Can’t stress enough – stress is bad for IT

As I was stressing to get this newsletter out in time, a report comes across my desk – well my Inbox actually, along with 100 other emails that were waiting for me as I started my week. In it, I discover that the continual deadline world of journalism doesn’t even figure on the top ten of the world’s most stressful professions. It is not even as stressful as being an office clerk.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  August 27, 2006

|~||~||~|As I was stressing to get this newsletter out in time, a report comes across my desk – well my Inbox actually, along with 100 other emails that were waiting for me as I started my week. In it, I discover that the continual deadline world of journalism doesn’t even figure on the top ten of the world’s most stressful professions. It is not even as stressful as being an office clerk.

The most stressful job it turns out, according to survey conducted by e-learning content provider, SkillSoft is IT. A staggering 97% of people working in IT claim to find their life at work stressful on a daily basis.

Four out of five IT consultants feel stressed before they even enter the workplace, in anticipation of another day juggling complaints, pressure from managers and daily targets. And a quarter of IT experts are under such enormous pressure to perform at work they have taken time off suffering with stress.

Someone who has made a study stress in the IT world for the past 20 years is one William Cross, the CIO of Seminole Electric Cooperative in Florida, US. His doctoral thesis in information sciences was on the relationship between stress and programming. He found that the more stress a programmer deals with, the lower the quality of the code.

Interviewed by ComputerWorld recently at the Share IBM user conference, Cross says he believes IT tends to attract people who like stressful jobs and share characteristics such as a high need for recognition and praise, and a low social need. Typically, they are Type A personalities.

The worrying thing about all this for CIOs is that stressed people seem to make more mistakes than those that are not, according to Cross, who, expanding on one of the findings of his doctorate, says that people who are under high levels of stress tend to be less focused on the job.

There is about a 15% correlation between stress level and quality. As stress goes up quality goes down. There are also health risks - the higher the stress level, the higher the risk of people contracting a serious illness.

One of his recommendations is for managers to adopt the "management by walk about" technique to get to know better the type of situations staff face, being aware of making unrealistic demands and getting staff to participate in setting goals rather than simply dictating them. He also suggests that more exercise will also help reduce stress levels.

In the SkillSoft survey, which polled over 3,000 people, a third of IT professionals say it is difficult to get the work done when managers are constantly on their backs.

One IT respondent says: “I spend most of my day fielding calls from people who don’t even have a basic knowledge of computers and printers. It is amazing the amount of time I spend teaching people where the on-off button is. And when I do actually find a technical problem to solve, I have my manager breathing down my neck wondering why I have a backlog of complaints.”

How stressful is your IT department? Let us know by writing to: ACN@itp.com
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