I finally did it. During my early morning routine of reading emails, I dumped an entire cup of coffee on my laptop keyboard. Sure, I knew the dangers of beverages and computers, but hey, I’ve been doing this for years without incident. Well, a few weeks ago my coffee mug inexplicably became airborne as I got up from my chair. By the way, I don’t drink a small cup of coffee. I usually prefer a ceramic jug that could double as the coffee pot.
I watched in slow motion as all the contents poured on top of the keyboard and slid between the keys. What followed was a string of profanity at a volume level that was sure to wake the neighbors. I watched the green power light fade slowly as if waving one final goodbye.
Since the laptop belongs to my company and isn’t mine, I immediately called my IT help desk and sheepishly admitted what I had done. Within seconds I had an email to my mobile phone that would let me track the status of my “T01 Spill Incident.” Apparently, there are enough beverage fumbling employees to cause the help desk to designate an actual nomenclature for these types of accidents.
Within a day I had a new laptop courtesy of FedEx. As I opened the box, I saw a sheet with instructions. “Step 1: Use your screwdriver to remove the hard drive from your old PC.” Great, I thought. There’s a reason why my wife keeps the handyman’s phone number on speed dial and I am no longer allowed to hang ceiling fans, put holes in the dry wall, or do much more than change the light bulbs in our house. Again, I called the help desk and begged for help. A few minutes later I had replaced the hard drive (and learned that solid state drives really are coffee-proof) and was up and running, all files thankfully intact. In short, I got lucky.
The whole experience made me start thinking about the type of support organizations provide for their teleworkers. Leaders provide support and resources for their workers to succeed. As a leader, make sure you budget and invest in quality service and support. Knowing that service and support is there provides comfort and reduces anxiety for those thinking about teleworking. Leaders should also consider the type of support that will be offered. For example, if teleworkers will be working from a home office, will the company help desk be able to assist teleworkers or will they be responsible for troubleshooting their equipment in the home office?
In today’s world, teleworkers are obtaining a wide variety of consumer technologies from iPhones to flash drives to digital cameras – all of which may serve a legitimate business purpose. Home-based workers may use their own routers and modems. To complicate matters, teleworkers may rely on a number of software applications downloaded straight from the Web which may or may not be supported within the existing IT infrastructure. Without providing support, or at least understanding what can or cannot be supported, teleworkers may become less effective. Also, if you are responsible for hiring people for your help desk, make sure they’ve got strong interpersonal skills, not just technical skills. Nobody wants to call for IT support if the support isn’t friendly and customer focused.
I think I’ve learned my lesson for now (I mainline coffee in another room before coming near my PC). At least I can take comfort in knowing who to call and what type of support I can expect if something does goes wrong.