Be kind to IT – It’s (probably) not their fault

Thanks to COVID-19, a lot of folks are experiencing “WFH“, telecommuting, or whatever you want to call it, for the first time. The joys of shitty videoconferencing, slow VPN that disconnects constantly, login issues into laptops and “mission critical” apps; the works.

Pretty please, take a breath and give your IT crew some slack.

You see, the video conferencing system IT had to fight tooth and nail to purchase would have still sucked at 3x the price. It’s simply a universal truth of vidconf. Everywhere. Cram 20 people into a conference room and you have one hell of a shitty meeting. Now put the same 20 into little tiles on a 15″ laptop screen, everyone using microphones literally inches away from speakers and you’ve just achieved the 7th circle of hell.

Raging because you’ve been trying to connect to the corp VPN for 30 minutes? News flash: C-levels HATE telecommuters. They approved 25% of the actual requested IT budget for VPN only under violent protest from managers. On a good day, your company’s VPN system was built to handle maybe 20-30% remote workers. You honestly think it’s going to keep humming along at 75%?

Can’t log into JIRA because you left the sticky note with your password on the monitor back at the office? Fantastic. Thanks for being part of the Help Desk’s need for therapy. If you know you’re going to be working out of the office for a while, how about testing stuff before you leave? “Go remote” at your desk first – undock the lappy, make sure you’ve got all the right power cords, and boot up like you were at the kitchen table at home. Can you log in? VPN credentials still work? Do you need to install any updates or software before working from the land-of-no-pants? Now’s the time to get all this sorted, not 9PM on a Saturday.

I always told employees to not be offended if I didn’t remember their names. That meant from an IT perspective, they were “low maintenance”. Believe me, there were some in the office we knew by heart (and not by choice!) Want to be IT low maintenance? Here’s some tips…

  • Don’t camp out on VPN. Most corporate VPNs force all traffic down the tunnel by security policy. That means your sweet Spotify work jam playlist is also being pushed through already over-taxed IT networks. Get in, get what you need done, and disconnect.
  • No porn, no Netflix, no BitTorrent while VPNed in. Same deal – all your traffic is going down the tunnel and HR is watching.
  • If you’re a developer, please don’t do a damn git-pull on the entire repository over VPN. Get your local copy current before you leave the office.
  • Keep your software current! Think working from home is the perfect time to install the latest Microsoft Office on your laptop? Think again. Please.
  • Use chat tools like Slack, not vidconf for team communications. Email still works too.
  • Make sure you’ve got the contact numbers for peers you’ll need to work with while remote. The Help Desk isn’t your rolodex.
  • If your job requires a printer, realize it’s unlikely your home printer will work with VPN and IT doesn’t have the time to figure out how your QuantumJetLaserMaster 5000 works. I promise IT has remote printers certified and tested for the field. Get with them before going home.
  • Same is true for any hardware issues, really. Battery only holding charge for 10 minutes? Screen randomly going blank? Trackpad broken? Get it all fixed before your COVID quarantine.
  • Shift your hours. You’re working from home – the kitchen is open 7×24. If possible, consider rocking a night shift and you’ll find the VPN and corporate apps work a whole lot better. Use daytime hours for inching towards Inbox Zero and catching up on Better Call Saul.
  • Take care of your kit. Keep the Cheetle dust to a minimum on the keyboard. Don’t leave your laptop in the front seat of your car during your hot yoga session. Even in a small company, IT sees smash-and-grab laptop thefts all the time. Besides the hassle to you, it’s a real security risk to your company.
  • TEST TEST TEST! Day one of your 21 day hiatus is not when you try VPN for the 1st time. Even if it worked fine in the office or from the hotel on the road, it’s not inconceivable that changes will be necessary in your home router to pass the VPN traffic.

Lastly, when the COVID-19 dust finally settles and you return to your swank 8×8 cubicle, swing by IT and give the guys and gals a shoutout. Maybe splurge on some donuts for the team. You know they deserve it.