Some IT service desks may wonder what this concept of “idle time” is. An understaffed IT service desk, or one with inadequate IT service management tools may never experience a time when the phones stop ringing. But an adequately staffed, well-equipped IT service desk may indeed have slow times, and IT managers may wonder how this time could be best used.
Nobody wants to be seen slacking, and certainly no IT manager wants someone from outside IT to happen to witness a group of workers playing Call of Duty or having office chair races if it’s not the day of the annual Christmas party or some other extraordinary set of circumstances.
People don’t always know what to do with themselves when work is slow.
How IT Managers Imagine Idle Time Being Used
IT managers may imagine that when tickets aren’t coming in, their IT help desk workers are doing other productive things, like furthering their education or putting in time on long term projects or roll-outs. But that’s not always going to happen, particularly in situations when no one is certain how soon the IT service desk will be busy again. Here are 5 ideas for helping your team make the most of those rare slow periods on the IT service desk.
1. Work on Building the Knowledge Base
Everyone likes the idea of a knowledge base, but you actually have to build one if it is to be useful. Ideally, IT team members should document procedures for unusual issues and their resolutions as soon as the issue is resolved, while memories of the scenario are fresh. But too often, another ticket arrives, and the task of adding to the knowledge base is easy to put on hold. Slow periods are other good times for IT help desk workers to add information to the knowledge base. If your IT service desk software makes this process easy, there are fewer excuses for not doing so.
2. Engage in Training
Some types of training are web-based and can be picked up and completed in segments. Gamification of training is a trend in corporate training, including IT training. Games can range from quizzes with points and a leader board, to arcade-style games, to role playing games played on tablets or smartphones. A study by researchers from Boise State University, West Virginia University, and Brigham Young University found that people like gamified training on IT compliance, and that gamified training produces learning improvements.
3. Help Other Agents in Tackling Challenging Help Tickets
If one IT help desk agent is struggling to resolve a challenging ticket, having an idle worker pitch in can help resolve the issue more quickly and build team unity. There may be situations where personality or work style clashes prevent this type of collaboration, but when it is possible, it is a good way to boost morale and prevent workers with challenging problems from thinking the workload is unfairly distributed.
4. Clean Up
Offices get messy, and when IT service desk workers have to scramble for a pen and paper to make notes, or when toolkits can’t be readily located, productivity can suffer and frustration can increase. Encourage idle workers to straighten up their work areas or the general work space. Have designated places for supplies and tools, and try to get these items all back into place. Chances are good that at least one person will have an “Aha!” moment upon finding something that was misplaced and forgotten.
If slow times are brief “black swan” events on your IT service desk, there’s probably nothing wrong with simply allowing people to chill for a while, particularly if they are normally productively occupied. When you know you can trust your IT help desk workers to be ready to roll as soon as the tickets start arriving again, and when their quality of work is good, what harm is there in letting them kick back for a few minutes surfing the web or playing Mass Effect? Sometimes a break can be beneficial, helping a solid worker get back on task with a fresh outlook.
Nobody wants their IT help desk team to have too much free time, because it indicates overstaffing. But even with an IT help desk that’s staffed appropriately and busy most of the time, occasional slack periods occur. Let your team know how you expect them to spend their idle time, and set a good example. Provide them with top IT help desk software (like Samanage), and they can use slow times to build a knowledge base or work on longer term projects that improve productivity.