Recognising the signs of help desk burnout

Does your help desk lose people due to burnout? If so, IT pro Jeff Dray offers his thoughts about how the attrition might be managed.

Do you find help desk work to be a chore lately? Is it hard to get up in the morning and get yourself into the office? Are you finding it harder to pick up the phone and sound cheerful and interested? Do the users get on your nerves these days, when you used to be very happy to provide help?

If you answered "yes" to two or more of these questions and have been working the help desk for more than a couple of years, you may be approaching help desk burnout, and it might be time to move on.

Most IT pros start out on the help desk and move on to other specialisations. Although the help desk is often seen as the entry point for the industry, I have always maintained that a good help desk analyst's skills are often different from the ones shown by other members of the IT department.

After too many phone calls and too many callers, you can find yourself struggling to maintain your professionalism. For some, it indicates the end of a help desk career; for others, a temporary change of job role might be the answer.

Learning about another branch of the business is, in my view, always a good idea. A few days of working with another IT department can have great benefits, both in terms of skill set and developing strong links with other teams -- links that you can exploit later when you need to find answers to users' problems.

If you are shrewd, you can exploit your help desk burnout and come back a wiser tech -- or even find your next rung on the IT ladder, if you decide not to return to the help desk.

Every team in the IT department has to learn how to dovetail into the organisation. I have often been surprised at how poorly this is done; departments fail to truly communicate with others in the organisation. This is not just poor practice, it is wasteful.

At worst, you can have a situation where teams are working against each other; sometimes you have two people working on the same task. By rotating your help desk analysts around the different teams, you will develop them as workers and lengthen their support careers. In addition, you will build those all important bridges between different departments and teams and be more efficient.

Does your company follow this practice, or does the help desk constantly lose people to the rest of the organisation?