Over the last few weeks we’ve experienced a huge spike in tickets and calls to our service desk. It’s not surprising, most of our UK clients have closed their offices and staff are now working remotely, in unfamiliar territory.
While in some instances the technology was already in place to facilitate remote working, that hasn’t necessarily meant employees can just get on with it. For many office-based workers, it’s been a huge cultural shift and that’s having an impact on their productivity and morale – regardless of whether they have the tools to get on with work.
Feeling isolated is perhaps the biggest challenge to successful remote working. I think many people are feeling disconnected from work, they miss regular contact with colleagues, and at the same time they trying to master unfamiliar technology.
Moreover, people are worried about job security. This anxiety may be made worse when they don’t feel they’re performing at their best because of working from home; and they’re worried that line managers and senior leaders might not make allowances for this more challenging environment.
Remote working putting extra pressure for IT departments
No surprise then that remote working is putting IT departments under extra pressure. To the extent that some of our clients are finding that employees are circumventing the normal IT support channels and contacting their IT department directly.
This is not reflection on the quality or capacity of the service desk. It’s more a reflection of users’ anxiety about being able to work remotely, using new technology, feelings of isolation and being forgotten, and job security worries.
So, what can you and your IT support team do to allay their fears and ensure employees can work remotely successfully? I recommend the following:
Regularly share how to access support
The first thing to stress to users is that although their working practices have changed, the way to get IT support hasn’t. Regular communications will help re-embed your preferred channels to raise tickets and manage expectations for response times.
It can also be helpful to illustrate your communications with examples of the common issues remote workers experience, and how tickets are prioritised, so that users know that their request will be resolved in a timely way.
Create a knowledge bank of resources
Lockdown has accelerated many organisations’ digital transformation and often there has not been enough time to implement user adoption programmes for cloud technology like Office 365, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.
One way to catch up is to create a self-serve knowledge bank of resources to help users get to grips with the technology. Collate quick start guides, videos, FAQs etc. into a shared company resource and point users to it through your comms. You’ll find plenty of resources on the technology providers’ websites, such as this Microsoft Teams webpage.
Increase your service desk capacity
If you haven’t already increased capacity, explore a temporary boost to help deal with the increase in user requests. You may also want to review the way tickets are prioritised to reflect remote working and where possible speed up resolution times.
Waiting for support is a very different experience when working from home compared to an office environment. In the office staff may be able to get on with other things or use another corporate device, whereas at home they may not be able to do anything else but wait. Directing them to your knowledge bank may help them resolve their issue faster, or they could use the time to watch a training video as part of a user adoption programme.
Also, consider whether it would be helpful to extend your service desk coverage to evenings / out of hours. If you have employees who are parents they may be juggling home education with work commitments and need more flexible arrangements. IT issues could result in them being unable to complete work out of hours, leading to frustration and anxiety about remote working and performance.
Regularly check in with remote workers
Although you will want to reduce the pressure on your IT department, checking in regularly with remote workers is a constructive thing to do. Asking for feedback from your users is an opportunity to find out more about what will help them do their jobs more effectively, and potentially troubleshoot issues before they develop.
Set up a remote working forum
In an office environment staff will often help each other overcome basic IT issues, as some people will be more technology literate than others. Setting up a remote working forum where employees can collaborate, ask questions and give each other support is a good way of replicating this environment.
Of course, it’s not a replacement for technical support (and shouldn’t be) but it can help reduce requests for support related to the functionality of apps, such as “how do I invite an external contact to a meeting in Teams?” or “how do I find a file in SharePoint?”
A remote working forum can also help reduce feelings of isolation and your HR department can also use it to engage remote workers and provide emotional support.
Recruit executive sponsors and remote working champions
For once, there’s no challenge to get executive sponsors for remote working as everyone is having to do it.
However, it’s useful to identify a few people who are doing it well and can help you support other employees by modelling best practice and being proactive in using the technology you have available.
This is especially important when it comes to security. I’ve heard of individuals setting up Zoom meetings with colleagues and clients using private accounts, when their organisation has a much better solution in Microsoft Teams. Your executive sponsors and remote working champions can help other users adopt the technology and stay safe, and in the process reduce potential IT incidents too.
I hope you’ve found the above suggestions useful. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss IT support and how we can help you increase capacity and coverage if needed.