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Reduce Workplace Stress for IT with an Email Signature Manager

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?

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.

Unhelpful stereotypes

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

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.

Excessive workloads

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.

One survey found that 47% of cybersecurity staff have experienced burnout or extreme workplace stress in the last 12 months. 69% of these say it has made them consider their position.

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:

  • Forced password changes that users dislike actioning but which protect the organization from cyber attack
  • Planned system outages that inconvenience users by preventing access data but which are essential for maintenance
  • Cyber threat alerts
  • Network connectivity issues
  • Problems with laptops and other devices

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

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:

  • Decrease in productivity
  • High employee churn/turnover
  • More sick days and absenteeism
  • Greater instances of ‘presenteeism’ (where individuals work even when they are ill and should be resting)
  • Poor morale
  • Low motivation to contribute or innovate
  • More errors associated with working at speed/haste
  • More accidents at work
  • Worsening of customer experience
  • Increasing employee complaints

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 can cause workplace stress

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:

  • As part of new employee onboarding. IT must establish an email signature quickly and accurately. Otherwise, the employee will not have one and cannot legitimately communicate via email.
  • In response to user changes. If personal data about the user/employee changes, this must be updated as soon as possible. This ensures no disconnect between their reality and how they are presented to email recipients.
  • According to marketing priorities. From time to time, the marketing department may require updates to email signatures, such as to implement changes to brand look and feel or to promote new campaigns via email signature banners and images. Some of these changes may be planned in advance, others will be more urgent.
  • In response to other business objectives. Other business-led imperatives may necessitate email signatures updates. For example, changes to legal disclaimers, promotion of important non-marketing communications, or the desire to adopt new email signature functions such as feedback buttons.

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:

  • Loss of customer confidence in the apparent disorganization of how the business is presented across different employees
  • Failure to effectively communicate the brand to stakeholders
  • Misrepresenting names, genders, job titles, and other sensitive information to the extent that employees are distressed or offended (a cause of workplace stress to employees/users, not just IT admins)
  • Lost business opportunities arising from incorrect contact information or dead links provided in email signatures
  • Exposure to litigation because of an absent or out-of-date legal disclaimer

These and other impacts can result from being unable to:

  • Deploy email signatures quickly and easily enough
  • Have email signatures and their components (particularly any images) render properly irrespective of what device it is viewed on or sent from
  • Perform one-time mass updates to signature elements, e.g. the email disclaimer
  • Include a consistent brand experience across email signatures
  • Respond rapidly enough to changes in underlying data so these are reflected in the email signature
  • Orchestrate a family of email signatures that take account of language preferences, sub-brands, marketing priorities, and regulatory requirements and can be used and updated dynamically

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

Email signature management solutions ease the burden of 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:

  • Fast, accurate deployment of email signatures to assigned email accounts. Crucially this is both automated and centralized – ideal for distributed IT teams serving the needs of distributed workforces
  • Total control over the whole gamut of email signature elements from personal identifiable contact information to social media icons, email banners, legal disclaimers, feedback buttons, and meeting scheduling links
  • An easy drag-and-drop design process for creating world-class email signatures. Non-technical (e.g. marketing) users can adopt colors, images, and data elements and resize and preview them instantly
  • Brand and design consistency of email signatures across all users and their emails, including those sent from mobile devices
  • Respond rapidly enough to changes in underlying data so these are reflected in the email signature
  • The ability to define rules used to group employees into different departments or using Active Directory/Google Directory to complete contact details

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?

Want to see how Exclaimer can help to reduce workplace stress for busy IT professionals?

Get yourself a free trial of our award-winning email signature software or book yourself an online demo below.

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