Thankfully, gone are the days when stress at work was stigmatized or swept under the carpet. Improved awareness of mental health and a willingness among organizations to provide better working environments and practices has brought the workplace stress issue into the open.
Yet while the stigma of workplace stress has waned, the reality of it happening has not.
How bad is workplace stress for IT professionals?
Most of the available data on workplace stress relates to all employees, regardless of job role. However, more detailed research identifies IT roles and technology-related business sectors as being above average in terms of stress. Here are some of the latest available workplace stress stats:
‘Burnout’ is another term for describing high-stress conditions and their consequences. According to one report, an astonishing 58% of tech workers experience burnout at any one time. Burnout is closely associated with excessive workloads and expectations and is characterized by mental and physical exhaustion.
Challenges facing IT professionals
Every job role has its challenges, but IT professionals contend with a particularly acute set of unique factors.
The IT skills shortage
The onset of COVID lockdowns led not to massive job layoffs but to huge backlogs of unfilled job openings that persist today. This is especially pronounced in tech roles, where the outlook is bleak and worsening.
Recent research found that 76% of IT decision-makers faced departmental skills gaps – a figure that has risen dramatically over the last five years. This significantly impacts individual employee workloads, with fewer workers being available to undertake tasks.
The extreme pace of innovation
The technology industry is an engine for global growth, with new startups and innovations evolving the landscape for IT solutions and best practices at an extremely rapid rate. This pressures IT professionals to continually learn and adapt to new challenges and expectations as organizations emphasize harnessing digital technology to transform operations, business models, and products/services.
The other effect of layer upon layer of innovation is the difficulty of simplifying all the complexity. The buck stops with IT professionals who often aren’t equipped with the resources to cope. Counterintuitively, many processes surrounding advanced technology deployment still require manual checks and balances and repetitive tasks. This then impacts the mental health of IT staff, increasing the risk of stress in the workplace.
References to IT professionals in popular culture don’t exactly reflect the reality of hard work, long hours, and great responsibility. The archetypal character – best personified in The IT Crowd – is a workshy, under-employed manchild singularly blessed with zero talent other than the ability to confound users and management by making IT out to be far more complicated than it actually is.
And while audiences understand this is fiction, the sense remains that it is grounded in truth. All IT professionals must confront this kind of preconception when dealing with others in their organization.
Biggest sources of workplace stress for IT professionals
Workplace stress comes from a variety of angles for IT professionals. Some stressors are similar to those found in other demanding roles. Others are specific to the unique demands of IT roles.
IT departments are very often understaffed and overworked. This can have a detrimental effect on IT colleagues' mental health and well-being. Skills gaps can mean that individuals must work across disciplines, including in areas where they lack experience and can be prone to causing errors or taking longer than expected to complete tasks.
Overall, 39% of workers say heavy workload is their principal cause of work stress. This may be higher still in the IT domain, particularly since the pandemic exacerbated already extreme workloads. In one study, 83% of software developers reported an increase in burnout following the pandemic, with increased workload cited as the primary reason.
‘Groundhog day’ stifling innovation and strategic value
Closely connected to the issue of excessive workloads is the ‘groundhog day’ of spending the majority of available time on the same essential operational tasks. This leaves no time for the stuff IT professionals get job satisfaction from – and which most benefits the organization – like applying new technology to solve problems and innovating new IT services. This lack of empowerment can impact mental health by undermining self-esteem and self-determination, leaving individuals feeling trapped.
Pressure cooker events
IT departments are more likely than many others in an organization to face real ‘pressure cooker’ events. In other words, those that threaten its ability to function, such as a cyber attack or catastrophic IT failure. These occur without warning and provoke extreme scrutiny from management superiors – both of which add to the unpleasantness.
Another report shows that 62% of CIOs/CTOs have suffered from stress-related illnesses in the event of an IT crisis.
The fact that every colleague is a customer
With some rare exceptions, all employees of an organization are also IT users. In effect, they are internal customers, and like any customers, they have expectations and requirements.
The concept of internal customers is not unique to IT of course – think HR departments, for example – but no other business function has a 24/7/365 responsibility to provide a critical level of service and support. The sheer responsibility would be enough of a stressor, but wrapped up in this is the occasional sense of being a punchbag for the rest of the company – especially when things go wrong.
Just as customers can sometimes be abusive to customer-facing employees, IT users are just as capable of crossing the line and giving the IT team a hard time.
IT users bringing stress at work into interactions
While IT professionals are integral to the success of organizations, the truth is that other colleagues seldom interact with them unless something goes wrong. Consider the sorts of things that everyday employees will associate with the IT department:
This persistent context of negativity is harmful and can infect interactions between IT professionals and everyone else, causing isolation. It’s also very frustrating for IT pros because of its failed logic (like injured people being aggressive and abusive toward healthcare professionals looking after them), which creates a stressful work environment.
IT as an agent of change
IT professionals can unwittingly make themselves unpopular simply because they bring change, which many find unwelcome. This can create stressful interactions with other colleagues and stakeholders who resent new working practices or when old, familiar technologies are replaced with new ones. This is compounded by the difficulty many average users have in understanding technology.
The impacts of workplace stress
It’s important to recognize that the primary concern with workplace stress is the effect on the individual. These can be life-changing and even life-threatening.
Workplace stress is closely associated with high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, anger management issues, digestive problems, and lack of sleep. In some cases, panic attacks, depression, obesity, and suicide.
There are also significant impacts on organizations where workplace stress is present. Some of these effects include:
All of these compromise the organization’s ability to function properly, compete, grow and generate optimum commercial returns.
Why email signature management causes stress at work
Email signature management often adds to the workload of IT teams already overburdened with admin tasks. This can happen at unpredictable intervals with tight time constraints. And the impact of getting it wrong can be severe.
What is email signature management?
Every IT user has an email signature, and it’s important that this is accurate to the individual and consistent across the organization. Email signatures are also increasing in strategic importance, being seen as an extension of the corporate brand experience and an extra vehicle for communicating marketing messages and driving customer interactions.
Ensuring that users have the correct and appropriate email signature is a responsibility that the IT department typically manages.
The signatures look clean and uniform and it's one less thing to stress about when it comes to making sure all employees are compliant with their sigs. Heather Clemons, CPAmerica Inc.
Email signature management triggers
IT teams are called upon to perform email signature management tasks at the following times:
Email signature management triggers
The nature of these triggers contributes to workplace stress, particularly when the triggers are unplanned and/or bound to immediate deadlines.
The standard approach to updating an individual email signature is manual via the account settings of the email system. This approach is common among organizations of all sizes. It requires IT professionals who can confidently use advanced back-end settings on Office 365 (now Microsoft 365), G Suite (now Google Workspace), or other systems for changes to take effect.
This execution of email signatures comes in the middle of a three-stage process. First is the change or setup request that IT teams must capture and record before executing it. Again this is typically a manual process using spreadsheets. Once implemented, a manual testing process ensures that the signature renders correctly.
The manual nature of email signature management makes it a contributing factor to workplace stress caused by repetitive and excessive workloads.
The best email signature service that we've ever used. Don't waste your time with any other service. It makes designing the perfect signature fun and stress free. Bruno D'Arcangelo, Darcangelo Design
Email signature management risks and pitfalls
There’s a lot riding on email signatures being on point and maximized to best advantage. On the flip side, there are some serious business risks associated with getting it wrong, such as:
These and other impacts can result from being unable to:
IT professionals must walk this tightrope of email signature management with significant consequences to the organization if they fail – a perfect storm for workplace stress!
How an email signature manager can reduce workplace stress
The answer to these challenges comes in the form of a centralized email management software system like Exclaimer. Exclaimer makes email signature management an automated rather than manual process. This has the benefit of reducing workloads, mitigating the risks of delay and human error, alleviating timebound pressure, and giving back precious time to IT teams to spend on other priorities.
A specialist email signature solution comes into its own when scaled up across entire organizations, mainly mid to large-sized enterprises with thousands of employees. It overcomes the complexity of managing email signatures by delivering:
Exclaimer makes it easy to provide uniformity to our branding across multiple e-mail platforms. Changes are stress free, simply update the template and changes are rolled out immediately. Shawn Reed, XMC, Inc.
Interested in learning more?
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