A quick read with a big impact.

How to Handle Help Desk Burnout and Agents Who Don’t Want to Work

Recently, articles about “quiet quitting” began going viral as people debated the cause. Were employees no longer willing to work? Or were they just getting better at setting boundaries to keep a healthy work/life balance?

Not long ago, of course, the conversation was about The Great Resignation and employee burnout, but the discussion wasn’t all that different. Faced with a disengaged workforce, how do you correctly identify the cause and take steps to correct it?

While the names may be new, these questions aren’t, and help desks aren’t immune. If you’re dealing with help desk agents who don’t seem willing to work, here are some simple things you can do to address it.

Recognize Help Desk Burnout Is Real (and Offer Your People Relief)

If you’re dealing with help desk agents who don’t want to work, it can help to take a step back and consider the big picture. Even under normal working conditions, burnout is a serious job hazard for help desk workers — and the last two years have been anything but normal. Between COVID, the surges and rebounds, and a “new normal” that’s constantly shifting, your help desk has had to cope with one change after another.

There are also more run-of-the-mill changes that can take a toll, too. When a new software system is rolled out, many times the help desk is only an afterthought. That can leave your agents feeling caught off guard by the change and unprepared to offer proper support. These rollouts can also lead to a surge in support calls, which may contribute to feelings of burnout.

When employees aren't being productive, it may be that they're trying to cope.

That’s when it can be helpful to have a meeting to ask them what’s going on. You can also look for ways to give them a little relief: Offer your employees the chance to step away from the phones and update a procedure, turn a help desk ticket into a knowledge base article, or perform some other task that helps the whole office. Sometimes just the chance to work on something else can help your people reset.

Your Engagement Can Help Improve Employee Productivity

At any given time, the people on your help desk team are all experiencing things differently. Some may be extremely productive while others are dealing with burnout. The best way for you to catch the ones who might be struggling is by being engaged with your team.

It’s not enough to have an open-door policy. You need to be visible out on the floor with your coffee cup, talking to your people and asking questions about how they’re doing. When you start building that relationship with your team from day one, you’ll have a solid foundation of trust when you need to ask them hard questions.

You should still be tracking and reporting your team’s productivity, of course. Those performance metrics are as important as ever. But when you add a human element to the equation, you make it more likely your people will come to you for help when they need it and that they’ll want to stay a part of your team.

Inspect What You Expect from Underperforming Help Desk Agents

Sometimes an underperforming help desk agent is a symptom of another problem entirely: Bad processes or procedures. When documentation is confusing, or if it’s written in a way that’s not accessible to everyone, it can cause your people to flounder.

Once again, communication is key. If your agents are struggling, pull them aside and ask them what’s wrong. Are they able to find the resources they need in the help desk knowledge base? Or did the keywords they use not connect to the documentation? Your agents can help you inspect what you expect to refine your processes to be easy to find, easy to follow, and helpful to the whole team.

And remember, nobody messes up 100% of the time.

When having these kinds of conversations with your agents, it can help if you point to something they did well. Reminding them that you recognize their good work can help make them more willing to open up when you ask why something else has gone wrong.

Despite Your Best Efforts, Some People Just Aren’t a Fit for the Job

No matter how good your policies and procedures and no matter how well you connect with your people, the truth is not everyone is cut out to work at a help desk. Some people lack the emotional intelligence; others may be overqualified. But whenever turnover happens, it’s because of a misalignment between the job and the agent.

And you know what? That’s okay.

Not everyone fits perfectly with every job. But if that’s the reason your help desk agents aren’t doing their job, it’s time to have an earnest conversation with them about moving on. In the meantime, it’s also a good idea to review your own practices to see if there’s room to improve the way that you hire for your IT help desk. With the right screening tools, you can help ensure that the agents you hire are the ones most ready to work.

Are Outsourced Help Desk Services Right for You?

Is retaining talent and staff turnover one of your help desk challenges? Take a look at these top 10 help desk challenges. How many of them sound familiar to you? If this is what your team is up against, you may be better served by outsourcing your help desk services.

[Guide LP] Learn how to take on The Top 10 Help Desk Challenges