“Dan, Dan, Dan, Daaaaan” – if I had to describe my work life in the office environment before lockdown came into place, this would be how it sounded, with most IT queries coming my way beginning like an episode of Alan Partridge where he’s trying to (unsuccessfully) get ‘Dan’s’ attention. We all appreciate what systems and automation bring to our working day, but there is no greater frustration when something goes wrong.
For many users there may be an instant stress response, particularly in fast paced environments like recruitment. Rest assured that the Dan on repeat call isn’t because Rowlands face a large amount of IT issues or because I’m hard of hearing, rather it is more about the way I tend to work on a day-to-day basis – using headphones to zone out of a busy recruitment desk/office environment to gain a high level of focus on IT projects which require this level of focus.
When the island went into Lockdown, I was already quite accustomed to working from home for a large amount of my time. I already had a routine where I was regularly splitting my time between the office and home. Therefore, this working environment which has been a new experience to many, felt very familiar to me.
For a lot of people adapting to this new way of working, the first few weeks started off as a bit of an emotional rollercoaster faced with new levels of stress, but for me and I’m sure other IT professionals, this phase had started much earlier on in the lead-up to lockdown where I was faced with a very challenging time, working closely with management and operations to enable the team to access all IT platforms from a remote location whilst at this time being in the middle of managing system upgrades for the company that would allow us to have higher levels of flexibility and security.
With two very highly time consuming projects requiring additional effort to allow for a successful upgrade with minimum impact to day-to-day business, it’s only now in week 6 of working from home, that I can start to feel a sense of calm with my day-to-day activities and really reflect on this extraordinary timeline. It has been an enlightening experience where I have learnt a lot about myself through self-observation and meditation. What I have found to miss the most, which will be no surprise, is the one-to-one interaction you experience when being around other people. Although having a bit more peace may, at least, initially seem like a relief and the perfect break from a busy working office, it also helps to highlight the things you wouldn’t necessarily appreciate on a regular basis, for example, ease of instant acknowledgement and having everyone in your immediate visual distance.
One of the biggest challenges we faced during this period was from an IT security point of view. With everyone working from home you lose a bit of that control that you would have in the office, where some people end up using their own devices. This is where I feel extremely lucky to be working with an amazing team of individuals where trust is a fundamental part of our team values. This along with device and home network review has helped ease some of those anxious/conflicting feelings around remote working and IT
Looking at the positive aspects over the last few weeks, I have found more time to think and try things that I wouldn’t normally have made time for previously – who knew this IT guy would be good at baking bread and cakes! I guess the lesson here is that within these unusual times, it can enable us to reconnect with everyone on a new level, seeing people you work with in a new light and remembering that we are all in this together.
It’s not often that I have the opportunity to share insight into the world of an ‘IT guy’, I’m hoping this will remind people that we aren’t facing similar challenges. Here’s some of my top IT related tips:
Slow down your auto-reactions to pop-ups and particularly to emails - avoiding a click happy reaction and taking a few extra seconds to read the pop-up box or check if the email looks genuine and if you were expecting it, could save you from making a mistake which could cost you and/or your business.
Experiment with learning new skills or taking on new hobbies – whether work related or personal, there’s so many free available resources online that you could take advantage with any extra time you save from the typical commute you would make. Many companies are offering free learning opportunities, whether that is IT related (perhaps you want to become more knowledgeable about running Teams Meetings or more familiar with Excel formulas and macros) or it might be listening to Ted Talks and podcasts that you have never quite managed to find the time for. It is also the perfect time to read the books that you have had sitting around for months or maybe bake!
Educate yourself on cyber security – whilst this may not seem like the most exciting area to spend your time on during lockdown, it not only has great benefits from business perspective it will also help you with protecting and staying safe with your personal devices.
Review and change your passwords if necessary - if you get some spare time with your busy home schedule,. Use 2FA (2 Factor Authentication) where possible and maybe use a password manager if you struggle to remember them.
Learn and use Google search operators - in other words using special characters and commands that extend the capabilities of your regular online searches, making it easier for you to find what you are looking for. We all know that Google is one of the first places people will go to find an answer, using techniques such as quotes to find exact matches to your search queries or dots between numbers to search within a range can make this process quicker in finding that piece of information that you are looking for, for more information on this visit: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2466433?hl=en
Final Tip ….you guessed it! it’s the classic ‘turn off and on again’ rule – this may sound like a cliché and whilst this probably isn’t the solution you want to hear in times of an IT crisis at home or in the office, most of the time it will resolve the issue. Essentially, when you restart your device you're clearing off the current state of your software and starting over again. You're basically dumping out the junk and starting over again fresh. This applies to apps as well.
This same rule can be applied to us. When you start to feel the stress build, remember to take the time to ‘turn off’ take a breath and reset. When you turn on again, you will have greater clarity and be back, working to your full potential.