UK IT is overworked, underpaid and stressed out

Do you often find yourself going home at the end of the day feeling exhausted, in need of a stiff drink and a moan? Well, according to a new study you aren’t alone. 

A new study by leading cybersecurity solutions consultancy Chess Cybersecurity has revealed that 45 per cent of IT workers are feeling the pressure of strained technology operations and suffer regular stress in their jobs.

With the threat of cybercrime increasing daily and the demand for technological innovation featuring high on the list of board priorities, the IT team is essential to business success, placing a significant burden on employees to go above-and-beyond to meet organisational needs.

Chess Cybersecurity launched a UK-wide study to assess the wellbeing of the IT workforce, with 1,025 IT workers revealing information about working practices, their perceived value, and provision of resources.

The findings in Chess Cybersecurity’s report, How Stressed is IT?, focuses on the 45 per cent of IT workers who indicated that they felt stressed a lot of time. The report highlights key differences between their views and those of IT workers who aren’t stressed.

Of those stressed out workers, 59 per cent work more than 45 hours a week, which is 20 per cent more than the ONS’s stated national average of 37.1 hours, hinting at a chronic overworking problem in the sector. Six out of 10 said that they lack the resources to do their jobs well, almost half say they do not have a good work/life balance, 53 per cent feel underpaid for the contribution they make and only four out of 10 think that IT is a respected department in the organisation.

“We were not surprised to hear that working in the IT industry can at times be increasingly stressful,” said Kate Wood, culture director, Chess. Of those employees who took the survey citing regular stress at work, almost half claim they don’t feel supported in the role by senior managers, and two thirds don’t have adequate resources to do their jobs well. At Chess, this is something we work hard on with our leaders and through a consistent cultural methodology and regular communication we believe we have a strategy to support all our IT teams so that they can support our customers.”

April is international stress awareness month, and Chess is calling for organisations to consider the impact of work-related stress on their IT teams and take a holistic view of how to help employees take positive steps to reduce it. According to Chess, this is not simply a case of reducing working hours, but also improving internal awareness of stress and its impact on the employee’s mental health, behaviour and performance.

Health Assured, the UK’s leading Employee Assistance Programme provider, has joined Chess’s call for employers to manage employees who routinely over-commit themselves more closely.

“From these results, we can see that IT workers need to proactively take steps to manage stress in the workplace, and that means first understanding its causes and effects,” commented David Price, CEO of Health Assured. “We should provide employees and managers with training to identify and manage stress, and by actively supporting employees in the workplace, we can not only reduce workplace stress but also prevent consequential health issues.”

“Stress alone isn’t a mental condition that is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, but it can lead to further medical conditions that can fall within the definition of disability, such as depression, anxiety or heart disease. Proactively talking to employees with stress, and providing workplace support, will help ensure stress is managed before it progresses,” continued Price.

The research has shown a strong link between overworking and stress. There have been a number of academic findings published in the last 12 months highlighting the problem of overworking. Australian National University found that working over 39 hours a week is a risk to wellbeing while Columbia University Medical Center linked office workers’ sedentary lifestyle to premature death.

“It is clearly detrimental to every employee’s wellbeing, not to mention the company’s own operations if key IT members are suffering from stress,” said Gavin Wood, cybersecurity group director, Chess. “These employees are dealing with crucial aspects of the company’s IT systems, such as their security defences, every single day. Allowing these health issues to go unheeded could, therefore, come at a significant cost to the business, in addition to letting down the employees themselves.”

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