IT Policies

Christmas on the help desk

That time of year is coming around again, when people take time off to enjoy Christmas at home and the office starts to look empty, yet there is always a need to man the help desk.

That time of year is coming around again, when people take time off to enjoy Christmas at home and the office starts to look empty, yet there is always a need to man the help desk.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This being said it is often the same people who get to take time off and the same ones who forgo a break to keep the wheels turning, so how do we make things a little more festive for those who have to come in to the office?

In some of the places I have worked fairness has been compromised at times. The standard excuse for somebody needing to take the week off was that they had children and should therefore be entitled to the time over those who do not. One of my colleagues used this excuse for several years until we discovered that, while he did have kids, they were grown up and lived in Australia.

In Britain, many people stop work on Christmas Eve and return to work after New Year's Day. However, there are still people who work through the break, and there is a need to offer support cover. Whenever it fell to my team to provide the cover, we tried to make the day an extension of the Christmas break. There would often be a couple of us working, and calls were rare but not unknown. We would end up with plenty of food, some board games, and maybe a TV to watch the traditional re-runs of The Great Escape, The Sound of Music, and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang.

The atmosphere was usually relaxed, but we were always ready to deal with any problems. Calls were usually people in other offices getting bored and lonely, calling us up to chat. We often wondered why we bothered, but we found things to do. We would catch up on the admin work, finish writing procedures, tidy the office, and generally catch up with all the things that were hard to find time for in normal weeks. No matter how relaxed we tried to make it, the day was still not as relaxed and enjoyable as spending time at home.

The trouble was that there really wasn’t much to do, and the time lay heavily on our hands. It was often a relief when things returned to normal in January.

How does your Christmas break affect the workings of your office? Take the poll.

7 comments
Joe_R
Joe_R

Good piece. Unfortunately, for those of us who provide all the support, there's no one to pass it off to. So far, however, it's not been too big an issue. I seem to take off a week or so around Christmas every year.

bmay
bmay

In my old job, we supported employees from all over the world. Being single, I always got screwed by the married couples. But the double-time pay was nice and plus Christmas Day has to be one of the most boring days of the year! My current job has less than a hundred employees (all on site) so I get Thanksgiving and Christmas off for the first time in over 10 years.

Bizzo
Bizzo

Who the support is for. We're mostly offshored. Maybe you should be asking "How will the Diwali period affect the helpdesk?"

RPip
RPip

Our help desk supports customers and field techs around North America, and our products are mainly installed in public safety centers - police, fire, EMS. Therefore, there is no such thing as a holiday. The best process we have found is to rotate the major holidays: I and several others will be working this week (Thanksgiving in the US) and will be off for Christmas week. The opposite is true for the remainder of our office.

Joe_R
Joe_R

.....the double-time pay and a slow day.

Mystacina
Mystacina

I guess I struck gold when I got this job. I get Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's off! I don't even know what I'm going to do with myself. Oh wait, yes I do. Play WoW and relax. ;P

victor.gutzler
victor.gutzler

I use the slow time to test new installations and file paperwork to the music of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Handel's Messiah. It's the best time of year, as long as there are no surprise ice storms (Fort Worth, Texas)....