Cybersecurity company benefits should reduce stress but don’t
From start-ups to Silicon Valley giants, tech company employees work in some of the most luxurious offices in the world, especially as the best of businesses battle to attract top talent. For those of us in high-anxiety fields, some attempts have been made to alleviate stress by offering more unique perks. While the goal is admirable, many of these cybersecurity company benefits miss the mark.
Cybersecurity company benefits
There is an abundance of company-sponsored privileges that border on the absurd, from beauty benefits like Botox to “laughing yoga”. A recent study found that almost all employees (94%) want their employers to offer benefits that meaningfully impact their quality of life, from paying off student loan debt to offering more flexible work hours.
Vanity cybersecurity company benefits may be useful for recruitment, but do they really help when it comes to retention? It’s worth asking because retaining talent is more cost-effective than recruiting new talent. It’s also important to consider the goal of each perk and whether cybersecurity workers value them.
Netflix stopped tracking vacation days way back in the misty past of 2004. Unlimited vacation may have sounded attractive, but in practice, the streaming platform has noted that their employees tend to work around the clock schedules. An Insider poll found that employees with unlimited vacation plans were nearly twice as likely to “always work” while on vacation compared to those with limited vacation days (29% versus 15%).
This “work-cation” problem can be especially common in the realm of cybersecurity. Because cyber roles are business-critical, peer pressure trumps intentions within HR handbook policies. Worse, the always-on nature of cyber means vacation rarely allows total disconnection.
It can be hard to truly be present and in the moment on your vacation when you’re still expected to be “on” at all times at work. Instead of a vacation providing relief from stress, responsibilities now get to follow you around the globe, producing a constant tick of anxiety when it’s less convenient to meet demands: Am I checking in often enough? Is the team at home handling everything? Better make sure I book a hotel with good Wi-Fi. Thanks to globalization and so-called unlimited vacation, your stress and anxiety can follow you anywhere! Hurray.
In mature organizations – especially for always-on teams – leaders put in place processes and systems that make it easy for their people to recharge and reinvigorate themselves. Rather than relying on more vacation days as a perk, companies may achieve more by investing in collaboration tools that help people hand over responsibilities, status, and even problems to fellow team members. Even for the most business-minded leaders with high expectations of employees, it should be understood that when people can’t disconnect from work, the supportive relationships in their lives suffer, ultimately making them less effective at their business roles and harder to retain.
On-premise personal services
Some companies are offering on premise personal services as a benefit. Genentech offers an entire suite – car wash facilities, bicycle repair, haircut services, even a dental van. Pretty soon, you’ll never need to leave work at all. By the grace of upper management, there’s no need to take time out from the office. Yes, soon we’ll be able to dedicate the maximum time possible to our work. No more excuses.
Well, I for one welcome our new corporate overlords. Okay, that might be a bit unfair. The good intention here is to help promote work-life balance, and that’s certainly admirable. I like a good haircut as much as the next person, and these days, who doesn’t get their dental work out of the back of a van? But for many in the cybersecurity industry, there is so much more that could be done to help, and these services can feel patronizing and dismissive when underlying problems go unaddressed.
So-called “Zen Rooms” have become rather trendy these days. These areas are meant to create peace, tranquility, and focus. By providing an escape, employees have an outlet for unloading their anxieties and gaining clarity on their work. People have been retreating to closets to get away from coworkers for decades, so why not spruce it up with some incense and New Age music? It’s not a bad idea, but can we not just make a Zen Office instead?
We could do so by focusing on reducing the actual stress that security teams battle by providing them with the team culture and the team tools they need to perform their job calmly and efficiently.
Treat the cause, not the symptom
We could continue dissecting the quirky perks that tech companies are offering these days, but do any of them help to actually relieve stress and anxiety? Many of them seem more like clever marketing techniques to entice employees in the short-term. They can be seen as Band-Aids attempting to cover up the symptom of workplace stress rather than treating the causes of poor company culture.
Ultimately, stress generally arises from an inability to control one’s outcomes amid high expectations. Lack of control arises from shortfalls in know-how or resources. So if you don’t have the skills, the tools or the time, you’re stressed. It’s not because you don’t have aromatherapy.
For many security analysts, expectations are very high, and the anxiety that results has led to alarmingly high rates of burnout within the industry. Analysts don’t have much time to work. They face enormous amounts of data, flowing in through multiple streams. Managing data flow and security responses can feel like a battleground, and providing constant triage is leading to shell shock.
One way to genuinely help security operations centers is to provide them the best solutions available for the job and allowing for automation to reduce stress. Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platforms can relieve security analysts from dealing with redundant alerts and executing repetitive responses. Dealing with a massive inflow of alerts and tickets is not just anxiety driving, but the actual resolution of each is tedious, boring, and banal.
The funny thing is much of this can be automated away. There’s simply no reason to be wasting valuable human capital that could otherwise be deployed toward innovation. There are elegant solutions to removing much of the stress and anxiety that security analysts face. Freeing people from repetitive tasks simultaneously relieves them of unnecessary stress and gives them the opportunity to focus on what their talents and expertise best requires.
Critiques about perks aside, companies taking the initiative to make workplaces more enjoyable is a good thing. But for those in the trenches, when genuine working solutions exist but aren’t put in place for the team, it erodes confidence in that intention. By providing the right tools to our security operations teams, we can empower them to work both more efficiently and more happily. It’s not only the right thing for your business, it’s the right thing morally as well.
Then again, an American Gladiator room would be pretty cool.