COVID-19 has impacted so many aspects of daily life in 2020, but perhaps its biggest impact has been accelerating remote work. The transition from offices to a fully remote workforce, which initially took place in March of 2020, has created huge disruptions for employees and organizations alike. For IT teams and help desks, the disruption has been even greater, as IT assets/infrastructure of hardware, software and support had to be rapidly deployed and adapted to complex work-from-home (WFH) environments.
Rescue by LogMeIn has teamed up with IDG to conduct a survey of IT leaders, Helpdesks in the New Normal, “to understand the impact of increased remote work on IT help desks.” The survey was conducted in the summer of 2020, months after the initial shock of the WFH transition had subsided.
Survey Says: Helpdesks Face Multiple Challenges in the “New Normal”
Helpdesks supporting the transition to a fully remote workforce faced massive challenges in the early days and weeks of the pandemic, scrambling to get hardware into employee homes, setting up systems and VPNs, and providing remote support as ticket volumes surged to unprecedented levels. And while many of these “transition shock” issues have been overcome, several big challenges remain for helpdesks. Let’s explore them:
1. The need to scale and flex support.
With the scrambling of March 2020 over with (according to 71% of our survey respondents), helpdesks have had to manage a large and complex volume of ongoing demand from a now fully remote workforce. There’s been no “back to normal” for anyone. Users who would have once walked down the hallway for IT help are now distributed all over the map, as is the helpdesk itself.
Helpdesks must be prepared to manage ongoing IT complexity coming from home environments where workers are increasingly using personal devices and non-compliant equipment for business. The potential for work disruption and employee frustration makes providing easy-to-access support, via multiple channels, a mission-critical function. Nothing terrifies IT professionals more than a frustrated user saying, “I’ll try to fix this myself,” especially from home.
2. BYOD: personal devices have become work devices.
Many companies experienced challenges with BYOD (bring your own device) policies long before COVID-19, largely because of data privacy and network security/cybersecurity concerns. But with everyone working from home, BYOD has become part of the “new normal.”
Our IDG/Logmein survey makes it clear that the use of personal devices for work is now prevalent, with half (50%) of respondents saying BYOD is currently happening in their organization “to a great extent” or “to some extent.” Only 7% of respondents say BYOD is not happening “at all.” The recent transition to a fully remote workforce has also changed attitudes about BYOD, with 71% of respondents saying their organization is now “more accepting of employees using personal devices for work.”
3. BYOD and remote work have exposed gaps in security.
Let’s place this challenge in the “no brainer” category. Even in pre-pandemic office environments, where IT departments and helpdesks had more physical access and control over company-owned infrastructure (and in-house employees), ensuring the security of systems and data was a major challenge. Now, with computing happening in complex home environments, often over personal devices, those security challenges have only gotten bigger.
The (relatively) good news is that 76% of survey respondents say they can “readily mitigate” the security risks and small gaps that have been exposed in the transition to a fully remote workforce. The remaining 24% of IT leaders, however, are facing bigger challenges and “considerable gaps we must close,” but clearly haven’t closed yet.
4. Helpdesks are finding innovative ways to help.
Helpdesks aren’t waiting around for solutions to fall from the sky, but have been innovative in finding ways to support their remote users. Our survey shows helpdesks have used a number of flexible approaches:
- Flattening tiers of support (e.g., tier 2 staff now taking tier 1 requests): 49%
- Crowd-sourcing support via Slack, Teams, etc.: 40%
- Increasing hours of support: 36%
- Expanding to support non-compliant equipment (see BYOD discussion): 35%
- Changing SLAs: 26%
- Outsourcing to MSP/BPO: 22%
What’s clear is that helpdesks need and deserve more help in the form of easy-to-use tools that can be customized to meet their unique needs as they support the complex demands of a fully remote workforce. Agility means having the capacity to flex support as user demand changes (and it will).
What Helpdesks Need to Support the “New Normal”
Now that we’ve examined the many challenges helpdesks face, let’s explore potential solutions. In a business and IT landscape defined by both complexity and ongoing uncertainty, helpdesks must lean into agility. Here’s how:
- Helpdesks need easy-to-use and customizable tools that enable them to manage uncertainty and future-proof what they do. They need remote and flexible solutions that improve resolution rates regardless of device, network or operating system, maximizing productivity for both employees and helpdesks. The days of sending connected devices and hardware back to an office to troubleshoot are largely gone.
- Helpdesks must have the capacity to quickly (and remotely) access employee devices to run scripts, diagnostics and push updates, ensuring that issues get resolved quickly and everyone can get back to work. When everyone works remotely, issue resolution must also happen remotely.
- Helpdesks should be empowered with video-based support tools (and other user-friendly communication tools) to bridge the gap between the helpdesk and your remote workforce, so they can easily guide employees through workstation setup, hardware troubleshooting, device configuration and other IT issues.
- Since IT security is a critical concern in remote environments, helpdesks need support partners who take security seriously, leveraging multi-factor authentication, encryption, and permissions-based functionality to ensure it. Organizations cannot choose between remote work and security but need both.