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Mental health issues concern UK tech professionals

Staff shortages, long hours and lack of flexibility are impacting the wellbeing of people in the sector, according to a Harvey Nash survey.

UK technology professionals are concerned about their mental health as issues ranging from staff shortages to lack of flexibility around work schedules become commonplace in businesses across the country, according to a survey by recruitment firm Harvey Nash.

According to the survey, which polled more than 2,000 UK tech professionals, one in five workers in IT operations have expressed mental health concerns as a result of their work.

The most significant reason behind the decline in mental wellbeing is an insufficient workforce. According to the study, tech teams are “stretched to breaking point” to make up for talent shortfalls, with several mentions of employees working more than 50 hours a week, which has a direct impact on stress levels.

Employers that are very inflexible when it comes to working arrangements are three times more likely than highly flexible ones to have workers with mental health issues (31% versus 9%), according to the study.

“No one would pretend that working in the tech sector is a walk in the park, but for it to be pushing more than half its workers into a state of mental health concern is a real issue for the sector,” said Albert Ellis, chief executive at Harvey Nash.

“This is particularly true for those very small companies where a greater proportion of workers report that they are currently affected by stress,” he added.

Companies are relatively supportive when it comes to mental health issues, with three-quarters (77%) having at least some kind of support in place.

But the survey also found that companies that are “unsupportive” have almost three times as many workers concerned about their mental health right now compared with “very supportive” employers.

Good work/life balance is crucial for staff retention and attraction, according to Ellis, who argued that the tech sector still needs to to do more to improve the situation.

“Part of this is about showing the individual how a job will work with their personal life, not just highlighting how amazing the job will be,” he noted.

Themes that are in the front of people’s minds in IT departments that have been identified by the survey and play a role in staff mental health include automation, mentioned by 34% of those polled as something that will significantly affect their job in the next decade.

Remaining relevant in terms of skills is another concern expressed by survey participants, with three in 10 tech professionals expecting their current skills to be out of date within three years, rising to more than six in 10 in six years. According to the study, staff involved with application testing and operations feel the most pressure to keep their skills up to date.

The persistent lack of gender equality in technology workplaces is another theme that emerged in the survey, which notes that efforts from organisations around diversity and inclusion seem to make “little difference”, with women representing only 16% of tech teams in the UK.

Read more about technology skills in the UK

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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Concern is focused by government on companies not recruiting disabled workers. Government has been pressurised to make all government contracts conditional on taking at least 5% quotas of severely disabled on or above the contracts average remuneration. Severely disabled people are the only legally protected group in the UK to have this protection.
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