As more organizations focus on digitally transforming their businesses and the need for technology and its services grows, tech workers are facing burnout and seeing their mental health take a beating. test.
A study of mental wellness tools provider Yerbo found that two out of five IT workers are at high risk of burnout, due to working longer hours and a more demanding workload. Additionally, another survey of more than 1,800 Salesforce professionals found that more permanent technicians experienced burnout in their roles during COVID-19 compared to before the pandemic.
What causes burnout?
“Technology burnout in general, I think, kind of happened in phases. It was like, two years ago when we started with the pandemic, everybody was going home. And so the technology had to adapt,” said Christine Gadsby, vice president of product security at Blackberry.
Gadsby said a lot of that burnout and mental health strain has to do with lack of work/life balance. People now have the power to work anywhere.
“There are no borders, there really aren’t any. It just becomes work,” she said.
Moreover, according to the Great Workplace Study conducted by Leger for Hamster, 31% of workers find it harder to feel motivated to work from home
The study also found that Canadian worker satisfaction is down 3% and engagement at work has dropped 6% since last year.
According to Vaibhav Sinha, CTO of BlocPala Vancouver-based fintech company, said the tech industry has never seen mental health issues as prevalent as they are right now.
“In IT, where remote working is now the norm, there is less separation as to when their [tech workers] professional life ends and their personal life begins,” Sinha said. “It makes people feel like their working days have become endless. We’ve seen this lead to a tendency for employees to work longer hours and increase production of business deliverables. Coupled with the trajectory of the Canadian tech industry and a volatile economic market, employees develop severe burnout and fatigue between the ages of 9 and 5.
Sinha said burnout affects the tech industry, especially because companies’ staffing plans put a lot of pressure on tech teams.
“Technology is such an interconnected discipline with different areas of business. If there are not adequate staff across all teams, it can lead to a lack of clarity and focus, leading to burnout,” a- he noted.
Burnout for security professionals
Within the tech industry, cybersecurity professionals specifically are feeling the burnout at an extraordinary rate, with data breaches and cyberattacks skyrocketing and companies not equipped to handle them. Coupled with lean security teams across all sectors, and around 600,000 job vacancies in cybersecurity in the United States, the increase in turnover caused by burnout can become a major security risk.
Gadsby said that due to an increase in cyberattacks, the workload has increased making it harder for cyber professionals.
“Not only are there more attacks surfacing for security people, but you have more regulations telling us that we have to monitor the attack surface which, in reality, we monitor a lot, but I think that cybersecurity and specifically the reason so much burnout is happening is because there’s a lot of noise and so many things that security guards have to watch out for,” Gadsby said.
Although the workload is high right now for cybersecurity professionals — and tech workers in general — Gadsby said she doesn’t think it will affect interest in the field from recent graduates and people looking to enter the industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced many cyberattacks, due to organizations pushing work online, but Gadsby said those stories have also sparked interest in the field.
“The pandemic has sparked a lot of really interesting security stories where I feel like we’re influencing a younger generation. They’re sitting at home and they’re reading things like SolarWinds…So I think we’re attracting [people], and more and more experienced workers in the field are leading the way and painting the picture that they can work from anywhere and are really trying to find a work/life balance or are facing burnout,” she said. “I think it attracts a whole bunch of the younger generation to say, ‘it’s a really cool field and I can work from anywhere and I can do this job and really enjoy it’.”
Solve the problem
Regarding solutions to burnout and mental health issues in the tech space, Gadsby said “using technology to manage technology” will help alleviate the heavy workload that many workers face.
She noted that focusing on optimizing automation is an important step.
For example, a article by Wrk, a Canadian hybrid automation platform company, noted that automation saves time on certain tasks, so could introduce simplicity and free up time in the workplace.
Gadsby said heavy workloads that are not always humanly possible to complete in a timely manner could be alleviated through technology.
“We spend so much time developing automated solutions and then for some reason are afraid to implement them. We have to rely on this technology because it is not humanly possible,” she said.
Gadsby also said it was vital for leaders to encourage discussion about mental health and support in the workplace.
Sinha echoed that, noting that asking how people are doing and focusing on taking action to ensure all employees feel valued and supported is integral.
“People want to feel that they are heard and respected, that they have opportunities for growth, that they have an impact on the company and the world, and that they are well compensated for their efforts. Employers demand so much of their employees these days, and rightly so. Employees should demand as much in return,” Sinha said.