Working from home (WFH) brings both benefits and challenges—all of which can be a source of stress for MSP business owners and technicians. But there are several things you can do to address these stresses and make sure you’re not burning out your technicians.
Change and uncertainty are common stress inducers, and we’ve had our fair share of both this year. As a business owner or manager, it’s your responsibility to keep things running smoothly at all times. Helping your people deal with stress and having defined plans for maintaining normal levels of workload activity is essential to keeping productivity up. As we move forward, it’s likely people will continue to WFH, so it’s important to look at common WFH stressors and see how to deal with them effectively.
Some of the common WFH sources of stress include:
- Lack of structure (causing a lack of focus)
- Distractions in our new work environment
- Lack of boundaries between environments (i.e., our living environment is now our working environment)
Lack of structure
This is a problem I frequently deal with and it’s the reason I use a daily planner. I literally schedule every hour of my day to keep myself productive at work and at home. A to-do list is not enough—making sure each task has a time to be done helps keep you focused.
These can also be a source of stress. Having a dedicated workspace is essential but things like having a decent keyboard, mouse, or headset can also help. Make sure you’re doing what you can to provide your employees and your customers’ employees with what they need to work well.
For many, going to work puts us in work mode, and going home takes us out of work mode. Without a physical change in environment it’s much easier to blur the lines between work and home mode. Use good time management to make sure you’re being productive during work hours so you don’t feel guilty when you stop working and switch into home mode. This is also where a daily planner can come in handy. Lately, I’ve scheduled an outside “chore” at the end of my work day to bridge the transition from work mode to home mode.
This can be a serious issue that most of us don’t notice until it starts to cause us stress. We can help others and ourselves by reaching out to friends and co-workers often to make sure everyone stays connected.
Even when technicians work from the office, the repetitiveness of tech work can sometimes cause problems. Make sure you’re giving your technicians time to learn, keep up their skills, and build automations to help them maintain their interest and give them a break. This gives them more time to focus on complex tasks like projects where you make more money.
Technical people have a natural curiosity and like to experiment. Encourage them and give them time to do so. They will be happier, more productive, and sometimes create really cool things—like automations—that help the business. These automations also allow you to scale the number of customers you can service without adding more technicians, which can significantly increase your user to technician ratio.
The other issue that can cause burnout is simply over working. Over working occurs when your user-to-technician ratio is no longer sustainable while operating a normal amount of working hours. For short periods of time this isn’t a problem. But when it extends to multiple weeks, productivity levels begin to drop, which exacerbates the problem. To improve the situation, it’s important to know what you can do, i.e., your optimal user-to-technician ratio. Once you know this, you can monitor it to predict when you’ll need another technician. Next, you’ll need to know how long it takes to hire a new technician. If you can predict when you’ll need a new technician and you know how long it takes to hire and train that technician, then you’ll know when to start so you can avoid prolonged periods of over working your existing technicians.
Technicians can get burned out for several reasons. Help them maintain a healthy work-life balance and keep optimum staffing levels and you should be able to avoid serious burn out issues.
Eric Anthony is the Head Operations Nerd at SolarWinds MSP. Before joining SolarWinds, Eric ran his own managed services provider business for over six years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter @operations_nerd