Top MSPs Sound Off: Work From Home During COVID19

By Special Guest
Stuart R. Crawford

The technology industry, like many others in the face of COVID-19, has had to pivot to promote the safety of employees, clients, and the world at large. While companies in many industries have managed those unforeseen adjustments successfully, they were not without complications, regardless of a firm's size. This is true even for companies that understand the value of technology and may already have had employees working remotely. However, the change has also resulted in several unexpected benefits as representatives from MSPs and consulting firms revealed in response to an inquiry by Ulistic.

The Challenges of Working Remotely During a Pandemic

Among the most commonly-cited frustrations were feelings of isolation or lack of connection, burnout from screentime and video chatting, moving data to the cloud, providing secure hardware and connections, and creativity. Several respondents mentioned how collaboration has proved more difficult as employees work remotely. Often, those impromptu watercooler chats encouraged creativity. Employees could "spitball' and build on another's idea, but those chats don't happen as often or in the same way now that employees mainly communicate through video, voice, and text-based chats. Furthermore, communicating through video chat doesn't always translate someone's energy or excitement about an idea, so further discussion and brainstorming fail to happen.

Jorge Rojas, whose IT company Tektonic Inc. provides IT services, replied that, unfortunately, not everyone is cut out to work remotely, as some employees and companies have undoubtedly discovered. Furthermore, even companies that had employed remote working before the pandemic must still adjust to the new workplace. Staff whose children attend schools that will move to remote learning this fall will face a significant challenge as they try to balance work with their children's' education. Michael Nelson of TLC Tech explained how his company has learned to be more flexible as the staff is juggling more responsibilities than normal.

The Surprising Benefits of a Remote Workforce

However, the transition to a remote workforce has also had surprising benefits. Respondents noted that some of their staff produced "more focused work" and worked more efficiently. Flexibility was one of the critical solutions highlighted by this survey. Tektonic Inc.'s Jorge Rojas notes that while employees may not always be at their desks during typical work hours, they often check back in after the regular workday to complete tasks, leading to an overall balance.

How MSPs Can Rise to the Challenge During a Pandemic

For those MSPs still struggling to find the right balance as employees work from home, respondents have plenty of advice, too. Ravi Jain from Technijian advises that companies should utilize ticketing to keep track of work during the day and review the processes that may change with a remote workforce, including practices that keep company and client data secure. Rojas agreed that remote monitoring could be useful to track productivity. He also emphasized the importance of providing secure hardware and software, including computers and virtual desktops, for employees to work from during this time.

Michael Nelson’s helpful advice aimed toward creating a more familiar work environment for remote workers and company leaders. Aside from regular check-ins that keep people on track, Nelson recommends that leaders schedule time each day where they will be available in video chat should employees want to pop in.

Have open door time where you’re already in an “open” meeting room. It’s today’s equivalent of an open door policy.

The companies that successfully rise to the challenge presented by the pandemic will prioritize both the human and technological factors.

Returning to the Office Is Still A Way Off—For Some

While many respondents expressed similar concerns and sentiments about remote work, they remain fragmented about the return to the office as the pandemic continues. Rojas stated that his company is still working remotely, and he does "not see us working back at the office any time soon." Companies such as Initial.IT now works from a hybrid model. Only a few staff work from the office while others can only enter the premises to drop off or pick up materials. Ilan Sredni explains how his company, Palindrome Consulting, Inc., has created a rotation for employees to return the office at different times.

Each company must assess local COVID infections to determine the risk of returning to the office Even when it's safe to return to the office, the pandemic has proven that more employees can work remotely than previously assumed, and some employees may prefer to work from home if given the option. Working remotely may be more appealing to employees once social distancing measures are no longer required. However, it's clear from these responses that working remotely leaves something to be desired for both employees and those in leadership positions, and being able to return to the office at least parttime will help creative juices flow more freely.

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