The IT industry is currently running on about two-thirds of the human resources it needs. Due to this shortage of capacities, the risk of burnout is high amongst IT workers. Many IT teams now work under huge amounts of stress and are overwhelmed by tasks. What can you as an IT manager do to enhance your team’s wellbeing?
Businesses are increasingly aware of the importance of digitalisation. Nevertheless, sometimes it is forgotten that as more processes and parts of the company move online, the greater the burden becomes on digital security specialists and other IT experts. Nowadays, the expertise of IT admins and other specialists reaches far beyond just setting up printers or helping employees with trivial internet-related issues. The role of the IT team has become central to the business, as they are now relied upon to protect the business systems and ensure continuity from malicious actors.
growth in the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs was seen between 2013 and 2021
Source: Cybersecurity Ventures, 2021
of security professionals report feeling burned out
Source: 1Password, 2021
The greater the importance of digital security, the greater the demand for IT experts. In recent years, hiring has become a challenge, since there is a huge shortage of talent in the market. Therefore, it is crucial for companies that have been lucky enough to find highly skilled IT specialists, to take their staff’s wellbeing into account and do what they can to prevent burnout.
This phenomenon is worryingly common. As highlighted by the software company 1Password, 84% of security professionals report feeling burnt out. Also, one in three workers say burnout is affecting their initiative and motivation levels. “Widespread burnout among employees, and security professionals in particular, is leaving organisations dangerously vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks,” explains the 2021 States of Access Report.
“The issue, in my opinion, is a combination due to the lack of experienced talented people, the accelerated digital transformation we have witnessed in the past two-plus years, and the never-ending barrage of cyberattacks that cybersecurity teams are required to deal with,“ says Tony Anscombe, ESET Chief Security Evangelist.
Common signs of burnout according to Mental Health UK
- Feeling tired or drained most of the time
- Feeling helpless, trapped, and/or defeated
- Feeling detached/alone in the world
- Having a cynical/negative outlook
- Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
- Feeling overwhelmed
According to Stacy Thayer, Professor of Cyberpsychology at Norfolk State University, stress and burnout can lead to mental fatigue, which can negatively impact motivation and engagement. “It can also cause diminishing focus and performance levels, and have a negative impact on operational security, satisfaction, and performance, both in the office and at home,” explains Stacy.
On the contrary, according to Oxford University, happy employees are 13% more productive at work. So, what can you as an IT manager do, to help your team feel positive and enable them to do their job the best they can?
1. Hear out your IT team and provide them with a sufficient budget.
To be able to identify the latest trends in digital security, implement relevant data protection strategies, and confidently perform their tasks, a corresponding budget is needed. Whereas some businesses are aware of this fact, others still fail to recognise the importance of adequate financial support and the value of investing in effective cybersecurity software, and other measures. Although cybersecurity spending is growing worldwide, some areas of cybersecurity tend to be underestimated, such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies.
If members of your team identify such gaps in the company’s infrastructure, trust their expertise and seek out an appropriate amount of budget to solve the problem. The costs of a cyberattack caused by such vulnerabilities are usually much higher than the investment in prevention.
of IT professionals say that investment in IT security in their company has not kept pace with the changes to their operational model
(*Depending on the country)
of IT professionals say that budget limitations and lack of investment are among the top three challenges within SMBs’ IT departments
2. To ease the IT team’s stress, try outsourcing.
Are members of your team raising concerns about an overwhelming workload? Maybe it’s time you let them focus on the most crucial tasks in the business, and consider outsourcing the daily maintenance. There are many external companies that can help take care of the business’ cybersecurity needs. For example, you can reach out to an MSP (Managed Service Provider), to hand over responsibilities such as server, router, and firewall monitoring.
Causes of burnout in the IT and cybersecurity industry
- High levels of mental workload
- Anticipation of cyberattacks
- Shortages in staffing and increases in workload
- Struggles to find one’s place within an organization
- Work is often not appreciated in the organization
Source: Thayer, Stacy, 2022
3. Lower your requirements for cybersecurity jobs.
There is another way to raise the capacity of your team while also avoiding the burnout of your experts. How? Lower the requirements for cybersecurity roles. “Many companies require candidates to be educated on a high level, hold an industry recognised cybersecurity qualification such as CISSP, and to have 3–5 years’ experience,” says ESET cybersecurity expert Tony Anscombe.
In his view, these requirements are at least partially to blame for the unfilled cybersecurity positions. “Get some of the less experienced but interested and keen into the workplace for them to gain that experience and to become the expert talent needed to defend against the attacks of the future,” adds Anscombe.
Common solutions for burnout
- Change work patterns: work less, take more breaks, avoid overtime work, balance work with the rest of one’s life
- Develop coping skills: stress management, take a vacation, set boundaries
- Obtain social support: interaction with friends, colleagues, and family
- Relaxation strategies: meditation, breathing exercises, new hobbies
- Promote good health and fitness: work out, eat right, get good sleep
- Develop a better self-understanding: use various self-analytic techniques, counselling, therapy
Source: Thayer, Stacy, 2022
4. Invest in technical tools that ease the IT manager’s work.
Many cybersecurity teams rely on manual monitoring or reporting, and they are overwhelmed by the number of false positives and other redundant notifications. If this is an issue that impacts your team’s workload, implementing effective technical tools can help to relieve your team of repetitive work, allowing them to concentrate on more important tasks and helping to prevent human error. Try to find reliable automated tools that can ease some of this burden.
5. Bring organizational transparency and talk about burnout openly.
Aim to influence a company culture in which overworking is not glorified and the work-life balance, as well as self-care, are encouraged. If your team can feel comfortable talking to you about their emotions and feelings openly, you might be able to spot the first signs of burnout and take action to provide appropriate support. Because, in tough times, a supportive leader is of the highest importance.