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Three tips to optimize your downtime when remote working

Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pixelbay
(Image credit: Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pixelbay)

The majority of the UK workforce, and many workers around the world, have found themselves adjusting to life working from home recently. Companies, teams, and individuals are finding their workload has either increased or decreased and whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself on, there are challenges.

For those with more time on their hands, it can be demotivating and the ‘productivity pressure’ can be too much to bear. Workers want to be productive, after all, we currently have a lot of free time, but the lack of work has an adverse effect.

However, think back to all the times you said: “If I had more time, I’d do X” or “There just aren’t enough hours in the week to upgrade Y”. Well, this time could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to complete the tasks that ‘business as usual’ gets in the way of.

Tip one – Cleanse your data

Data cleansing. It constantly gets pushed to the back of the queue when more demanding jobs come up, like answering an urgent query or performing vital software maintenance. However, the systems you use and the information you’re getting from them is only ever as good as the data you have to support it.

1.            Personnel Record System

One of the primary places you can do a data cleanse is by looking into your active directory or HR system. Is the information correct, consistent, and complete? Do you use naming conventions (for example, Information Technology or IT)? Keeping consistency and accuracy within this information is key. It will benefit any software that you integrate with which uses this information, for example, a service management tool.

2.            Asset Management databases

Since working remotely has become the norm, organizations are noticing the importance of a comprehensive asset management system. They want to keep better track of their equipment now that it’s scattered around the country, not confined to the office. However, it’s always better to have a small amount of data on your assets rather than lots and lots of out-of-date data. So, data cleanse your asset management database by archiving things that don’t exist. Also, ask yourself, do you use all the data you have on an asset? If not, get rid of it.

3.            Examine the fields

Use the downtime to analyze the software that you’re relying on, look at the fields and data in there to ensure that it still makes sense and that you’re using it to its full potential. It’s surprising how often organizations have unused fields and how often fields such as general or other are used. Examine what you’re using, and not using. Maybe there’s a field missing that you need? Why are you heavily using 20 fields but rarely using 10? Understanding this information can help you to clean up your system, giving you better reporting capabilities, enhanced insight, and, ultimately, a system that’s easier to use.

Tip two – Look at internal processes

Another area you can look to make improvements are in your internal ways of working, process improvements, and looking in detail at how you, your team, and organization work.

1.            Invest in Knowledge Management

Analysts and operators are often lucky enough to sit in the same room together, this means they have instant access to the knowledge of their colleagues during the working day. Remote working changes this. People are busy on calls, away from their laptop, taking breaks at different times - instant access just isn’t possible. What can fix this? A comprehensive knowledge base. Now is the optimal time to ensure that the knowledge of analysts/operators is recorded. Not only is this useful for remote working, but when normality resumes, the knowledge base will benefit everybody, especially new starters.

2.            Give the Service Catalogue clarity

Improve the information you present on services through the service catalogue. People are away from the office, they can’t ask their colleagues a simple query, so if your services are not clear and understandable you might experience more traffic to the service desk. Consider what services, products, and equipment you provide. Is the information on them clear to your user? If not, now is the ideal time to rectify that.

3.            Utilize training

Downtime can provide the perfect opportunity to enhance the knowledge and skills of your workforce. Encourage training, whether it’s technical skills, soft skills, or even personal training. A session on how to handle difficult situations on the phone or how to be customer focused when dealing with queries could enhance your user’s experience. Also, personality testing can help to identify your team’s strengths. When it comes to the future, they’ll be able to maximize their natural talents better.

4.            Enhance customer communication

If you’ve got an automated service management tool, then it’s likely that your emails are sent daily without you giving it a second thought. When was the last time you reviewed the content in your emails? Will people outside of your team be able to understand the wording? Are they aesthetically pleasing? Do they follow best practices by encouraging your users to communicate with you via a portal? Use this time to ensure that you’re sending the right messages to your customers.

Tip three – Make external upgrades

Making improvements to your external operation is also a valuable use of any downtime you have. After all, customers are the fundamental reason for your service delivery.

1.            Measure customer satisfaction

A classic example of making external upgrades is customer satisfaction. It’s something all departments want, insight into how their customers actually feel about their services, but time for this is sparse. Now is the time to think about implementing customer satisfaction. It could be an annual or bi-annual large survey, continuous monitoring through a simple star rating at the closure of a ticket, or sporadic focus groups to talk to customers face-to-face – the key is to discover what will work for you.

2.            Consider your customer centricity

Are customers at the center of everything you do and the decisions that you make? If you want to deliver service excellence, then your users must be the main focus. Consider if you’re customer-centric on a high-level, by understanding whether your future plans are made with users at the forefront. Also, on a low-level. Are your daily operations customer focused? Mastering customer centricity can have a big effect on the aforementioned customer satisfaction.

How to get started

It can be tricky to transform ideas into reality. Creating a ‘change team’ is one of the most effective ways to ensure implementation of the upgrades you choose to make. This is a team of people, perhaps those who have more downtime currently, who’s secondary focus is driving change. Once the team has been formulated, priorities what you see as most value, make incremental changes that contribute to organization-wide improvements.

Optimize your free time

Take advantage of the free time created by the current times by making one, or more, of these achievable upgrades. However, don’t feel pressure to be productive when it’s just not your day. This extra time could also be used to volunteer outside of working life too, delivering food and medication, helping family members and/or neighbors in need. But, most importantly, stay healthy and stay happy!

Hannah Price, service management consultant, TOPdesk UK (opens in new tab)

Hannah Price is a service management consultant at TOPdesk UK.