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Unplanned work leads to stressed IT workers

Study reports that unplanned IT work leads to staff anxiety, disrupts innovation and affects work-life balance, with a discrepancy between what companies and employees think is acceptable

Almost two-thirds of IT workers are expected to do unplanned work, according to a study from PagerDuty.

The Unplanned work: The human impact of an always-on world study, based on a Dimensional Research survey of 1,316 participants, found a discrepancy between what companies think is acceptable unplanned work and what is considered acceptable by employees. 

Two-thirds of companies think that 10% or more time spent on unplanned work is acceptable, while only half of employees considered 10% unplanned work as acceptable.

According to PagerDuty, this shows a disconnect between business expectations and the environment employees are comfortable working in. “While the discrepancies appear small, the impact on employee health and well-being is significant,” PagerDuty noted in the report.

Unplanned work redirects resources from important business tasks to issues such as remediation and containment. Three-quarters of the IT employees who took part in the PagerDuty survey stated that the amount of unplanned work has increased by more than 100 hours since last year.

This growth in unplanned work in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is higher than North America, where 62% of respondents have seen unplanned work grow by more than 100 hours.

The survey found that for many companies in EMEA, opportunities to mitigate the impacts of unplanned work through automation are being missed. More than four-fifths (81%) of EMEA respondents said their organisations have little or no automation for IT problem resolution.

More than four-fifths (81%) of those surveyed also claimed that unplanned work directly results in less innovation for their company, which PagerDuty said affects the company’s ability to differentiate from competitors, provide unique customer offerings, and, ultimately, drive increasing revenue.

More than half (53%) of respondents said the extra work put them under increased stress and anxiety (53%), while 52% said unplanned work left them with less time to work on important tasks, and 49% said it reduced work-life balance. Some 59% percent of respondents shared that stress from unplanned work directly affected their personal lives.

Almost a third (29%) of respondents in EMEA said they have considered leaving their job as a result of unplanned work, creating recruitment and retention challenges for employers.

PagerDuty’s research also found that more than a quarter of executives (28%) believe that unplanned work has them thinking about other employment options.

Steve Barrett, vice-president of EMEA at PagerDuty, said: “In an always-on world, customers expect companies to deliver a perfect digital experience every time. Anything less can severely damage the bottom line.

“Yet in increasingly complex IT environments, it can be difficult for responders to cut through the noise and get to the issues that matter fast. Machine learning and automation can help bring together the right people with the right information in real-time, enabling resolution in seconds or minutes rather than hours.”

Barrett said companies can help improve the satisfaction and wellbeing of IT professionals by altering how, when and why individual respondents are notified of IT incidents. He also urged managers to benchmark IT team health to ensure the effectiveness of their wellbeing strategies.

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