Breaking Bad Part 3: How MSPs Can Maintain a Healthy Work/Life Balance


Ray Vrabel HeadshotBy Raymond Vrabel, Director, Technical Account Management, Continuum

Part three of a monthly blog series examining tips on how MSPs can work to

break “bad” business habits that they might unknowingly fall into as a result of just wanting to get things done.

In the previous installment of “Breaking Bad,” I discussed how to bring out the best in your employee talent. In this month’s blog, I’ll be more specific as to how to encourage your employees (and yourself) to maintain a work/life balance that is realistic and healthy.

Many of today’s MSPs are one-person shops that perform several duties throughout the day; there never seem to be enough hours, and multi-tasking is an understatement. However, whether we are talking about work/life balance for you, the business owner or your employees, it has to start at the top. As the business owner, you set the tone for the rest of the organizational culture. Here are a few tips for you and your employees to begin maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

1.) Take a Vacation:
When I speak with partners at industry events and staff who report to me, this is a recurring theme that remains a constant—not taking time off. With any size business, there are many components in which you must deal: Putting out daily fires, growing your business, adding new technologies -- all while keeping current, paying clients happy. If you have staff, you also have to ensure they are maintaining their own healthy work/life balance. If you don’t take time off, it begins to affect you mentally and physically, and can cause problems such as burn out, irritability and depression, all of which can lead to being counterproductive. Being at the office 24/7 will take its toll. Look at the big, long-term picture. It’s important to work hard, but it’s more important to be efficient. If you are working that many hours, then maybe something in the process is “broken”. Look at what can be done to make you, your processes and your business run more efficiently – allowing you to take that vacation.

Don’t put it off, because something “important” will always come up at work. Set a date on your calendar and book the time. Even if it’s a stay-cation where you relax at home or visit local parks or attractions, make sure you plan it in advance, let your team know, and block off your schedule.

Recharging and unplugging is also important; remember to take a step back from the business. Especially in today’s mobile and virtual world, it’s easy to get caught up in every email and ongoing issue. Learn to delegate more if at all possible, and implement processes that help with ensuring that everything is running efficiently, and things are getting done on time. For example, implement an RMM tool, so that you don’t have to be on-site for every client issue and can assist remotely. No one wants to be up at 2 a.m. sitting in front of a server to check alerts. With an RMM tool or even a NOC, you can catch up on those much-needed hours of sleep so you can be refreshed for the morning. And you could possibly get in some free time, and be able to go out and do something fun after hours.

2.) Maintain Health and Wellness:
This ties in directly with taking time off. It’s important to take care of yourself first, before taking care of business and employees. If you aren’t in a healthy place mentally and physically, how can you expect your staff to be? I have found that employees who are recharged and refreshed and are feeling good are the best ones to have in the room. Not having any downtime affects everything from demeanor and attitude to health. Why not encourage employees to participate in team-building activities that require them to be physical? How about lunchtime yoga or encouraging employees to take morning and afternoon healthy snack breaks? Nothing is worse than working on a project when you are low on energy. Another idea is to get a group together to meet after work to do something fun like bowling or miniature golf. This way, you are still maintaining that sense of employee camaraderie while doing something fun and physically stimulating. Don’t just use money as a way to compensate your employees. Utilizing non-monetary compensation strategies is a great way show employees you care about their work/life balance.

In order to effectively achieve a solid work/life balance, it’s important to try and separate your personal life from your professional life. Take time away from phones, laptops, etc. and don’t talk shop. Go out and stretch your legs--a walk around the office or a bike ride on the weekend (without technology) just to clear your mind can do wonders. It has been my experience that people are more productive in less time if they are more relaxed than someone who is constantly working. Some of my best brainstorming sessions have come after a weekend getaway, away from technology and the fast paced business. This helps get you out of the “weeds” and allows you to look at the big picture and achieve much better results. A fresh perspective can go a long way in a meeting or a project, especially when it’s time to overcome those hurdles.

3.) Avoid Burn Out:
Unfortunately, as more companies are being forced to decrease staff and resources due to cost-cutting measures, burn out is becoming all-too common. As a result, many business owners might inadvertently push their employees to the max, burning them out quickly. Just because someone is efficient, doesn’t mean that they enjoy doing the job each day. I recently had a conversation with an MSP who told me that he didn’t realize some of his staff were experiencing burn out. The work would still get done, efficiently and quickly. However, it wasn’t realized until they approached him, and said that, yes, the work was getting done, but they didn’t enjoy what they were doing. At Continuum, we went through an exercise with our own staff called SWAG: Strength, Weakness, Assessment, Goals – This allowed us to take a hard look at where employees would be happiest and most productive.

Bottom line: No matter how busy work is, taking time off is important. For the sake of your career, make healthy choices for both your physical and mental wellness, and enjoy your work. It’s a proven fact that people who like what they are doing are more productive and have a healthy work/life balance. They generally complete the work in an efficient and timely manner, but can also be happier. Under positive circumstances, employees will experience a better quality of life both professionally and personally. It’s all about not overloading yourself and your staff, and keeping the lines of communication open if problems arise.

Raymond Vrabel is Continuum's Director of Technical Account Management and participates in product and service growth initiatives. He manages Continuum's Technical Account Management team which supports more than 3,500 partners worldwide. Vrabel has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, specializing in managed IT services, disaster recovery and cloud solutions.