A lack of control over standardised software products and inflexible deadlines are the biggest causes of stress among IT managers, according to a survey by the Trades Union Congress.
"Part of the stress is the fact that IT managers feel the way software packages are developed - the amount of control they have over them - is limited. They are also expected to work to unrealistic deadlines," said Hugh Robertson, head of health and safety at the TUC.
The TUC surveyed 5,800 safety representatives from all industry sectors to identify how common workplace stress has become.
Of all those surveyed, 58% identified stress as the worst hazard in their workplace. The TUC said all employers should be required by law to carry out risk assessments of the levels of workplace stress within their organisations. Stress was the worst work- place hazard by 18%. The next greatest problem in the workplace, repetitive strain injury, was cited by 40% of respondents.
Robertson said, "Given that the effect of something going wrong can be quite major, that can be stressful for IT workers."
According to the survey, the biggest cause of workplace stress was employees' workloads. Some 79% of respondents identified it as a cause of stress.
Cuts in staff numbers and workplace change were the next most significant contributors to workplace stress. They were singled out by respectively 49% and 47% of the safety representatives. Next on the list was long hours, with 37% of respondents citing this as a cause of stress.
The TUC survey also found that the causes of stress among IT managers in the private and public sectors were "completely different".
Robertson said, "In the public sector, people actually found that it was much more target-driven. In the private sector, however, management were much more controlling - often to the extent of bullying. Private sector people were not expected to be self-motivated."
Causes of stress in the workplace
Cuts in staff numbers 49%
Workplace change 47%
Long hours 37%
Shift work 22%
Cramped working conditions 17%
Sexual or racial harassment 3%
Source: Trades Union Congress