IT Policies

Prevent help desk burnout (part 1)

Have you or your employees become burnt out with working the help desk? This can lead to employee turnover—a major help desk problem. In this first part of a series on reducing burnout, Bill Detwiler examines the issue from a personal perspective.

Burnout is one of the biggest issues facing help desk personnel. Most people I’ve worked with on a help desk have only lasted 18 months, and many moved on after their first year. Keeping qualified employees is essential to maintaining a high level of client support and a reasonable cost of ownership. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be examining ways for help desk managers and staff to reduce burnout and even have a little fun on the job.

When everything was new
When I first started working help desk, everything was new and exciting. Each day brought stimulating problems and fresh challenges. As time passed, however, most of the problems became routine and the challenges disappeared. I still enjoyed my job, but something was missing. The luster had gone out of working the help desk (especially after I created my hundredth Microsoft Outlook profile).

Why was I no longer motivated and eager for every Monday morning? I still loved technology and desperately wanted to further my IT career. I enjoyed interacting with my clients and coworkers. Even my boss was great and did what she could to help. Then, like a bolt of lightning, it hit me; I was bored.

The same old problems
I went to work every day to the same people with the same problems:

“My printer won’t print.”

“I’ve forgotten my password.”

“I can’t get into my e-mail.”

“My computer keeps locking up.”

“Why is my computer running slow?”

Frankly, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was spending at least six-and-a-half hours each day on the phone, answering questions that were usually solved by rebooting. After 19 months, I was worn out and needed a change. So did several of my coworkers. Three other employees left the help desk the same month I did. They went to other departments within the same company, but all were seeking greener pastures. Like them, I had gone as far as I could at the help desk and had had enough. It was simply time to move on.

What could have been done?
Turnover occurs in every organization, but it’s especially prevalent in the ever-changing IT workplace. Help desk personnel must accept this. However, steps can be taken to minimize turnover due to employee burnout. In the next two parts of this series, we will look at useful tactics for both help desk managers and their staff. These include phone time, job rotation, and administrative duties, as well as shift scheduling, site visits, and extracurricular activities. The goal of all of these tactics is to make your help desk a more enjoyable, rewarding workplace.
What methods do you use to keep both you and your staff from falling victim to burnout? We’d like to know. Please post a comment below or send us an e-mail.

About

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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