How to Provide the Right IT Support for Home Workers

by Markos Symeonides, on 04-Jun-2020 11:24:25

Woman managing her online business at home and smiling

Your employees have never needed as much support as they do now. For most organizations, this is reflected in a sharp increase of the number of IT tickets and requests—relating to devices, communications, access, security, using new technology and more. To maintain workforce productivity and business continuity, the  IT Service Desk needs to become an Effective Support Hub: providing people with the right technology, setup, assistance, and Knowledge.

The Right Technology

The goal is to ensure employees can perform at a level that is consistent with how they performed in the office environment—to continue to do their best work.  To do this, they need a setup which mirrors their office environment: A computer to work on, access to the relevant datacenter apps, cloud apps, and shared drives—all from outside the local network.

One financial sector customer told us “We found most of our people had their own laptops, so it was access that was our main challenge. Not the access itself, that was simple, but providing secure access via VPN or through secure SAML / Azure AD was more complex. Security is everything in our world. As we set up users, we quickly found we were filling up the pipe and had to push up the bandwidth to accommodate everyone.

But not all organizations have had it so easy. One of our energy sector customers had to transition 60,000 staff to home working with just 2 days’ notice—when over half had no access to a computer at home.

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On top of the apps people use in the office, they need a few additional services that relate specifically to the home working context—for example, access to instant messaging and collaboration platforms like Teams or Zoom, a USB headset, noise cancelling headphones, and a webcam.

In the absence of the usual daily social interaction that happens in the office, IM and collaboration platforms enable valuable social communication between people, without clogging up your corporate email channel—so people can still make a distinction between what is and isn’t work.

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Create home worker equipment bundles in your IT Service Catalog, instead of asking them to select a PC, keyboard, mouse, monitor, monitor stand, headset, and webcam individually. This makes the process far simpler and faster for the employee.

The Right Setup

Most people prefer a desktop setup, with a proper desk, well-positioned monitor, and good elbow and back support—but many people are having to make do with laptops perched on dining tables, benches, and even planks of wood. Laptops are not comfortable to use for prolonged periods and encourage bad posture, so this is an additional challenge for the service desk—one which is usually solved by the facilities team during employee onboarding.

The problem is that in the current context, expert desk assessments are impossible: it is up to the service desk to provide information on what an optimized work set-up looks like, and then facilitate procurement to ensure that employees get it. Before long-term back, shoulder, and arm problems set in.

One Service Desk Manager said to me “We needed to get people up and running first, with setups we knew were not optimal for long-term use. Then follow up by upgrading the ergonomic aspects to make sure people are comfortable in a sustainable way. We don’t know how long this situation is going to carry on for, so we have a duty of care to ensure our people are not developing long-term physical problems. We also worked with the legal department to make sure we knew what our precise responsibilities were, so that we could meet expectations.

TOP TIP

Create FAQs, Educational Videos and other content that encourages productivity, well-being and services adoption- then publish this to your users through your Self-Service Portal and embed within your IT related communications with users.

Transitioning to Home Working is Like Onboarding

A good onboarding process doesn’t happen by accident; it requires careful planning and management. Likewise, with the transition from office working to home working, a process is required to guide activity and make sure each employee has everything they need. Get it right and they will be grateful. Get it wrong, and the absence of kit means an employee can be left sitting on their hands—with a negative impact on revenue and customer satisfaction.

The unique part of the challenge here is that when you’re onboarding an office-based worker, you have total control over the environment—and physical access. However, when you are setting up a home worker, there are many factors beyond your direct control—and the employee is physically on their own.

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Where possible, start the journey with a video conference call to guide the employee through any set up issues; to set the tone of working-from-home communication. It is a far more effective way of communicating that email or voice-only calls.

For example, in the corporate environment, you can monitor and adjust internet bandwidth to ensure demand is supported. But do you know whether your employee’s internet service will be able to cope—especially when using bandwidth-grabbing applications like video conferencing? Are there other people sharing their bandwidth? The infrastructure lives outside IT’s jurisdiction, so if you want to find out, you need to talk to the employee.

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The Right Assistance

Separated from their colleagues, home workers need clear lines of support so that when they have a problem they can go straight to the right source of help. They can’t be left struggling on their own. With no peers around them, the service desk becomes the go-to hub for all IT issues and becomes overwhelmed unless you already have a Digital Workplace & Service Management Software platform that enables Omnichannel Support through online self-service, self-help, knowledge bases, chat and AI virtual agents  that work across mobile, tablet and PCs.

Though they are physically separated from their colleagues, many want to seek advice from their peers before they log a ticket with the service desk. Organizations who already have Enterprise Collaboration  or instant messaging platforms are finding that peer-to-peer support has simply jumped online—with the added advantage that people can reach far beyond their local team to get answers. This is a trend which is likely to be irreversible, even when people have migrated back to corporate offices. They have discovered that there is a global pool of knowledge to be tapped.

However, if they can’t get the answers they need from their peers, they will look to the service desk for help. If your service desk only provides phone support, you can expect a flood of calls. But, if you have a Web or Mobile Self-Service Portal, you can divert much of the spike in demand to Digital Support Channels. The volume of calls that you can divert from the service desk will depend on how well equipped your portal is to deal with the different types of issues that individual users have.

TOP TIP

AI-driven chatbots can handle thousands of issues, enquiries and requests simultaneously, but your human agents can only handle one at a time. By launching a service desk chatbot you can multiply your service desk capacity in one step, giving your human agents time to focus on issues that need human creativity to solve them.

If you have an embedded AI Chatbot Virtual Agent in your portal, this can deal with a wide array of service requests, queries and issues, such as password resets, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and other common “low level” issues—which do not require person-to-person contact to solve the issue.

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If you have a chatbot and the issue falls outside its capabilities, the user should be given options for what they want to do next: Do they want to escalate to a chat with a human agent, or do they want to simply log a ticket? As the bot will have already looked for pertinent information in the knowledge base, there is little point in referring them there (although for some of your more self-sufficient users, the knowledge base may be their preferred starting point). Again, choice is important: different people have different preferences. If you can give them options to match their preferences, they have a better experience.

If they choose to chat with a human service desk agent, they can bypass the phone channel or request a call-back, so they don’t have to wait. When this happens, the agent will need access to the full interaction the user has had with the bot to ensure they are not wasting time asking the same questions. Employees want a seamless omni-channel support experience where interaction can switch from channel to channel without friction or repetition.

Or, their preference might be to jump straight to logging a ticket so that a human agent investigates. The key point is that the choice must be theirs.

Of course, when a home working employee needs technical help, physical interaction with employee devices is not possible. Remote technology is essential for applying software fixes to desktops and laptops. This is not so easy with tablets and smartphones. For example, in most organizations, service desk agents cannot take control over a smartphone to set up mobile access to an email account. It is likely that they don’t have the technology to do so, and unlikely that an employee would permit them to do so. They must talk the user through it. However, there are simple workarounds that can help make this process easier—for example, using a laptop webcam to share what they see and what they are doing.

TOP TIP

Home workers often have multiple devices with cameras (smart phones, tablets, laptops). Ask if you can use one of them as your eyes and ears to see what the problem looks like when you cannot be there physically.

These are the sort of support hacks that service desk agents are uncovering daily to solve new and unfamiliar issues as they arise. When a large chunk of issues are solved by automated digital channels (such as a chatbot, a knowledge base, or self-logging) service desk agents have more time to think about creative solutions to new types of problem.

The Right Know-How

You can bring new tech online overnight, but it takes longer for people to catch up. You need to help them to be as productive as normal when the way they are working, and the setup they are using, is a bit different.

To ensure your people get the right know-how, you will need the right blend of pro-active “push” communications and access to centralized information resources from which your users can “pull” knowledge on-demand.

However, ultimately, if they cannot find what they need to know, the service desk will get a call. So the way you address knowledge management in this situation will have a direct impact on your service desk call volumes.

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More About Home Worker Support Solutions:

Topics:Self-ServiceService DeskDigital WorkplaceChatbotCovid-19

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