Employers fail to treat stress in IT departments seriously, Cary Cooper, an organisational psychologist at the University of Lancaster, warned last week.
His comments follow a survey of 200 chief executives and company directors, which found that 92% believe stress helps staff meet deadlines and keeps their businesses running efficiently.
Cooper said the research, by training company the Aziz Corporation, showed that few managers understand the implications of stress.
Managers should realise that stress is different from pressure to perform tasks, he said. Someone who is stressed has suffered deteriorating mental or physical health as a result of going to work each day.
Cooper said, "I am sure employers are not saying that their employees should have ill-designed jobs. You are in the stress arena when pressure exceeds your ability to cope."
According to the Health & Safety Executive, 500,000 people in the UK say that workplace stress has made them ill. The symptoms of stress can include immune system failure and increased drinking.
Although many companies survey the levels of stress experienced by their staff, few employers of IT workers do so. Public sector bodies that regularly audit levels of stress among people carrying out frontline services, such as police officers, doctors and ambulance drivers, rarely do the same for the people employed in their IT departments.
Cooper, who has collected data on 90,000 people during years of research on stress, has never been asked to assess the workplace health of IT workers employed by either users or suppliers.
The biggest cause of stress among IT employees was pressure to meet deadlines, said Cooper. "The inability to meet deadlines because they are unable to make the technology work is the biggest problem for IT professionals," he said.