The ongoing global pandemic has created a difficult situation for managed service providers (MSPs) worldwide. Tech companies have had to adapt to a drastically different professional landscape, one which requires all hands on deck to ensure that remote working arrangements operate smoothly for their clients.
Most businesses are looking to improve customer experience by finessing their digital channels, while also offering their staff more flexible work arrangements. Countless MSPs have worked to help businesses prep and manage remote staff, many of whom had zero experience with working remotely.
As purveyors of tech work capable of boosting efficiency and effectiveness, MSPs are more in demand than ever, which is great for business. That being said, the rising levels of remote work combined with ever-rising network traffic is putting real pressure on smaller service providers that have not been as quick to adapt to the insane explosion of their workload.
Chronic stress: an epidemic
Chronic stress was a problem of epidemic proportions long before Covid-19. But since the pandemic began, burnout and mental health issues in the workplace have only grown. Fifty-two percent of respondents to an Indeed survey report experiencing burnout in 2021—up from 43% in their pre-pandemic survey, with 67% saying burnout has worsened during the pandemic.
The modern technology that facilitates uninterrupted connection does wonders for efficiency, but it can also blur the boundaries between work and home life beyond recognition. Nothing has driven this home like the pandemic. When work-life balance becomes a running joke, human beings experience burnout, and their work performance suffers too. MSP workers know this from lived experience.
According to global data collected by the Harvard Business Review, 89% of workers report a declining work-life balance, and 85% a declining sense of wellbeing. But happy people who don’t feel overextended work harder and are more likely to want to keep their jobs.
Is it time for a more flexible work arrangement?
Out of necessity, more flexible work arrangements have become ever more popular since March of 2020. Plus, let’s face it, they were already growing in popularity pre-pandemic. More and more employers have come to the realization that remote work does not have to sacrifice productivity.
In fact, it can even be good for it. MSPs have been crucial in facilitating this shift, and if you own or manage one, chances are you already understand how applying similar flexibility to your staff might be a positive. Many companies that transitioned to remote work “temporarily” now see that keeping work flexible has many advantages.
Some companies are now establishing permanent remote work policies that allow for greater flexibility with work location and hours. The ultimate goal is to help employees improve their work-life balance by allowing them to choose the arrangement that best suits them. This might be full-time remote work, a hybrid arrangement, split shifts, or other creative alternatives.
Flexible work arrangements benefit employers and employees alike in the following ways:
- Improved recruiting efforts
- Higher employee morale
- Higher productivity
- Better employee attendance
- Better retention of top employees
- Superior work-life balance
- A smaller ecological footprint, thanks to less commuting
- Smaller in-office operation costs
- Business continuity during emergencies such as natural disasters or, y’know, pandemics
The fact is, happy employees make for an upbeat and productive workplace, which in turn leads to a better customer experience and a higher bottom line.
Taking care of your MSP employees ultimately means promoting work-life balance, prioritizing mental health, and championing clear, concise communication. It’s a mistake to separate these crucial human factors from your business’s profitability.
If you’re not sure where to begin promoting better balance in your company culture, start by encouraging employees to prioritize tasks in their ‘highest and best use’ (HABU). By focusing on the tasks that are most pressing and important and saying no to everything else, employees can be more effective.
Better yet, set a positive example by testing this out yourself. Chances are your workflow (and your sanity) will improve. This requires discipline and a willingness to rank some things over others, but it is a key element of successful business. And, since quality of life is even more important than salary for many skilled workers, MSPs that wish to attract the best talent need to offer competitive benefits.
Start by cultivating a stronger, more human approach to vacation management, and benefits packages. Consider PTO, parental leave, and mental health days as you forge a quality policy.
Prioritizing mental health
Mental health is far less taboo a subject than it once was, and employees should feel comfortable discussing it. As a manager, don’t be afraid to check in with your team about mental and emotional health. Your staff should not feel discouraged to ask for help if things become overwhelming or begin spiraling out of control. Especially in the age of Covid, chances are your team is starved for human interaction.
If your only meetings have been virtual, consider holding a Covid-safe in-person meeting for no other reason than boosting morale. You’ll be surprised at how well-attended it is. Remote meetings have been a true test of company culture, because the default is to focus solely on work and forego check-ins in favor of speed. The problem is, this breeds burnout. Schedule personal check-ins with your team, be they in a group or one-on-one. Your improved rapport is sure to improve the overall vibe of your workplace.
Your employees need to feel free expressing opinions and concerns, or asking questions. As an employer, it’s important to connect with your team often, listen to what they have to say, and provide feedback, or offer suggestions and resources. This is the best way to make your people feel valued and important—which they are.
It is just as important to clearly communicate the values, mission, and vision of your company so employees have a strong understanding of why their work matters and where they fit into the bigger picture. This type of communication is essential to attracting real talent and building a strong team. If your company’s vision is unclear even among the top rungs of leadership, there’s only so much your employees will be able to accomplish.
Ultimately, you want to grow your business, and there will always be obstacles in the way—such as waning resources. But under such circumstances, balance, healthy morale, and clarity of vision really are the only path to better business!