Keep Your Help Desk Staff Happy: Page 3

Posted October 24, 2000

Valle Dwight

(Page 3 of 3)

Breaking Old Habits

Developing corporate strategies for reducing help desk stress certainly helps, but ultimately workers need to learn to develop and use their own strategies for relieving stress, according to Boylan. It's a topic he knows something about.

Lessons learned about help desk management
Although the typical help desk is a high-stress, under-valued place to work, managers can take steps to boost morale, improve job satisfaction, and cut down on employee turnover. Here are a few tips from managers and consultants who know how to keep a help desk happy:

  • Relieve tedium by varying job responsibilities
  • Diffuse tension with fun
  • Provide career development and training
  • Hold regular employee recognition events
  • Allow breaks away from the workplace
  • Build a pleasant work environment
  • Promote camaraderie
  • Build time into work schedules for get-togethers
  • Before coming to Schering-Plough, Boylan was a one-man help desk for a large company. He had to respond to in-house calls for help in addition to providing phone support for users nationwide. "I got pulled in so many directions, I just stopped caring," he says. "The workload was so huge, it didn't matter how much I did. There would be 12 new calls waiting."

    In the end, Boylan burned out on the job. But the big lesson he learned was to maintain a balanced view of work. Now he makes sure he leaves the office at lunch time every day, even if it's just for a walk around the building. "I get out, I don't sit in the room. Even if you're not on the phone, there's still a high level of stress in the room."

    He also has learned to manage difficult calls. Even though help desk workers expect hostile calls, Boylan finds the worst calls come from the users who are having a bad day "and want to spread the grief around." Now he knows he needs time to cool off. "After a bad call, I'll walk away," he says.

    Whether the calls are good or bad, Boylan routinely takes breaks during the day. Unlike the past, he no longer uses smoking as his reason for taking a breather from the help desk. Now he gets up, putts golf balls, or strolls over to the jellybean jar. But the biggest lesson he has learned is to leave his job at the help desk. "I don't take it home. At my last job I was always working, and I simply don't do that anymore," he says. "I'm not shooting to be the superstar of the help desk."

    Valle Dwight, based in Northampton, Mass., is a contributing editor to FamilyPC magazine.

    Certification programs for help desk professionals are on the rise

    One clear route to career development and training is certification. Technical certification often benefits IT professionals with good jobs, high pay, secure employment, and solid skills. And IT employers value certification because it is a sign of technical proficiency.

    Although certification for all IT professionals is becoming more important, it is not yet essential that help desk professionals become certified. But help desk professionals stand to gain many of the same benefits certification brings to other IT pros. That's why interest in help desk certification is rising, according to Anne Martinez, who runs EarthWeb's GoCertify site (www.gocertify.com). Today, help desk certification programs are being offered by several organizations, including HelpDesk2000 (www.helpdesk2000.org), Help Desk Institute (www.hdi.com) and Computer Associates. Here is what is available:

    From Help Desk 2000:

  • Certified Help Desk Professional (CHDP)-- For front line help desk professionals. ($995)
  • Certified Help Desk Manager (CHDM)-- For individuals who implement help desk systems, including human resources and technical aspects ($1,195)

    From Help Desk Institute Star Series Certification:

  • Certified Help Desk Analyst (HDA)-- Designed for entry-level help desk analysts with nine to eighteen months of experience ($1,790 for two-day class, $99 test fee; options: $1,395 for boot camp class, $295 for self-study kit).
  • Certified Help Desk Support Engineer (HDSE)-- Designed for experienced internal help desk and external support center consultants ($1,790 for two-day class, $99 test fee)
  • Certified Help Desk Manager (HDM)-- Designed for experienced help desk managers who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the help desk ($1,790 for two-day class, $99 test fee)

    From Computer Associates:

  • Certified Professional-Help Desk Specialist-- For individuals who implement and administer help desk solutions and services using Computer Associate's Unicenter TNG and Enterprise Edition products. Must pass two exams ($200) --Valle Dwight

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