Service desk technicians and IT departments across the globe are under an unprecedented amount of strain due to the COVID-19 crisis. For instance, higher volumes of calls and longer days as a result, more demanding end users (who are unable to work at home because of technology issues), sick or absent colleagues making workloads harder to complete, and perhaps even homeworking themselves for the first time. All of which will undoubtedly harm their wellbeing and potentially even their mental health.
To help, with the potential issues here, this blog looks at ways to safeguard and better look after your IT support people.
Tip #1: Offer support
First and foremost, be there for your people (or your colleagues if you don’t manage people). It’s so hard at the moment and it’s going to continue to be tough even as restrictions start being lifted. Make sure that your team knows that you’re available to talk to, even if it’s just listening to people vent. Sometimes people feel that venting to their manager will get them labeled as being negative but trust us, people should get whatever’s troubling them out of their system rather than not talking about it and struggling on their own.
Tip #2: Check resources levels
Do you have enough people given the changes? Honestly? Now is the time to take a look at your shift patterns and make sure that you definitely have enough people to cope with the increased demand. Another thing to do is to check that your team has everything they need to work. For example, make sure that there are enough admin licenses and that everyone has access to a fully configured and confirmed-to-be-working remote support tool.
Tip #3: Appreciate the importance of breaks
Make sure that everyone is taking their allotted breaks, no matter how busy they are. It’s very tempting to skip breaks in an attempt to make a dent in the queue but if your people aren’t well-rested, their productivity will decline and they will eventually burn out.
Tip #4: Lead from the front
As a manager, you need to be able to understand what your people are experiencing. So, do what you can to reduce the pressure on your team. Take calls. Have people point anyone getting antsy at you. Spring for nice coffee, because sometimes it’s the little things. In short, lead by example.
Tip #5: Adopt a formal mental health framework
Make it clear that wellbeing and mental health are a priority in your organization by adopting, or creating, a formal support framework. Things to include are:
- A policy to cover mental health and wellbeing. This will ensure that people are treated consistently and fairly as well as guiding team leaders and people managers.
- Promote online learning and awareness. Encourage your team to attend webinars or online courses, or to watch short videos, to increase awareness of the potential issues, how to prevent them, and to make it easier to spot someone who may be suffering in silence.
- Establish a buddy system. Put something in place such that people have someone to talk to if it all gets too much.
- Offer “signposting” for further help. If your company offers an employee assistance plan, then make sure that you have the contact details available. Because, trust us, if someone is really struggling, then the last thing they’ll want to do is go hunting for the link or log on information.
Tip #6: Plan for the future
We know it doesn’t seem like it now but, at some point, things will start to get back to normal. And we all know what that means. Lots of people will be returning to the office and trying to work with equipment that hasn’t been restarted in weeks. When this happens, look through your existing tickets and work out what to prioritize based on organizational importance. Things to consider here include:
- Core services – making sure that everyone in the business can log on and access their apps and data
- Stability – addressing anything in the supporting infrastructure that needs updating or restarting
- Security – if you have delayed your patching schedule, then make sure that any outstanding security updates are tested and deployed as soon as possible
- Printers and scanners – because there’ll always be issues with ink and toner, check stock levels to ensure that you have enough to meet requirements.
By taking some additional time to clarify what needs to be taken care of first, you’ll help ensure that normal service is restored in a controlled safe way that will (hopefully) avoid overloading your IT support team.
Tip #7: Try to have fun (despite what’s happening around us)
Do what you can to keep staff morale up. Schedule regular team meetings and check-ins with individuals. Sometimes people can struggle to talk about how they’re feeling. So, even if it feels awkward and strange to have team quizzes or virtual happy hours over Zoom, it can stop people from feeling quite so isolated and alone.
So, that’s our seven top tips for how to look after your organization’s IT support people during the COVID-19 crisis. What would you add to these? Please let me know in the comments.
For more information on how we’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please see here how we’re offering our service desk solutions free of charge to anyone who needs them.