings allows employees to prepare and bring all their ideas so that they can collaborate more effectively. While meeting more often may initially take some getting used to, team members will quickly feel more comfortable with one another and collaboration will flow more freely.
[ How do your team meetings stack up? Read also:  Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

4. Invest in education and training

One of the best ways to further digital transformation in your company is to invest in ongoing education for your team. Hosting remote training sessions on various topics can help staff members keep up with new technologies and topics and encourage them to learn from each other.

One of the best ways to further digital transformation in your company is to invest in ongoing education for your team.

Training has encouraged our team members to work together and apply new concepts they’ve learned to their current tasks. Our IT team members also train and work with employees from different branches of the business, such as marketing, support, and other areas.

5. Find time to work on tasks together

Pre-COVID, employees could work together in conference rooms or discuss tasks over lunch. Remote work makes impromptu collaboration opportunities more difficult. Make sure your IT team dedicates time – whether it’s an hour a week or just a few minutes every day – to join a meeting and tackle tasks together. Think of it as a digital conference room where everyone jumps in to discuss issues and works together to troubleshoot problems. Scheduling collaboration sessions has enabled our teams to solve issues even more quickly than when we were in the office.

6. Plan social events that work for your remote environment

Many remote workplaces schedule regular virtual happy hours, coffee breaks, games, and other online social events. But not all social activities translate well in remote work environments. Pushing events that don’t encourage collaboration could leave your employees feeling drained. While it’s important to stay connected and socialize, make sure the activities you choose are appropriate for your IT Team.

For example, every year Zoho celebrates “Sysadmin Day” (System Administrator Appreciation Day) with a large internal conference. For the first time in ten years, this year we celebrated Sysadmin Day remotely, and it was incredibly successful.

We planned activities like virtual games, song and dance competitions, and exercises that connected with our IT team members, who thoroughly enjoyed the event. But the best part was that the format encouraged our more reserved team members to participate, and we got to know them better than we would have if the event had been in person. By increasing team members’ confidence, our remote event sparked collaboration among all who attended. That, in turn, inspired a new level of connection among teams that has translated into work projects and more collaboration in the future.

Like everyone, IT teams face new challenges in today’s work environment. But finding new processes that enhance collaboration, communication, and even social connections can help organizations scale for a remote, in-person, or hybrid work model in the long term.

Experiment with new strategies to find what works best. Try new processes that plan for a future that doesn’t limit you to one specific work environment. By re-imagining business processes and creating flexibility, you’ll allow your teams to grow and foster healthy remote work environments that can sustain your business over the long haul.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

As Chief Evangelist at Zoho, Raju Vegesna plays a leading role in presenting Zoho's message to the business market worldwide.