In the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic, a spare room is an office, a handshake is a threat, and a full shelf of toilet paper at the grocery store is nothing short of a miracle. In these unusual times, IT teams are stepping up and stepping outside their job description to help their users adapt to the shifting landscape in which we live and work.
Here are some stories to make you proud to be in IT:
1. Making remote work possible—overnight
As workplaces scrambled to prepare for shelter-in-place or other lockdown orders, IT teams have pulled off some pretty heroic feats to set their users up for remote work in a matter of days.
An MSP on a COVID-19 support Facebook group told of the herculean task of getting a local school system ready for distance ed:
“I had to run 1600+ kids through the computer room this week to make sure they all had working emails so they could receive homework when the schools shut down. Then they decided to shut them down a day early. Got the last kids through at 15 minutes past the end of the school day.”
Phew! Just reading that is exhausting. But getting users set up for remote work is just the beginning…
2. Tackling the tech challenges of the work-from-home world
Now you have a new hurdle to overcome: figuring out how to support an entire workforce using new tools and non-standardized equipment on home networks. In the words of one sysadmin, this amounts to “a billion calls about how to use VPN and log on to remote desktop.”
IT pros are answering with training and support to help users navigate the bumps in the road on the way to remote work—and it’s not going unnoticed.
“The user has been dealing with a stubborn Quickbooks issue for two weeks, and normally it wouldn’t be a huge deal, but on top of everything else they’re facing it’s been just icing on a very crappy cake for her because it’s affecting her workflow dramatically. I dug around and found a possible fix for this highly specific problem. […] If it was possible to hug someone over the phone, I think she would have done it. I thought she was going to cry. It was one of the few good things to happen to her this week.”
3. Coaching companies on remote work culture
Supporting the transition to remote work from home isn’t just about tools and software. IT leaders are going outside their usual mandate to help companies learn the soft skills of remote work too: how to communicate, maintain morale, and connect as a team despite the physical distance.
As Travis Grundke, Operations Manager at Ashton Technology Solutions, explains on the Frankly MSP podcast:
“From the client standpoint, one of the areas where we can probably help them more is by … helping people with the communications internally and impressing upon people the importance of clear, simple communications in times of crisis. We somewhat joke that our job is to decomplexificate. From a technical standpoint, we’re brought in to simplify environments that have been needlessly over complicated or workflows that don’t work right. So, let’s simplify and clarify the communication that takes place during a crisis, or is there a way that we can help clarify that communication so that it becomes a little bit less stressful? … Our job is to provide convenience. And I think in this case, part of that convenience is giving them some clear communication tools, language, etc that they can disseminate to their staff to make this a little bit less stressful and little bit more seamless.”
Another MSP, MNJ Technologies, has rolled out various initiatives like virtual trivia nights and coloring contests to maintain company culture on their own team—and help their clients do the same. In addition to technical support, their techs now share best practices for using remote tools to boost team morale.
4. Helping businesses navigate the unknowns of COVID-19
There’s no playbook for businesses to survive this pandemic. Everyone is figuring it out as they go along, and IT teams are right at the center of it—providing guidance and solving problems as they arise.
Chris Rumpf and his team at Flyte are a great example of how IT pros can show leadership and provide value to clients outside of the purely technical domain.
His retail, restaurant, and hospitality clients are suddenly facing an existential threat due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Chris is sharing relevant and action-oriented advice on LinkedIn to help clients adapt their business models and access relief—from tips for successful to-go alcohol sales to information on the CARES Act. His team has also extended free consulting hours to clients and hosts a frequent online meetup for food service professionals to discuss the quickly changing rules and regulations, share what’s working for others, and keep spirits high.
These initiatives help small businesses tap into a wealth of knowledge and resources from across his broad client base, while proving the Flyte team to be an indispensable partner—through good times and bad.
In-house IT managers, too, are taking a leadership role in helping their business navigate the challenges of COVID-19. As CIO Dive reports, “CIOs today are crisis management leaders.” Executives are depending on them to help the business respond to the rapidly evolving situation.
5. Volunteering time and expertise in the local community
You’re probably used to being the unofficial tech support for your family and friends. But many IT pros are taking this a step further by volunteering their skills to help local organizations survive the upheaval brought about by the pandemic.
For example, some have chipped in to help their churches set up live streaming or telephone-broadcast sermons, so congregations can still listen to services. Others have donated their time to help restaurants and other small businesses set up websites, POS systems, and online ordering to keep their business afloat.
6. Using downtime to upskill
With on-site work and IT spending on pause, you may be finding your ticket queues emptier and your phone lines quieter than normal. One channel pro had the following advice for workers in this situation:
“Use the quiet time to: Clear up the clutter projects that need to be done. Catch up with reading related to future-proofing career or life improvement. Take free online courses to keep the mind active.”
This Reddit thread suggests IT pros are taking that advice to heart, with many people chiming in with their favorite training resources. We’ve seen the evidence ourselves, with an uptick in the number of people upgrading their network management skills and becoming Auvik Certified this week.
7. Finding creative solutions to hardware shortages
As you are probably painfully aware, the supply chain is suffering thanks to sudden spikes in demand combined with the impact of COVID-19 on China’s manufacturing industry.
Everyone in the tech sector has been struggling to get their hands on the gear they need—leading to some interesting workarounds.
One MSP on Facebook shared his homemade UV-C sterilization cabinet. They’ve been using it to clean laptops so they can safely work on them.
Meanwhile, MSPs on Reddit discussed ways to enable video conferencing given the current shortage of webcams. One commenter said: “I just loaned my personal webcam to a really good client today who needed one for Zoom meetings”—the modern definition of giving someone the shirt off your back!
Do you have a story about going above and beyond to help your users during the COVID-19 pandemic? Tell us about it in the comments below!