Every good ocean lifeguard knows that whenever possible you do not fight the tide.  Humans are no match for the power of tidal currents for any extended length of time – battling them will rapidly lead to exhaustion, and eventually drowning.

There are “tides” in the business world as well.  I’m talking about more than trends.  Tides are more like trends with momentum and staying power that is virtually unstoppable.  They’ll swallow you up if you ignore them.  In working with technology services companies of varying sizes and degrees of success, I’ve noticed something.  The little guys tend to resist the tides and complain about them, and their businesses pay the price for it. More successful firms tend to quickly accept inevitable changes to the way they do business.  Then they get busy figuring out how to work those changes to their advantage to foster ever increasing growth and success.

Recently, we’ve all seen businesses struggling to provide service, or even remain open, because they cannot get enough qualified staff.  Unemployment rates are at historic lows, and tech unemployment rates are NEGATIVE (there are more jobs open than workers on the market).  It appears on the surface that just about any job would be tough to fill right now.  Yet shockingly, my firm recently placed an ad seeking new recruiters to work for us and the response was overwhelming. We received 200 applications in 90 minutes and then we turned the ad off due to being unable to process any more folks in any kind of timely fashion.

Why did we get that crazy response?  I’m convinced it’s because we indicated that our recruiters make their own hours and can work from anywhere there is good internet, and we’d train people to use our well defined, easy to follow processes.

Remote workdays and flexible schedules are an unbelievably powerful tide in the marketplace right now.  I keep hearing “Nobody wants to work!”.  Apparently, that is not the case.  What they don’t want is to go back to having no control over 50% of the time they are awake and conscious.  They’ve gotten used to caring for their children, pets, or parents.  They like hitting the gym in the morning or golfing with friends once a week.  They got used to reclaiming hours of commuting time as personal time while working remotely during Covid.  They want to work… they just don’t want to work set hours, onsite, on a schedule that is dictated to them.  Most people are still fine with working plenty, they just want to pick the hours and the location.

So what is an MSP owner to do?  The foolish ones will fight the tide, and it will frustrate them and wear on their businesses.  Workers will leave for greener pastures.  Solid hires will be hard to come by.  The wise ones will find a way to get the tides working for them.  They will lure in quality workers by advertising with phrases like “Make your own schedule!”, “Work from home up to 3 days a week after training period!”, and “Ask us about having every Friday off!”.  I recently had an MSP owner tell me, “We’re only four people, so everyone needs to be in the office so we always have coverage.”  Now where will a tech who is looking for a job go to work?  At that guy’s company or to the one promoting worker-friendly schedule flexibility?  That’s rhetorical.

My personal opinion is that a hybrid model is optimal for most MSPs these days and for the foreseeable future.  It’s currently about 45% of tech workers who are “in the office” on a given day right now.  That figure may continue to trickle up for a while, but I am unconvinced it will ever go above 60% again.  If you don’t offer your people flexibility, someone else will.  So here’s what an employee friendly plan that still fosters teamwork and healthy company culture might look like:

  1. Everyone in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Regular meetings are held on those days.
  2. The company buys lunch on Wednesdays, encouraging additional in-person attendance.
  3. Shift workers (helpdesk and proactive services) must work a set schedule, but are allowed to work from home up to 3 days a week after 3-month training period.
  4. With permission, senior, non-management employees can work remotely for extended periods of up to a month twice a year. They can also work four 10-hour days per week ongoing if desired.

With a plan similar to this, your company will be better poised to land and retain top talent without spending an additional dime on salaries, and you may find that productivity actually improves as you establish your company as an “employee first” place to work.  Or you could just keep struggling against the tide while your more progressive competitors float past you on tire tubes, sunglasses on.

-Dave Cava