The Remote Work Reality: Supporting IT Help Desks to Meet Multiple Challenges

Apr 28, 2022

Over the past two years, the burden on IT help desks has skyrocketed. Companies have deployed new tools to support remote work, confronted new security risks and vulnerabilities, as well as transitioned IT support to remote and hybrid environments.

Today, employees use a combination of company-issued devices and BYOD. In fact, 36% of companies have at least half of their employees using their personal smartphones for work purposes — further increasing the complexity that IT deal with day-to-day.  

IT help desks are usually the first stop for employees in need of support to work effectively from an office, home, or a combination. Accordingly, help desk staffers can be a critical enabler of organizational objectives regarding productivity, collaboration, customer service, and cybersecurity. As uncertainty persists about long-term approaches to work, IT help desks require the same agility that is driving transformation in other business units.

Technology professionals often say that their work encompasses tools, processes, and people. Remote work brought changes in all three areas, and then hybrid work — likely the dominant workplace model of the future — will prompt another round of adaptations. That means companies’ long-term plans for IT help desks also need to address the key aspects we’re about to outline in this post. Let’s get started.  

Make an Investment in Simplifying and Streamlining IT Support

All the tools that companies have deployed to enable remote work — mobile devices, videoconferencing platforms, collaboration software, and so forth — have dramatically expanded the landscape that IT help desks have to manage. 

Mobile devices, in particular, have become a frequent target of attack. A recent Zimperium study found that 75 percent of phishing sites targeted mobile devices. These threats have increased the burden on IT help desks to ensure that such devices are properly configured while also aligning with corporate policies, and security controls. 

That’s why many companies have invested in MDM tools that increase visibility into remote devices, together with IT service management platforms designed for remote support. These platforms make it easy for help desk staffers to support employees from a distance, with features such as remote control and screen sharing, and dashboards provide real-time visibility and analytics into help desk activity. Some platforms also offer mobile portals that allow employees to submit help desk requests from their mobile devices. 

Mobile device management platforms are another category of solution that has become more popular recently. These centralize and simplify the processes of deploying, configuring, and securing cell phones, especially when such activities are remote. Even so, because mobile devices can be time-consuming to manage, some companies are partnering with managed mobile experts to help them free up in-house employees, troubleshoot ongoing issues, and consolidate billing. 

Examine IT Help Desk Workflows to Increase Efficiency 

Workflows within IT — and between IT and other departments — need to be assessed and potentially redesigned for remote settings, with emphasis on efficiency, clarity, and simplicity.

Consider that processes for onboarding new hires and terminating employees have increased the workflows that IT must manage. For example, employees no longer collect or return their equipment in-person. IT must ship all outgoing equipment and manage the return of equipment that is either in need of repair or sent from a former employee. 

Beyond this, day-to-day tasks like troubleshooting, rolling out new solutions, and securing company assets are also evolving. IT staff must also ensure that employees using mobile devices (company-owned, personal, or a combination) have a consistent user experience across their devices — and that those devices don’t bring about new security risks. 

It’s no secret that many IT departments are struggling with too much work and too few resources. A study by IT recruiting firm Robert Half Technology reports that 43% of some 1,400 chief information officers queried believe their departments are either deeply or somewhat understaffed for handling their current workloads. For HR departments, hiring IT staff has become a continuous challenge as there is an increased demand for IT support but less qualified talent on the market. In addition, retaining staff has become a pain point as current employees are being recruited into other companies in a hot job market. 

Considering the current challenges of staffing, it’s vital to remember that if help desks are continuously bogged down in repetitive, low-level support activities, they will be unable to pursue more strategic, high-value initiatives. This can lead to turn over, frustration, and burnout. Taking the time to understand and to optimize IT help desk activities, through both manual and automated improvements, can free these critical staffers to focus on their highest-priority, and most rewarding work. 

Elevate the User Experience for IT and Non-IT Employees

There are compelling reasons to achieve seamless interactions between remote employees and IT help desks. If these interactions are difficult or if employees don’t know where to turn for help, they may try to solve problems on their own or use their own technology tools, effectively introducing “shadow IT” into the company. Both actions can introduce serious cybersecurity risks. 

In addition, an inability to get help easily leaves employees feeling frustrated. That’s a detriment to morale at a time when many companies are finding they have to work harder to attract and retain top talent. That challenge applies to IT professionals, too. Failure to adequately support IT help desk staffers could lead to turnover that costs time, money, and introduces instability into critical technology functions. 

One effective strategy is to provide resources that facilitate self-service for routine IT help desk requests. With input from help desk staff and historical data about support calls, companies can identify areas where self-service is feasible and craft resources that allows employees to solve their issues on their own. These might include self-service portals, user guides, and FAQs. 

Understanding how the role of IT help desks has changed — and how companies can best support them — is essential to maintaining organizational efficiency, protecting organizational assets and delivering a seamless experience to internal and external users. 

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