Members offer tips for preventing help desk burnout

Are you an IT support technician who's burnt-out with your current job, or are you a help desk manager trying to keep up your troops' morale? TechRepublic members offer their comments and suggestions to help you deal with help desk burnout.

In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members intended to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, we look at the responses from our members on how to combat help desk burnout.
Staff turnover is a constant problem in the corporate realm, especially in the technology sector. A successful help desk must be able to effectively hire and maintain a qualified workforce. While many issues cause individuals to leave help desks, employee burnout does not have to be one of them.

In July, I wrote the first in a series of articles on help desk burnout. The first installment discussed my own burnout experience. The second part suggested several methods to help others avoid what happened to me. Since then, I’ve received numerous comments and suggestions from TechRepublic members on how to handle the help desk life. We can all learn a little something from their experiences.

Members share their experiences

  • Marie D.

  • “As a help desk manager, I use [turnover time] as the amount of time I will have that person before they get promoted to another job. Right up front, I actually tell them that they will be in the job for 12 to 18 months before they move on, either within the support organization or somewhere else in the technology department.
    ”As such, I very rarely have people who get permanently frustrated or feel that they have dead-ended at the help desk. Instead, I get a motivated, interested person who actively researches all the various areas of the department. They have a broad generalist viewpoint and know at least a little bit about almost everything the department does.
    ”So instead of lamenting the turnover, I use it as a way to get highly trained generalists into the rest of the company. They never forget their initial training and as such are very helpful for the new help desk folks.”
  • Matt G.

  • “My boss (who is great, I might add) provides us with projects to keep our jobs interesting, as well as working on solutions for work flow and increasing productivity in other departments, but a lot of what we do these days is repetition.”
  • Ross Z.

  • “We attempt the following to relieve the mundane:
    1. Rotate functions, e.g., the guy/gal who covers the phones one day does not do so the next.
    2. Team outings including doing what the team likes to do, e.g., playing pool, catered lunches, dinner outings.
    3. Our budget does not permit formal training for help desk personnel. However, all associates are encouraged to interact at all levels within the business to promote not only knowledge of this business (IS/IT) but working knowledge of the company’s processes.
    4. Gripe sessions: Open forums to discuss how to improve the business processes/flow going forward with regards to both personalities and the business at hand.
    5. Incentives. Associate that consistently excels is rewarded (e.g., dinner for two at Outback).”
  • Robert G.

  • “Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the person calling is probably at the end of their rope. What do I do? I use humor to diffuse the powder keg. It works 99 percent of the time (hey, nobody's perfect) and makes it possible for me to depersonalize the comments of the caller. They are not truly angry at me, but at the system. Usually by the time I've finished talking to them, their blood pressure has dropped considerably, and they feel a lot better. The person who has blown their password yet again may feel like a fool, but when I joke about messing my own up, they tend to feel less embarrassed and usually feel better about themselves when we hang up. It's not that hard, and it has a very positive effect.”
  • Helen M.

  • “I think using the trainer for half of their time to do help desk and the help desk person for half of their time to do the training is a great combination. Job sharing, as such. That way, the trainer sees the problems people face on a daily basis and can incorporate those issues into their training. The help desk person then gets away from their desk and deals more directly with users in a happier setting.”
    Do you have a burnout experience you would like to share? Have you found a great way to stay interested and avoid the burnout bug? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion below or send us a note.
  • Teresa W.

  • “To help prevent help desk burnout and boredom, our computer techs take turns working the help desk for a week. Our rotation schedule gives us a chance to catch up on desk time and possibly help customers we are seldom in contact with. Since all techs have a heavy schedule of providing training, repairing computers, and performing preventative maintenance, the help desk time is a welcome relief. We all have our areas of technology we are studying, and this helps keep boredom at bay as well as make us provide better help for our customers.”
  • Alison S.

  • “We currently try to keep our help desk people from burning out by offering different product lines to work on. The junior techs start out with the basics—once this has been mastered (three to nine months depending on the individual and abilities), they then get moved on to another application. This helps keep the spark of something new to learn and keep the motivation up. As they learn new products, they become more valuable. We also try to offer other things to do than just help desk. Some people like to do installs; others like to train staff or customers.”
    By submitting a response, you agree to let TechRepublic publish your thoughts on its Web site. You also agree that TechRepublic may adapt and edit and authorize the adaptation and editing of each submission, as it deems necessary. TechRepublic may or may not publish a submission at its sole discretion.


    Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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