50% of IT professionals said that their mental health was affected by their work
If you work within an IT team or have responsibility for leading one, then you will know the unique pressures faced by technology staff. From staff shortages, long often unpredictable hours, changing shifts, moving deadlines and expectations that are higher than ever, working in an IT team has never been easy.
For many years, the strategy was to drive staff harder and for longer, hoping that the free-flow coffee would do the trick. Anyone that has worked in IT has likely been there.
Working that way, however, has taken an often invisible toll on employees mental health with the consequence of undermining revenue, productivity and increasng cost.
Too much work, tight deadlines and not enough staff
The headline at the top of this page might seem alarmist, but that is one of the key findings in the 2019 Harvey Nash Tech Survey. That same survey revealed that 1 in 5 professionals working in IT Operations were currently affected by mental health concerns.
Anyone that has ever worked in IT will tell you that there are never enough staff. As staff become overwhelmed and stressed, work appears to be more difficult and the hours in the day are never enough.
With a percentage of staff having poor mental health at any one time, it becomes more and more likely to affect delivery and reliability, ultimately impacting service levels.
It should be concerning that the people entrusted with delivering high levels of stability are as a result of potentially poor mental health, likely displaying signs of presenteeism, distraction and a loss of focus.
These aren’t previously good people who have gone bad. These are staff members who are facing bumps in the road and need a little extra support – as we all do from time to time.
Do you have ‘presentee’ employees in your IT Teams?
Flexmind’s founder, Brian Tancock, spent much of his previous career working within and leading Financial Markets IT & Project teams. He recalls times spent hitting the PageUp, PageDown keys as his brain would occasionally became disconnected from what was actually on his screen and what he was meant to be doing. The weight of the world and its impact on his mind occupying his thoughts rather than the work he was tasked to do.
Brian hadn’t known it at the time but he was sometimes showing all the signs of being a “presentee” employee. Effectively during those periods, the lights might have been on, but no one was home.
Presentee employees are rarely the typical lazy, error-prone employee that we might expect. Presenteeism can and does happen to even the best, most productive, least error-prone staff. It happens when their minds are affected and distracted by other things that might be going on either in their work or personal lives and their minds wander from the task in hand.
In the UK we know that presenteeism is a significant contributor to lost revenue, lost productivity and increasing cost. With £43billion estimated to be lost by business every year as a result of poor mental health, the consequences are significant.
Positive mental health support delivers on KPI’s
The reality of working in the world of technology and systems these days is one of Key Control Self Assessments, Key Performance Indicators. Anything that can be measured and tracked is.
Strangely, little is done to measure and nurture an organisation’s most important asset. Its people and the minds that make them who they are.
For all the work that organisations put into ensuring systems and performance is where it needs to be, they tend to forget the people we are so reliant upon.
We work with computers every day and get used to concept that they will given a certain set of inputs, reliably produce an expected set of outputs. We take that for granted.
However, as much as we would like it to be the case, employees do not always perform consistently.
Procedures, guidelines and controls involving people are designed with a general expectation that people will react in a consistent & laregely predictable way. But, when we factor in mental health, we can get some surprising outputs. For instance, a previously expert programmer might not code as well as they usually do. Others may not be executing and observing test procedures as diligently or as well as they would normally.
We often rely on four-eyes principles, with checks, sometimes multiple checks to make sure things work correctly. But if we consider that significant numbers of those doing the work or checking are affected by poor mental health, then the probability of errors not being seen might be higher than anticipated. The number of undetected errors are likely to be higher than expected. Even if testing does detect some errors, it is likely that more errors remain undetected. Setting aside the impact on the service or product, debugging and retesting is contributing to the overall cost and tying up resources that could be working on something else.
Peoples minds matter
If what we describe sounds wrong, or unrepresentative of your teams, we might ask – how would you know?
Unless you’ve invested in mental health and shown your organisation to be trustworthy and receptive to discussing mental health, it is unlikely that your staff will be openly and honestly revealing you how they are feeling.
By acknowledging that employees are human and by supporting their mental health, organisations can see significant improvements in performance levels. Happy, calm minds are productive; they tend to remain in their jobs longer and bring untold benefits in terms of knowledge and skill retention as well as reducing hiring costs.
Resilience in the workplace
Advancing despite adversity
Accessing & Developing Resilience In The Workplace
⚡ One-quarter of all employees view their jobs as the #1 stressor in their lives.
⚡ Resilience helps support a healthy & productive work environment.
You've built your organisation to be sustainable. Your people are the ones who will support you in that through their adaptability, responsiveness and the ability to move forward despite the obstacles in their way.
Are your people sufficiently prepared to deal with adversity?