IT workers continue to face stress

In life, there exist certain thoughts and perceptions that draw us all together, such complaining about taxes, about the weather and, of course, stress in the workplace. It is as pervasive and normal in IT as in every other job out there.

Stress appears to be unavoidable at the workplace. At some point, the day will come when the walls of your cubicle or office will suddenly feel smaller than usual. The pressure and tension will hit a level you never even dreamed existed until the moment it strikes.

IT is infamous as a demanding profession, especially over the last two years, during which time fortunes have dropped and stocks have plummeted. This can lead to a lot of stress for employees, and it’s why human resource initiatives may come in handy. Ottawa-based Accenture has created a department under the umbrella of HR that deals with a slew of employee related concerns.

Anne-Marie Ramkerrysingh, an employee relations specialist at the Ottawa consulting house, describes her role as managing the relationship between the employee and employer. Stress, she said, is taken seriously, as the company recognizes the need for providing its staff with ways of dealing with it.

“We focus on our great-place-to-work initiative for our employees. We recognize that our employees are our most valuable asset,” she said.

Accenture has established such programs as a flexible working policy, which allows employees to work from home. The company also has an employee assistance program, which offers confidential counselling where sessions take place via e-mail to accommodate busy travel schedules.

It seems that setting up a separate entity apart from the HR shop is catching on. Calgary-based Trimac has also established an entirely anonymous service employees can utilize if they so desire. As an IT veteran of over 25 years, Ted Barnicoat, the company’s CIO, said stress hits all IT workers, but that not everybody experiences the same level of stress.

“A CIO has less stress than a project manager. The executive monkey through all the psychological tests has less stress than the monkey on the back of the bike,” he said. As a CIO, his pressures are mostly related to budgetary concerns, the general pain associated with IT expenses and project developments.

But stress should be a legitimate concern to an organization, as it could be costly – it could mean bigger health expenses and lost productivity, which Barnicoat argued is less easy to detect. Job security is the current stress leader, he said.

However, there is a lack of consensus as to which class of IT workers that deals with the most amount of stress.

“The higher up you go, the more likely you are to feel stressed because you’ve got the hassles of the budget as well. Lower down in an organization, there is a pressure on you to work longer hours and get it fixed (but) the buck doesn’t stop with you,” said Monica Seeley, founder of Mesmo Consulting in London.

The key to dealing with stress, many say, is to find a balance between work and family life.