stress at work

Stress is something we experience every day. It can be mild or intense. Every one of us deals with stress differently but in small doses, stress is good for us; it is what keeps us going.

The problems begin when our stress levels reach a point where it proves detrimental to our health, to our relationships and our general well-being. The medical community often calls it the ‘silent killer’.

A number of experts argue that technology has, in part, contributed to higher stress levels because, while easing the burden in so many areas, technology has made multi-tasking the norm –we are expected to do more because technology allows us to do more.

To mark National Stress Awareness Month, GFI has for the past three years conducted a survey among IT administrators in the US and UK. This independent study gauges respondents’ stress levels at work and reveals their opinions on their main stressors, as well as how their stress level compares to that of friends and family and how it affects their personal and professional lives.

Unfortunately, despite a slight improvement (emphasis on slight), the situation hasn’t changed much for the better. If anything, stress is proving to be a major reason for IT admins to take stock of their life and do something about it. (It does improve somewhat for IT admins in the UK).

GFI’s study shows that 79% of IT staff are actively considering leaving their current role due to job-related stress, despite apparent economic and staffing improvements in many businesses across the US.

For the third year running, stress is contributing to job dissatisfaction among IT professionals. Despite improvements in the economy reducing budget pressures, the level of job dissatisfaction among US IT professionals has increased since 2013, when just 57% of those surveyed reported they were actively looking to leave their current role.

Key findings from the US survey include:

  • 77% of all US IT staff surveyed consider their job stressful – an increase of 12% over 2013
  • More than one third (38%) have missed social functions due to overrunning issues at work
  • 35% also report missing time with their families due to work demands on their personal time
  • One third of IT staff regularly lose sleep over work pressures
  • One quarter have suffered stress-related illness, while a further 17% complain of feeling in poor physical condition due to work demands, a small improvement over 2013 (20%)
  • 24% of respondents have had a relationship severely damaged or fail due to their job
  • 30% feel they are the most stressed person in their social or family group

Management headache

Management was singled out as the biggest contributing factor to workplace stress; with more than one third (36%) of the sample of IT professionals surveyed citing this as the biggest source of stress. An additional 34% cited a lack of budget and staff to get the job done, despite the perceived improvement in the US job market.

Long hours, little pay

Once again, IT staff frequently work additional hours to get the job done, often without additional pay. On average, the IT workers surveyed work 8.5 hours a week more than their stated working hours, with 23% of the survey sample working between eight and 12 hours of unpaid overtime each week.

Bigger is better

While the overall number of IT staff looking to change roles is already high, in organizations with between 250 and 500 employees, it is particularly high (83%). Meanwhile, IT admins at the smallest companies with between 10 and 49 staff are not much happier, with almost 71% looking for a new role. Surprisingly, employees in the largest companies – those with more than 500 employees – are the most content, with just shy of 60% looking for an exit.

IT staff hear the strangest things

In an effort to understand what it is that causes such high levels of stress among IT staff, they were queried about the most bizarre, silly or otherwise frustrating thing that management or end users had asked of them. Mind-boggling responses include:

  • “I asked a user to open Windows – they took it literally.”
  • “Having to repair and replace damaged machines because users keep hitting them.”
  • “A user jacked up his car and used his company laptop as a wheel support. It did not work.”
  • “User complained there was a ghost in her PC when IT staff remote connected to it to resolve an issue.”
  • For the third year running, the most popular complaint to IT by users was: “User complained they could not print/computer was not working, but failed to notice that the printer/computer in question wasn’t even switched on.”

For details of the survey conducted in the UK, click here.