IT workers face greater stress from remote issues

With in-person IT support now relatively rare, tech workers are under increasing pressure to support end-users and endpoint devices remotely — and they need better overall support and tools to do that.

A stressed user holds his face in his hands.
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IT support has forever changed as more and more employees are now working from any number of remote locations — and no longer sitting behind a corporate firewall.

The days of walking your computer down to the IT department for repair or having a help-desk worker drop by the cubicle to troubleshoot your network connection have been replaced by the need for support from anywhere on any device.

“Five years ago, [IT workers] were about how to support things like Windows updates and every four or five years changing over to new hardware. It was very cookie cutter,” said Mark Bowker, a senior analyst with research firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

In the first quarter of this year, ESG conducted a double-blind survey of 200 US-based IT decision makers responsible for help desk support at their organization. IT help desk teams reported unsustainable levels of stress and burnout, according to ESG’s report, which was commissioned by Splashtop, a remote access and support tech vendor.

esg help desk graphic 2 Enterprise Strategy Group

Overall, 65% of IT help desk teams in the US said they're stressing and facing burnout, and 94% of organizations said they've  experienced challenges in their support operations related to the Great Resignation, or a lack of available talent. For IT shops, those challenges include maintaining support goals and “unsustainable stress levels that are compounded by increased workloads.”

“The challenge in IT is around operational efficiency; their responsibility and urgency to support remote work has grown tremendously,” Bowker said. “And organizations aren’t looking to grow IT staff. So, the question becomes: is the company investing in IT tools that can help with process automation and eliminate routine tasks?”

idc it challenges graphic IDC

While most organizations say remote support was dominant even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now seen as critical. Ninety-nine percent of organizations surveyed by ESG said “support at distance” is required for half or more of all help-desk tickets.

“Starting inside the IT organization, anyone doing help-desk support, or any IT role that dealt with being face-to-face with employees, is impacted,” Bowker said. In addition, 96% of organizations say that remote support will continue to dominate workloads for the foreseeable future.

From an overall technology perspective, a lot of tech workers embraced remote work, Bowker noted, accepting collaboration tools as the new norm and using them effectively. “I think it was mostly knowledge workers who were impacted. They were just accustomed to in-person meetings.

“Obviously, with people working remotely, collaboration and communication now become an essential part of someone doing their job,” Bowker continued. “Things like peripheral support: Is the microphone working? Is the camera property installed, and is it working with the application?"

Troubleshooting endpoint device issues has become a particularly difficult challenge as employees access corporate resources through a myriad of home and Wi-Fi networks.

“Security and privacy is a whole other topic on its own,” Bowker said. “There’s no question it’s become top of mind. The security posture of an organization has been challenged with remote work. That’s due to the fact that the [endpoint] device may be unknown — people use their personal devices, they’re accessing [corporate servers] from unknown networks.”

Companies now must understand the real-world needs of end users; having vanilla "small, medium, and large" types of endpoint configurations for users — as many companies do — no longer works, according to Bowker. Instead, they need to customize tools to fit the end-user's job.

"If you have sales people who spend a lot of time on Zoom, you need to make sure their environment is very reliable and has high performance that enable the best customer experience," Bowker said. "There's more focus on IT tools capturing the telemetry of that user and endpoint to satisfy the experience of the end-user, increase productivity, enhance security, and improve communication."

More than two years into the pandemic, levels of burnout, categorized by the World Health Organization as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress, are high — especially for both Millennials and Gen Zs, according to consultancy Deloitte.

More than four in 10 Gen Zs (46%) and Millennials (45%) surveyed said they feel burned out due to the intensity and demands of their work environments. This signals a significant retention issue for employers. In fact, 44% of Gen Zs and 43% of millennials say that many people have recently left their organizations due to their workloads, and Gen Zs and millennials who have changed organizations in the last two years cited burnout as one of the top three reasons for leaving their employer.

Despite this, one in four millennials and one in five Gen Zs do not believe their employer takes burnout seriously or is taking steps to address it, indicating that many companies have yet to fully understand — or address — the impact burnout is having.

Amy Loomis, a research director for IDC, said there simply are not enough IT workers to support hybrid-work scenarios at scale.

“And those workers themselves need greater support in the form of training to keep pace with things like new security protocols, new automated workflows and the pressure of having to support citizen developers who get in over their head with low- and no-code offerings,” Loomis said via email.

The challenge of IT support for remote workers is particularly acute in North America, with 44% of respondents to an IDC survey last year saying it was one of the biggest challenges they faced.

Data from IDC’s survey of about 400 technology leaders indicated IT is much more open to drawing in talent from across different sourcing models, such as using “gig” workers, crowd-sourcing, using contract workers, and automating tasks with software tools.

idc it challenges graphic 2 IDC

"We need to not only think about IT support as a resource for hybrid workers but also the support that IT itself needs," Loomis said. "Many IT workers are inundated with service requests they can’t keep up with, the occurrence of new security threats and an expanding threat landscape across endpoints, networks, cloud, and applications contexts."

Support for IT must come from multiple areas from additional team members, third-party support staff, training to keep pace with new technologies, and automation of repetitive administrative tasks, Loomis said.

As a result, organizations need to help IT adapt to current work dynamics with a support model that extends seamlessly to end-users. IT organizations that no longer have in-person IT support now rely on remote session technology to troubleshoot and solve issues. 

Seven of 10 repondents to ESG's survey reported investments in remote session technologies improve support key performance indicators and broaden organizations’ potential talent pools.

In some cases, it's as simple as making sure IT workers have the right technology. It's more important than ever to make sure employee experience, employee engagement, and customer experience, are high on the priority list.

Tools available to organizations to more efficiently monitor and assist the remote workforce run the gamut, from general endpoint health check tools to tools that specifically measure remote network bandwidth, CPU utilzation, and memory, Bowker said.

The majority of help desk tickets are associated with user error, according to ESG. Therefore, it is essential to have processes and technologies in place to quickly identify, solve, and help users learn from their errors. The ability to see firsthand what an employee is doing enables IT staff to quickly understand the issue and collaborate directly with the person to promptly resolve the issue. This enhanced process helps train the user in real time, as well as identify other potential issues that might arise.

Organizations that have significantly increased funding for remote session solutions are more than twice as likely to rate those solutions as excellent, according to IDC's survey. Organizations that have significantly increased funding for remote session solutions also achieve 59% higher help desk staff throughput.

"I was once an [IT worker], so I think technology workers are typically up to the challenge. They're a consumer of technology and they understand what it can do," Bowker said. "Given the state of where things are..., they tend to get excited about ways different technologies can help the way companies deal with their remote and hybrid workforce."

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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