It would seem obvious, but IT Operations staff are often essential to ensuring that systems and business can keep running. From websites to email to VPNs, many of the companies in which I've worked don't have systems that will run without someone keeping an eye on them. Sometimes many eyes on a daily basis if we want to ensure that clients can log into applications and use them.
The pandemic of the last year has shown many organizations that workers can get their jobs done from any location. Very few of us actually touch the physical hardware that we might manage, but we do need access to those systems across networks, in a secure way. That might not have been as big a challenge as getting the rest of a company online, but it was a lot of work.
I don't know how many people prioritize or consider IT operations an essential worker. This article makes a case that anyone working in IT Ops ought to be classified in the same way that health-case workers, teachers, and more. These workers were needed to keep the world moving forward, so why not recognize the importance of IT Ops along with these other types of workers.
I do agree that Operations staff need to be treated as important pieces in an organization. Even if you use a lot of DevOps automation, GitOps, Infrastructure-as-Code, and cloud resources, you need staff to track, configure, manage, monitor, and adjust the way things work. There likely isn't any organization that has an infrastructure they can run without any humans involved on a weekly basis. Likely something would break in that time and you need some staff.
While you might consider the operations staff to be more replaceable and less valuable than developers or others, keep in mind that bringing someone up to speed on existing systems and ensuring they can run without service interruption isn't as simple as just grabbing a new worker from some temp agency.
If you use computer services from your company, remember that someone is ensuring they continue to run smoothly for you, even if you don't realize what they are doing. Remember there is someone that is behind the scenes, often during nights and weekends, patching, upgrading, and monitoring equipment. Thank them, send some appreciation, and acknowledge their effort the next time you have the opportunity. I've done that job, and I know it can be thankless. I'm going to take a moment and drop a note to my own staff, who really make my life much easier.