Infosec problems create stress for IT departments

A new IT Admin Stress Survey from GFI Software revealed that 68% 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 country.

For the third year running, high levels of work stress is contributing to high levels of job dissatisfaction with in excess of two thirds of IT professionals looking for a new job due to the pressures imposed on them in their current role.

Despite improvements in the economy reducing budget pressures, the level of job dissatisfaction among UK IT professionals has reduced only slightly over 2013, when 73% of those surveyed reported they were actively looking to leave their current job due to stress.

The blind, independent study was conducted by Opinion Matters among 200 UK administrators in companies of 10 or more people. The survey gauged respondents’ stress levels at work and revealed 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.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • 67% of all UK IT staff surveyed consider their job stressful – just 1% lower than 2013
  • Over a third (36%) have missed social functions due to overrunning issues at work
  • A further 36% also report missing time with their families due to work demands on their personal time
  • 28% of IT staff regularly lose sleep over work pressures
  • 19% have suffered stress-related illness, up on 2013, while a further 15% complain of feeling in poor physical condition due to work demands
  • One sixth (16.5%) of respondents have had a relationship fail or be severely damaged due to their job
  • One quarter (24%) feel they are the most stressed person in their social or family group.

Management headache

Management was clearly singled out as the biggest contributing factor to workplace stress, with half the sample of IT professionals surveyed citing management as the biggest source of stress for them. A further 24% cited a lack of budget and staff to get the job done, a small improvement on 2013 and reflecting the improvement in the UK’s job market.

Extra hours and illegally-long work weeks

Once again, IT staff frequently find themselves working additional hours over and above the 48-hour working week set down in the EU Working Time Directive, often without additional pay. On average, the IT workers surveyed would work six hours a week over and above their stated working hours, with 20% of the survey sample working between eight and 12 hours a week unpaid overtime.

Smaller is better

While the overall number of IT staff looking to change roles is already high, in organisations with between 250-500 staff it is particularly high, with 76% of those surveyed looking for a job change, while the smallest companies with between 10 and 49 staff are more content, with 58% looking for a new role.

“IT is renowned for being one of the most stressful white-collar jobs to undertake, now more so than ever given the critical role IT plays in everything from ecommerce to facilities management,” said Sergio Galindo, general manager of the Infrastructure Business Unit at GFI Software. “There is a lot that organisations can do to reduce the burden – and with it the stress levels – carried by IT staff. Providing realistic IT budgets and staffing levels helps a lot, but there are productivity changes that can also significantly de-stress the IT department, such as investing in technology to automate personnel-intensive activities like deploying software updates and managing sprawling Wi-Fi networks and the myriad of mobile devices that users are bringing to work.”

Regional findings

  • IT staff in the Midlands are the most stressed group, with 76% of those surveyed saying their work was overtly stressful. Staff in Scotland are the least stressed, with only half of respondents in Scotland declaring themselves stressed at work
  • Nottingham is the city with the most stressed IT staff – with 83% of IT professionals there stressed at work. In line with the regional findings, Edinburgh is the least stressed, with only 30% of IT staff surveyed stressed at work
  • In London, 69% of staff surveyed said management were the biggest cause of stress at work, the highest of all the regions
  • IT departments in Scotland are the most concerned about the lack of budget for IT activities (37.5%)
  • Two thirds of IT personnel in Nottingham (66.7%) are the most stressed of all the people in their social circle
  • 40% of IT staff surveyed in the Midlands have experienced stress-related health issues.

Things are worse in the US
This years figures are in stark contrast to the US, where the same survey revealed noticeably higher levels of stress, and higher levels of job dissatisfaction among US IT professionals. Over three quarters (78.5%) of US IT staff are looking for a new role, broadly in line with the same number that report their current role to be stressful. Management is a significantly smaller influence on US IT stress levels, with just over a third (36%) of those surveyed singling out management as the root cause of their work-related stress, far lower than the UK.

IT staff hear the funniest things
In an effort to understand what it is that causes such high levels of stress among IT staff, we asked those surveyed to tell us what the most bizarre, silly or otherwise frustrating thing was that management or end users had asked of them.

Mind-boggling responses included:

  • “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”.

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