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How much do you value your IT staff as a CIO? Hopefully, the answer is ‘a lot’. But are you sure that you are helping them to manage their stress levels?

Ask most IT administrators whether their job is difficult, and many will they happily tell you that it is. Almost eight in ten will, in fact. GFI software released the findings of its annual IT Admin Stress Survey this week, and found a prevalence of job-related stress among tech workers.

The company, which surveyed workers separately on both sides of the Atlantic, spoke to 202 IT administrators in the US. 78% of them said that their job as an IT administrator was stressful.

IT administrators seem to be stuck between two communities, each of which cause them headaches. The biggest source of stress was management (28%), with the second highest being users. 23% of IT administrators said that the people they support are the biggest source of stress.

A lack of sufficient IT staff came in third, with almost one in five IT administrators identifying this as the biggest thorn in their side. Insufficient budget and tight deadlines came in a close fourth and fifth.

All this points to people – whether it’s an inability to communicate with them, or not having enough of them – as the biggest irritation in any IT manager’s job. This is understandable, because IT administrators often have different agendas to others.

For example, a report from research firm Saugatuck Technology also released this week said that while leaders in financial and IT departments are often aligned on issues such as the opportunity in cloud computing, they often differ on the specifics of process, methods, and timing. These differences can cause friction and lost opportunity, said report author Bruce Guptil.

Work-life balance and health issues are also clearly an issue for IT administrators. One quarter of all IT administrators said that they were the most stressed person in their social circle. 40% of them have missed time with the kids and cancelled family commitments due to work, and almost as many lose sleep over work. A quarter said that the work had strained or ended a relationship with a loved one or close friend.

Perhaps even more worryingly, over a quarter (27%) experienced stress-related health issues such as high blood pressure in connection with a job.

It’s going to be important for CIOs to nurture their IT staff, because there may not be enough of them to go around. The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) Labour Market Outlook 2015 – 2019 predicts a shortage of 182,700 ICT workers across Canada in 2019. That’s a baseline estimate, and the actual numbers could be far higher, it said.

Among the highest demand occupations in its forecast will be computer and network operators and web technicians, computer and information systems managers, database analysts and data administrators. These are exactly the kind of people telling us that they are stressed at work.

What can CIOs do to help ensure a happy and productive IT workforce? Based on the feedback from the survey, clear communication between management and IT administration staff would be a good start, with an attempt to find synergy between the two parties.

Listening to IT administrator concerns and trying to find ways to reduce stress – including, perhaps, adapting communications processes between users and IT administrators – could be a good step. Effective IT service management techniques and help desks could help here.

GFI 2015 IT Stress USA Survey Infographic 2015



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