IT departments are more stressed than ever. One study from Computerworld found that 78 percent of IT workers considered their job stressful, a percentage that had climbed precipitously from 57 percent in the same study two years prior. The only surprise for anyone in IT may be that 12 percent of their colleagues DON’T consider their jobs stressful. If you’re in IT, especially in a management or leadership position, you’ve got a lot to worry about: network availability, IT security, compliance, credentials management, backups, etc. At the same time, management expects you to lead the way in areas like cloud computing, AI, Big Data, automation, and more. To cap it all off, you’re expected to do all this with a staff that is razor thin and a budget that isn’t much thicker.
The high cost of stress
High-stress levels come at a cost. In 2015, researchers at Harvard Business School estimated that workplace stress was responsible for up to 8% of national spending on health care and contributed to 120,000 deaths each year. If you’ve been in the business a while, I’ll bet you’ve lost colleagues to stress-related illnesses. I know I have.
High-stress levels can also lead to daily issues such as lower morale, lower levels of employee engagement, higher turnover rates, and costly mistakes. In their 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study, Ponemon Institute found that as much as 28 percent of data breaches are caused by human error. Human error was also found to be the root cause of 22 percent of data center outages in their 2016 Cost of Data Center Outages study. These studies don’t say whether the humans were stressed before they made these errors, but it’s a safe bet they were afterward! Whether it’s the cause or effect of mistakes, stress is a problem for many.
3 strategies for combating the stress epidemic in IT
Most of our employees are in IT as are most of our customer contacts, so we’re especially concerned about the IT stress epidemic. Here are some strategies that have helped us as well as our clients.
1 Start with yourself
Common wisdom suggests starting with the things you can control. Many of us can make small changes in our lives that will, if not decrease the stress levels of the environment around us, at least decrease the stress levels in ourselves. Examples of these changes include exercising, eating well, cutting out – or at least reducing – caffeine consumption, getting six to eight hours of sleep a night, taking lunch breaks, taking vacations, going for walks to clear your mind, etc.
TechRepublic published an ebook on How to Manage Job Stress. It claims to be an IT Leader’s guide, but it contains suggestions that may be helpful at every level. While not every solution will be right for you, I’m confident you’ll find a few that will work.
For decades, management books have touted the practice of delegation as a way to decrease stress levels. It also shows trust in your people and helps them develop. However, you need to be sure you’re not destressing yourself by stressing out those who report to you.
Outsourcing day-to-day administration tasks like database management, cloud management, and IT security monitoring to a qualified managed service provider can help you keep your team from reaching the breaking point. This strategy is catching on. According to the 2017 IDC Application Services Survey, 30 percent of executives are outsourcing the management of their organization’s infrastructure and application portfolio. This percentage is expected to rise to 41 percent over the next five years.
3 Adopt a no-jerks policy
There’s no doubt that a “jerk at work” is one of the most common stressors in this business. When Connectria first opened its doors back in the late 90s, our founders immediately adopted our No-Jerks Allowed philosophy. Since then, we’ve been named one of Computerworld’s Best Places to Work five times, one of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Top Workplaces six times, and one of St. Louis Business Journal’s Best Places to Work four times.
Contact Connectria for more information on creating a better, stress-free, environment for your IT team.