In today’s fast-paced IT industry, stress and burnout are prevalent issues affecting professionals across the board.

The demands placed on IT workers, coupled with the ever-evolving nature of technology, create a perfect storm for exhaustion and mental strain. According to a 2022 study, a staggering 2 in 5 IT workers showed a high risk of burnout – a phenomenon recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an occupational hazard stemming from ‘chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. As technology continues to shape our world, prioritising the welfare of those driving its progress is not just a necessity but a priority for sustainable success.

Identifying Stressors

To tackle this issue head-on, IT managers must recognise the contributing factors and implement strategies to mitigate stress and foster a supportive work environment. High expectations, unclear communication, and inadequate resources are among the primary stressors identified by IT professionals.
One significant issue for IT professionals is the pressure to keep up with rapidly evolving technology. Employees must continuously update their skills and knowledge to remain relevant in the field. This perpetual learning cycle can be exhausting and stressful, especially when combined with the fear of being obsolete in an industry that values innovation and expertise.

Tight deadlines and time pressures are also major sources of stress for IT workers. Strict timelines, with little room for error, can increase the pressure on employees to deliver results quickly. This pressure can lead to increased anxiety levels, especially when combined with limited resources or support.
Workplace dynamics and organisational culture play a crucial role in influencing stress levels of IT professionals. A toxic work environment, lack of communication, micromanagement and unrealistic expectations can increase stress levels and add to employee dissatisfaction.

Creating a Supportive Culture

Cultivating a culture of support and openness is paramount in promoting employee wellbeing. Leaders should encourage open communication and create channels for employees to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. Regular check-ins and team meetings can provide opportunities for employees to discuss their workload, challenges, and mental health.

Collective coaching is a great way to encourage a supportive culture by emphasising collaboration and communication. By regularly engaging in these coaching sessions, employees can develop a deeper understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses and working styles in order to collaborate more efficiently as a team. This can provide a platform for constructive and continuous feedback, allowing teams to learn from each other in a safe and non-judgemental environment. This results in employees feeling more valued, empowered and invested in each other’s success.

Providing Resources

In addition to emotional support, employees need access to resources that can help them manage stress and improve their overall wellbeing. This may include mental health resources such as counselling services or employee assistance programmes, as well as tools for managing workload and prioritising tasks effectively. Organisations can also use universal solutions such as digital coaching to work with employees on their career goals and development. Coaching offers personalised support tailored to the individual needs of IT professionals. A skilled coach can work one-on-one with the employee to identify their specific stressors and develop strategies to cope with them effectively. It can also enhance their emotional intelligence – helping them learn valuable techniques for stress management, time optimisation and work-life balance.
AI is becoming an important tool in employee wellbeing with the emergence of AI driven career coaches. These digital coaches, powered by AI, are becoming a useful tool for employees to lean on for more timely support between meetings with their team leaders, or coaches. An example of this would be if an employee needs help with how to address an issue they are having in the workplace, or even something as simple as writing a tricky email to a client or colleague.

Investing in employee’s wellbeing has significant benefits for the organisation too. Return on investment estimates are between 37% and 69%, and those who invest in wellbeing programmes see employee engagement increase as well as a reduction in turnover.

Training and Development

Investing in the professional development of IT employees can also contribute to their overall wellbeing. Providing opportunities for skills development and career advancement can boost morale and job satisfaction, reducing the risk of burnout.

For example, Gen Z employees often seek regular opportunities to invest in their professional development. Typically, learning and development opportunities for junior employees remain limited to on-the-job training or perhaps an external course. This just doesn’t cut it for Gen Z employees, who are looking to access a personalised programme of regular upskilling opportunities.

IT Businesses need to invest in employee skills throughout the career development lifecycle, offering all employees the development opportunities that are usually reserved for senior leaders. Leveraging technology-driven tools, like digital coaching, is key to ensuring that this is done in a financially responsible and efficient way. By setting clear goals and action plans, employees can gain clarity on their career aspirations and the steps needed to achieve them.

This scalable approach allows employees to target the topics and challenges that matter most to them in a convenient and seamless format.

Promoting Work-Life Balance

Encouraging employees to prioritise their personal wellbeing is essential for preventing burnout. Managers should lead by example by modelling healthy work-life balance habits and discouraging excessive overtime or weekend work. Encouraging employees to take regular breaks and vacations can also help prevent burnout and improve overall job satisfaction.

Managers will need support here, particularly in recognising the signs of stress and mental health issues is critical. Workshops and coaching can educate leaders on the importance of mental health, understanding signs of burnout, and effective communication techniques can make a substantial difference. Managers equipped with this knowledge can better support their teams, intervening proactively to manage stress levels and enhance wellbeing at work.

Recognising and Rewarding Success

Finally, it’s essential to recognise and reward employees for their hard work and achievements. Whether through formal recognition programmes, bonuses, or simple words of appreciation, acknowledging employees’ contributions can boost morale and motivation. This, in turn, can help create a positive work environment where employees feel valued and supported.

Prioritising employee wellness in the IT sector is imperative. The demands and pressures of the IT industry can take a toll on an employee’s mental health, leading to burnout, decreased productivity and high turnover.
Promoting employee wellbeing requires a multifaceted approach that involves all levels of the organisation, not just the HR department. It’s not only the presence of wellbeing initiatives but also the continuous nature of wellbeing programmes that will help foster a supportive work environment. These initiatives require ongoing evaluation and adaptation to meet the evolving needs of IT professionals. Feedback loops – where employees can continually provide input on their experience with the wellbeing measures – ensures these initiatives remain relevant and effective.

Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for a culture of openness and support. By implementing initiatives that support employees, organisations can create a culture of resilience that not only improves employee engagement and performance but brings substantial benefits for the organisation as a whole. Investing in the holistic wellbeing of their employees can enable companies to position themselves for long-term success in an increasingly competitive and demanding industry.

Senior Behavioural Scientist at CoachHub | + posts

Sarah Henson is a Senior Behavioural Scientist at CoachHub who has a passion for problem solving and making a difference. She is a people development leader with experience across a range of disciplines, including coaching and organisational development. Prior to CoachHub, she was Senior Learning & Development Manager at De Beers Group.