As Computer Weekly readers will know, there are many great reasons for working in tech – it’s fast-moving and creative, it’s changing the way we live and work, and mostly it’s well remunerated. Feel free to add your own.
But IT can also be a highly pressured environment – running critical systems that support huge flows of cash, govern the movement of goods we all rely on in our daily lives, and sometimes even help to make life or death decisions.
And all too often in these strange and troubled times, IT professionals are expected to do all this while under-resourced, over-worked, and to the detriment of their work-life balance.
Mental health is increasingly talked about as a societal issue, but it’s not one that’s had much focus in IT. It’s unsurprising, therefore, to learn that as many as one in five IT professionals have expressed mental health concerns as a result of their work.
A Harvey Nash survey of more than 2000 UK IT workers highlighted problems around excessive working hours as a result of skills shortages, as well as lack of flexibility, and job insecurity.
IT staff are no longer hiding away in a dingy back office staring at screens trying to keep the lights on. They’re on the frontline of business and government, running websites and payment systems and monitoring the security of applications and data that can be under constant attack.
It’s too easy to dismiss all this as part of a stressful but well-paid career. More than four in five IT professionals are male, often more on the introverted end of the personality spectrum, and perhaps less inclined to talk about their feelings and worries in the workplace.
IT still has a worrying lack of diversity, so if you don’t fit the white, male stereotype, then a lot of women and minorities that work in the sector have to deal with their own unique stresses until the sector tackles this problem and becomes more genuinely inclusive.
Nobody in a leadership position in tech should take for granted the mental health of their workforce. Any decent employer will know they have a duty of care to their staff, but how often do IT leaders discuss mental health issues with their teams? Probably not that often.
IT is playing an ever more crucial role in business and society, and it’s time that we all took more consideration of what that means for the health, wellbeing and productivity of the people who work there.
Mental health is a very real issue in technology, and IT leaders must actively seek ways to address the concerns of their teams and to create an environment that allows everyone to achieve their full potential and capability.