The past couple of months have seen a surge in employees working from home as part of the COVID-19 response. These are new, unchartered waters for many employees and their employers – with employees needing to adapt to new ways of doing their day-to-day work and potentially the unfamiliar technologies that support them. In particular, the use of new (if only to the now home-working employees) IT solutions – both software and cloud-based – for work collaboration, holding meetings, performing 1-2-1s, and virtual whiteboard sessions for brainstorming new ideas.
Much has already been written on IT’s response to dealing with the demands of COVID-19, the sudden rise in home workers, and the need to serve and support them. So, instead, this article takes a look at some of the technology-based aspects of working from home from the end-user perspective. With the basis of the article formed around the home-working experiences of Claire, a project manager, who like many suddenly became a “forced” homeworker.This article by @SophieDanby takes a look at some of the technology-based aspects of working from home from the end-user perspective. #servicedesk #COVID19 Click To Tweet
The sudden homeworking explosion and its impact on employees’ technology use
Many organizations have gone to great lengths to ensure that their previously office-based workers can continue to do the jobs they’ve always done from the safety of their own homes. But while the jobs might be the same, the ways of working are not.
For employees such as Claire, there’s been exposure to new software and services in terms of the technology she needs to get her work done. As a knowledge worker, she already had access to a corporate laptop but there were still technology-enabled capabilities that were new to her.
For example, the suddenly-imposed new ways of working – especially being separated from colleagues – placed an onus on the need for a corporately-adopted instant messaging service. With her company’s IT organization not only responsible for the delivery and support of this but also – and importantly – the provision of a knowledge base of related information, such as tips and tricks on how to use the instant messaging service. Saving employees time in navigating the new software as they start to work in an environment of zero face-to-face interactions and communication with colleagues.
Sometimes these simple things can make a big difference. Did your IT organization do this “knowledge uplift” for its new homeworkers? If not, it’s probably not too late to do so still.
Understanding the many challenges of the newly homeworking employees
Homeworking presents employees such as Claire with issues that you or your company may not have needed to consider previously. For example, will an employee’s internet support them and other household members – including children – to all be online at once? With this also extended to the locality when, in the case of lockdown, every home is filled with one or more of homeworkers, on-demand video streamers, and game players. Plus, of course, if a homeworker can’t work because of home internet issues it’ll still likely be corporate IT that gets the blame.
Then there are many issues created by employees not fully understanding how to use the new technology they’ve been provided with. For example, and this is Claire’s experience, what happens when a bandwidth-intensive video call is accidentally initiated instead of a voice call? Can all employees that dial-in be sufficiently supported to have a disruption-free call?
It’s just one example of the many issues faced by employees, such as Claire, in the early days of homeworking that IT departments need to quickly address. The employees can help themselves too. For example, after the first few days, Claire found that her internet would best deal with video calls at certain times of day – with this impacted by both household members and probably other residents’ use of their broadband connections.
Simple IT communications offering guidance will help employees to avoid the most common homeworking mistakes. In the above example, IT could provide advice to employees about identifying the best times to initiate video calls and using audio calls or text-based conversations at busier times. Perhaps even recommending that not all calls need to be video calls!
Plus, there also needs to be a corporate-wide realization that it’ll not always be possible for employees involved in virtual meetings or conversations to participate without background noise given that other family members, including children and pets, will also be isolating at home.Homeworking has created a greater need for IT support says @SophieDanby #ITSM #ITSupport #COVID19 Click To Tweet
Homeworking has created a greater need for IT support
Claire has never needed her company’s IT support team as much as she has since she became a “forced” homeworker. There have been requests for IT equipment, access, and help with application issues. For example, requests to access certain shared drives that normally would only be available via the company network in the office.
And to ensure that she could work effectively and safely from home, Claire requested homeworking IT equipment. Because she knew that she couldn’t sustainably work on her laptop and therefore required a monitor, a keyboard, and a monitor stand. Although it surprised her that these all needed individual tickets raised. Homeworker equipment bundles, ideally available via a service catalog, anyone?
Homeworking has raised the profile and importance of IT support
Claire and her colleagues were quick to realize that the business-wide change from office working to home working, all within a few days, created an immense strain on their already busy IT team. Plus, the importance of quickly getting access to IT support when needed.
Hopefully, this new-found respect for IT support staff will continue long after the COVID-19 crisis is behind us. If you’ve not heard the quote “IT is like air – people only notice it when it’s not there” before, then hopefully it has just made you smile. For me, it’s indicative of where we’ve been for the last couple of months with the provision of homeworker IT services and support.
So, that’s an end-user view of IT support during the start of the homeworker migration caused by the COVID-19 crisis. It’s good to see that the efforts of IT support personnel were, and still are, appreciated. And it’s interesting to see how simple things can cause employees productivity issues. Do you have any end-user feedback to add to this? If so, please use the comments section below.
Sophie is a freelance ITSM marketing consultant, helping ITSM solution vendors to develop and implement effective marketing strategies.
She covers both traditional areas of marketing (such as advertising, tradeshows, and events) and digital marketing (such as video, social media, and email marketing). She is also a trained editor.