Remote Working and Metrics

In today’s post, Paul Azad, from Service Tree, is going to talk about staff working from home, remote working, working at home working out of the office, or whatever you want to call it. But the single important element is that your team are not working in the same direct supervision as you or as your team lead or as your supervisor.

It’s been a bit of a hot topic at the moment, with the Coronavirus affecting every country around the world. And what we’re seeing a lot of is people working from home, either because it’s been mandated or forced by governments and people in power, or it’s because people feel it is the right thing to do. 

The whole concept of working from home or remote staff is a lot of value, and there’s a lot of benefits to achieve if your team are able to work from home, and you’re able to deliver and deliver the same level of impact from your team. Many organizations have a policy that each team member works maybe one day or two days from home and in a lot of cases, these big organizations do that, because they believe that they’re able to reduce the amount of office space they need, and the amount of rent they’re paying, and so on. 

In reality, a lot of those people that work in those environments, just take the working at home as an unknown day off or half a day off, or very casual day. And the reason why that happens is because it’s not easy to find a way to be able to measure your team and measure what they’re doing. Even if your team are right in front of you and are working in the office with you, you don’t have to be standing over their head to understand to have a feel of what your team are doing and if they’re being productive or not. You can feel the sense when people are just sort of being really quiet or being really busy. But when it comes to work from home, there’s another element and that is how are you able to ensure your team are doing a lot or even just doing the same amount of work that they would do when they’re in the office. 

Disc Profiles

It’s very common when somebody is not being supervised that the level of commitment to their work will change. And it’s something that most leaders don’t directly relate to. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, and you’ll hear me talk about disc profiles many times because when I first or before I first came across these profiles, I always thought everybody thought and felt the same way as I do about things. I’m very driven to make things happen, my MSP customers come to me because they want something to happen. And, either because I will come up with an idea that’s outside the square, or I’m just going to be driven to make it happen a lot quicker, and a lot more with urgency than others. But that’s what sort of drives me and, and it’s something that is very much a trait of somebody that’s got a D or high D in a DISC profile. And the way that we find most technical resources, better system engineer, better technician. And to be honest, it doesn’t even have to be in IT. I’m talking about bookkeepers I’m talking about even a dentist is actually a technical person that their role is technically still in a management role. 

On the topic of IT, generally, those people that are really good at that role are not somebody that’s going to be a D profile, they’re generally going to be something that’s an S steady. And so what that means is that they’re not driven by metrics. They’re not driven by results, they’re more likely to go with a flow and accept status quo. So in a service team or a support team or engineering team, replace that title, what you call your team, it is very common to find that you’ll have people in your team that as soon as somebody is not watching or there’s no metrics, that the amount of work or the output of work actually gets reduced. In a environment where your team arrives in front of you, it’s a bit easier to keep an eye on it. But overall, in that environment, there’s a very high possibility that your team are going to mess out their metrics, mess out the numbers to make themselves look busier. And it’s not because the people are bad people, but it’s because they’re not really my matrix. Now, put this in a environment where the people not working in the office, they’re working in their home. And that really has a big impact on what drives them. So what that really means is that we’ve got to be a lot more aware of what they’re doing. 

Know Your Metrics

Speaking to a MSP, and he’s 10 count was 14 and 14 technical staff. And now they’re all working from home. And I was just sort of discussing, how things have been how the Coronavirus or COVID 19 is impacting them. We’re looking at the team stats, and he says: “this week or the last week or so our team have been really, really busy.” That’s definitely something we expect in the early stages of people, you know, being busy as everybody is working from home. He said: “No, no, that’s finished. That’s finished about a week and a half, two weeks ago, we’ve got all VPN set up for our customers, and but now we’re still busy.” The question is: okay, what are they busy doing? Because most MSPs I’m speaking to are definitely quieter than they were because fortunately, a lot of their customers have either reduced the outport, people are not working, or the amount of working staff are a lot lower, a lot less than it was. Then he goes: “I’m not sure but no, we’re seeing, you know, I’m seeing my team utilization over 80%. I’ve got one guy sitting over 90%.” I’m like: Okay, what are they doing? Like, what is it? Have you looked at your tickets? And he goes: “No, I haven’t. But you know, I want to look at this.” So while we were talking, he looked at his ticket count. And we looked at it and his tickets were down by 34%. I wonder: Okay, if your tickets are down by 34%. And yet, you’re saying is it your team, are up, I think he was estimating about 15%, how does that work? Because what that’s really meaning is that your tickets at, really, the matter of time your team is spending on the tickets are 40% longer than they used to be. And my first thought was maybe his team, maybe, this organization is used to doing a lot of work remotely. And so I asked him, I said: you know, are you guys a traditional MSP that does a lot of work remotely? And maybe that’s the reason. And he goes: “No, no, most of the work we do is remote, we don’t go on site very often.” And I said: Okay, so what’s changed? And he’s like: “Well, I’m not sure. But they’re busier.” And I said: who’s going back and forth. And you had all these ideas. And I’ll be honest, stuck to me very quickly what’s happening, and I let him go with some ideas. And it went back and forth. And then I turned around and said: listen, I’ll be honest, your team are just extending the amount of work to make themselves look busier. And he’s like: “no, no, it’s not the case.” I said: but how can your tickets all of a sudden just take 40% longer, if your people are still using the same tools, they’re doing the same kind of work. And the only difference is that they’re working from home, then the net effect means that your tickets are taking 40% longer, as an I’ll be honest, but it’s unfortunate, I’m going to be suspecting that your people are just making themselves look busier. So they can stay, that you can keep these positions open. And not let people either have unpaid work or make these positions redundant.

He really didn’t know how to sort of react to that one. And I said: you’ve got to really consider what you’re doing here, because if I’m looking at these numbers, right, you’ve literally got at least three or four people more than you need to right now.

I don’t know your financials. But if you’re got 40% more staff than you need, in most organizations in a good environment and a good financial climate. That’s not a successful way to run a company, let alone when we are really in unchartered waters at what’s going to happen to the global economy the next 3, 6, 9, 12 months. I say you’ve got to be really really mindful. because I’ll be honest that’s going to be something dangerous. I said, it’s not nice to let people make position redundant. But you’ve also got to be mindful that you’ve, right now, if you do what you’re doing, you don’t, keep an eye on it, there’s a chance that you actually will run the company into the ground, you’ll actually have no job not only for your 10 other staff, but for you as well, like, you’ve got to be really careful of that. Anyway, the conversation sort of got quiet for a few minutes. And then he sort of came up some ideas. And I said: Listen, it’s not my business, I don’t know your financial, but I’ve been at Amazon for 20 years, I speak to hundreds MSPs each month, what you’ve just told me are telltale signs that you need to really, really be careful.

And it was really interesting because like the many other business owners, he doesn’t keep an eye on his metrics, he doesn’t understand or keep even a high level view at what his team are doing. And so right now, when there’s a time that he needs to be very, very mindful of that. And he’s not, he was looking at doing other things to reduce costs in his business. But really, the net effect would not have been something that would make his team, make his organization profitable enough to make it through this. 

When we’re talking about remote staff, we’ve got to be very mindful of what they’re doing, we got to be very aware of what they’re doing. Just because you as a business owner, you as a manager, you as personal operations are driven first, metrics are driven to make things happen, and driven to excel or achieve goals, it does not mean you rest of the team are. Right? Most support technical staff, most technical staff in general are not driven by those metrics. So we’ve got to be very aware of the metrics, it’s something that you should be looking at every week looking at your ticket counts. So don’t just look at utilization, look at how many tickets are being created, how many tickets have been worked on, how many tickets have been closed, and then also look at the utilization and equate that to total amount of minutes on tickets. And you want to be able to look at how many tickets or what the average amount of time per ticket. 

Now in this MSP, I’m talking about, the amount of time on the tickets went up by 40%. Now, that’s a very, very strong alarm bell that you need to be listening out for. And, as I mentioned to him, he needed to do something about that and do that before it’s too late. 

Remote Staff Is Not New

But in any organization, we’ve got to be very careful, remote staff, it’s not a new thing. Pretty much from day one in my MSP 20 years ago, I had staff that were remote. And so we’ve always had staff either interstate, and then in the years later, we had staff overseas in the in three other countries. So it’s a very different way of running an organization and you really need to have your organization being driven around data and metrics, that’s the only way you’re able to feel and see the way through it. And if you’re not mindful of that, and you let that go, what you will actually find is your staff that are not remote, they will notice that the others are going to not doing as much work and getting away with it. And I’ll go back down to the broken window theory that if the staff that are working remote get away with not doing as much work, then your staff in house are gonna start to let things slide. For your own benefit, for your organization’s benefit for the profitability of the organization and just for the whole team morale, make sure you try to treat everybody with the same paintbrush, make sure you’ve got the metrics to validate your feelings, your thoughts, and praise the people, praise a team that are doing well and make sure you have time to have that conversation with the team that maybe you’re not. But please be very mindful that you don’t let this go because Remote Staff, remote workforce is going to be something that past first half of 2020 is going to become more and more the norm globally. And it’s something that we’ve got to just make sure that we we can handle because there’s definitely there’s benefits of having staff remote, there’s going to be good people that are just not available in your in your local area. Or it could be just for the circumstances for them to come into work every day doesn’t add enough value for them. 


So I definitely believe remote staff or working from home is it good thing to have in your organization, but you’ve definitely got to balance it out. Keep an eye on your data, keep an eye on metrics, keep people accountable, smile and enjoy what we’re doing.

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