On a recent Monday morning, Andy Mallon, a database architect in IT, sat down at his office desk and tried to log in to his computer. The password, though, wasn’t working and after the fifth attempt, the system locked him out. Knowing he should know better, technical support gently asked him if he had recently updated his password and then it hit him: he had forgotten that he changed it before the weekend. “I try not to change my password on Fridays, because I always forget on Monday that I had changed it,” he says. “But I did it anyway.”
Most of us are more technically savvy than we were a few years ago
Mallon admits it was a silly error on his part, not dissimilar to the countless others he troubleshoots for others as part of his job. “There are tons of dumb things that our IT group encounters every day,” he says.
IT problems damage productivity. But we can solve some issues ourselves (Credit: Alamy)
Most of us are more technically savvy than we were a few years ago and technology has improved from where it once was. Still, most businesses continue to constantly deal with minor IT issues, and these pesky problems are causing companies to lose valuable productivity.
Time is money
A survey by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology found that workers waste an average of 22 minutes every day dealing with IT-related issues. That translates into about 91 hours, or more than two weeks, per year. “This is way too much,” says Nima Mirpourian, a Toronto-based branch manager at Robert Half Technology.
Job Brown, a web-team leader at Wakefield, UK-based blinds company Interior Goods Direct, agrees. When he was hired two years ago to lead his company’s IT team, he noticed that slow computers were damaging productivity. He calculated that staff were waiting about two and a half minutes per hour for their PCs to load information, or respond to an action. That translates into about 49 hours a week and, even at the UK’s national minimum wage, that works out to be costing £352 ($442) a year per employee.
More, and faster changing tech
There are many reasons why companies and staff continue to be plagued by IT problems but one big one is that we’re now using more technology and it keeps changing, Mallon says. A decade ago, we only had our computers to worry about, now we have mobile phones, iPads and other devices.
Just as we become comfortable using the latest technology, it seems, that technology becomes obsolete
We use numerous programs to get work done, and need to figure out how to use each one — not to mention any upgrades or new versions. Just as we become comfortable using the latest technology, it seems, that technology becomes obsolete, sending us all back to square one to learn the bells and whistles of the latest replacement.
Just as we learn to use something, that technology becomes obsolete (Credit: iStock)
“Things update so quickly, and it can change the way an application works or feels and then you can’t find stuff,” says Mallon.
Fix it yourself
Contrary to what many people think, IT workers aren’t sitting around just waiting for our calls. While they are there to help where necessary, most have much larger behind-the-scenes issues to worry about, like ensuring massive networks are running properly, data is being backed up, cyber security isn’t being breached, new software is vetted, new computers are procured and much more. While our computer issues certainly affect our productivity, calling IT to fix every little glitch also damages theirs.
Contrary to what many people think, IT workers aren’t sitting around just waiting for our calls
Unlike a decade ago, most of us do know our way around a computer and we should use that knowledge before calling for help, says Brown. If a computer starts to slow, try restarting it, which often fixes the glitch. If the office printer runs out of ink, install the new cartridge yourself. These are small things that save everyone a lot of headaches.
“People need to do that first level of investigation themselves,” says Brown. “If something’s still not working after that, then call IT.”
While Mirpourian says that every company should have its own policy toward do-it-yourself repair, he does think it’s helpful when an employee is proactive. Those who don’t know how to deal with basic issues should get a lesson from IT staff on how to fix common problems, he says.
A need for training
In many cases, it’s not the employees fault that they can’t get something to work. Software can be complex and if they’re not trained properly on the program they’re using then how can they be expected to get their job done? It’s often up to the company to help reduce issues by properly training employees on the technology they need to use, says Mirpourian.
"IT workers aren’t sitting around just waiting for our calls" (Credit: Getty Images)
As soon as a staff member gets hired, they should be given a lesson on the programs that will help them do their job. Depending on the complexity of the software, ongoing training should be provided, while any new updates should also come with some training. That also goes for hardware — if a new computer gets installed, staff should be taught how to use it. If a new printer is unveiled, teach people how to install the ink cartridge themselves.
“If a new technology comes into the organisation, it’s up to the business to make sure that roll-out is successful,” says Mirpourian. “That helps staff do their job better, but it also then prevents them from making unreasonable help-desk requests.”
No matter how advanced technology becomes, companies will always need IT support, but there are some things that can minimise the number of problems that arise.
When it comes to technology, you often get what you pay for
First, invest wisely, says Brown. When it comes to technology, you often get what you pay for. After Brown started at his company last year, he upgraded the hard drives to make his computers run faster and it’s worked wonders. Complaints about slow computers have dropped dramatically, while people are doing at least a minute more of work per hour, he says.
Workers spend 22 minutes a day dealing with IT-related issues (Credit: Getty Images)
The key is to make life easy for all involved and that means mitigating blunders too. Mallon knows dumb IT mistakes here and there are unavoidable, but the more he can do to control the outcome — by resetting his password on the Monday instead of the Friday, for instance — then the more productive he’ll be. “I spent 30 minutes on that Monday trying to figure out my password,” he says. “I’m not going to do that again.”
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