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How the GDS Service Desk is adapting during coronavirus

Computer screen showing online service desk

The Government Digital Service (GDS) Service Desk provides IT help, advice and guidance for its users - everyone at GDS. We usually run a walk-up service or an online ticket-raising service. This means we can support people in our office in the White Chapel Building, or remotely if they’re working elsewhere. 

However, coronavirus (COVID-19) meant we are operating 100% remotely. 

While the Service Desk had always supported people wherever they were, a completely remote GDS meant we had to adapt some of our practices and find some new tools to continue providing our support.

Remote-friendly tools and ways of working already in place

When a lot of people need to use a service desk facility we imagine there is a silent groan as they reach for the phone, log a ticket or trudge to the desk. They’re approaching us because there’s something stopping them doing their work. 

Since GDS was created, we’ve challenged this stereotype. As everyone must use the GDS Service Desk, we see employees as users, not clients or customers. We work hard to build a rapport with the users of our service to make it as pleasant for them, and us, as possible.

Usually, the vast majority of our interactions with users are face-to-face, so the switch to remote working seemed to be a bit of a challenge on the ‘face of it’. 

But, alongside walk-ups, we’d always used remote chat such as Slack, Google Hangouts and Google Meet, to communicate and receive feedback. When lockdown happened, we increased the use of these virtual communication tools. We encouraged staff to ask questions via whichever remote tool they feel comfortable with, though Slack is preferred, as it means anyone on the team can pick up a query and run with it.

We also use remote tools to deliver services, so after we provide an email account, the individual can use their own phone or computer once it has been set up securely, also known as BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”). If a user does not have suitable equipment we can provide these by courier.

Getting new kit to users

One challenge that came up immediately was how to build GDS-managed MacBooks (Macs) and how to ship them to new starters. Previously this was a first-day activity done in the office with a member of the Service Desk team. 

The Macs built in the office relied on the internal network to provide their account details. Service Desk had to work with the Infrastructure Team to provide a method to build these managed Macs remotely and still work as intended.

To make sure we achieve the same level of support offered in-house, we are working collaboratively with colleagues in other teams. The People Team set up a shared spreadsheet with the Recruitment and Service Desk teams so we know who is starting and leaving GDS. 

We are using new tools as well, to remotely onboard users to their GDS devices, and running a 20 to 30-minute personalised session to ensure they are confident in using the equipment we have shipped to them.

Working across GDS

As well as working with the Recruitment Team and People Team, we’re also supporting the Internal Communications (Comms) Team. As part of their role, Internal Comms run GDS’s All Staff Huddles. So we worked with them to use the Google Meet broadcast feature to allow live-streaming and recording of the huddles. This meant that, despite the lockdown, presenters could speak remotely, share their slides and everyone could watch.

Adapting as we go

As lockdown continues, the user requests come in and we find new ways of resolving them. For example, we’ve been working on allowing people working remotely to install their own printers securely. We will continue to innovate and use existing or new tools to help our users get their work done.

Let us know in the comments how your service desk is adapting to coronavirus.

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  1. Comment by Richard Thomas posted on

    Great job all. I'm proud of you... 🙂

    • Replies to Richard Thomas>

      Comment by Charles Davis posted on

      Thanks - had a good mentor.

  2. Comment by R K Hayden posted on

    I'm curious about the comment "we see employees as users, not clients or customers" and what that means in terms of the culture and the training of those on the service desk. What is it about seeing employees as users rather than customers that delivers better end results?

    In the organisation where I work, we see everyone as customers, which is seen as delivering a better outcome than if we see them as users or employees. I suspect which approach is best depends on perceptions and cultures within an organisation, but I would be interested to know the thinking behind your approach.

    • Replies to R K Hayden>

      Comment by Charles Davis posted on

      A client or customer can often be seen as someone who either is reliant on a service with no alternatives in how they get this service. Think of a shop where you get to buy stuff in stock but you cannot generally as for 'off the menu/stock' items.

      At GDS our users of a service are trusted to contribute to how and what we offer them, within some restrictions. The service is shaped by those users as well as we who deliver it to ensure that it is efficient, cost effective and a conversation in shaping that delivery.

      Goes back to one of our earliest slogans 'Users First'