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January 5, 2011updated 19 Aug 2016 10:05am

Pity the IT helpdesk: they like January even less than you

Christmas gadgets and forgotten passwords keep support staff busy

By Jason Stamper Blog


No one much likes coming back to work after the Christmas holidays. After the festive fun with friends and family in halls decked with boughs of holly and full of the scent of Christmas trees, cinnamon, sherry and spent batteries, an office with a few sorry-looking decorations lingering from last year is hardly a sight to warm one’s cockles.

But spare a thought for the IT helpdesk, who not only face the same withdrawal symptoms as everyone else but are also apparently inundated with support calls at this time of year. Why? It seems there are two big requests that flood their phone lines as staff return morosely to their desks: help with their Christmas gadgets and forgotten passwords.

Help with Christmas gadgets, you ask? Whatever can you mean? Well it turns out that an estimated 8.5 million UK staff planned to plug Christmas gadgets into the corporate network on their return from the holidays, according to a survey by Virgin Media Business of 5,000 office workers.

74 per cent of respondents said they were planning to show off their gadget gifts to co-workers and plug them into the corporate network when they returned to work, with typical Christmas gadgets including iPads, smartphones and netbooks. 40 per cent said they had used such devices in the workplace before, and bypassed the company’s IT department.

But such devices can give companies a real headache. Andrew McGrath, executive director, commercial at Virgin Media Business, said: "The boundaries between what is a ‘work’ gadget and what is not have been blurring for quite some time. The research clearly shows that ignoring the prolific rise of personal consumer gadgets in the workplace simply isn’t an option anymore."

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"There are two key concerns for business," said McGrath. "Firstly, that this is yet another channel via which corporate data can be stolen or misused and secondly that the network will be flooded with yet more traffic that is unaccounted for." Saturated networks lead to disgruntled staff and harassed support staff.

The other big problem, especially for the IT helpdesk, is forgotten passwords. It could just be the number of days away from the office, or it could be the mulled wine, but it seems staff become particularly forgetful during Yuletide. So just after the Chrimbo break, IT support staff are inundated with requests for password reminders and resets.

"It is not surprising that many of us will struggle to remember our log-in details after a protracted and indulgent Christmas break when we do our best to switch off from work routines," says Pradeep Rajapakse from HTK, a web-based customer service and automation player. "But as well as making it a slow start for some, with typical password reset costs of around £30 it will also be an unwelcome additional burden on early 2011 helpdesk budgets."

"According to IDC, in a 10,000 user organisation the average employee will have 14 different passwords to remember; so it is not surprising that after a long Christmas or summer holiday the rate of password resets increases significantly," said Rajapakse. HTK has a self-service offering based on Interactive Voice Response (IVR) said to cut the cost and time wasted resetting forgotten, expired or compromised passwords.

So if you are joining the ranks in the queue to get some help from your help desk, spare a thought for their predicament. At the very least wish them a Happy New Year as you inform them that your new iPad just crashed the mail server, and that you need 14 new passwords while they’re fixing it.

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