When we think about high stress industries, we think about policemen, firemen, first responders, nurses and doctors to name a few. It’s clear that these people are confronted with violence, pain and danger on a regular basis. So when we hear that IT is a high stress industry, it can be hard for some to make the jump. No danger, no pain, no violence – no big deal, right? Wrong.
Working in the IT industry means……
Working in IT means constant high stress levels – whether they are yours or those of others around you. Anxiety, depression, even suicide, are a topic shied away from but very real. People hide their issues and mental distress.
Why then, is IT such a high stress environment? Quite simply, the pace of change in IT is relentless. That change is the source of many stressors in the work environment. Technology cycles have shortened and innovations are introduced not bi-annually or annually, but incrementally and with shorter and shorter time spans between each introduction. This creates is a constant sense of urgency. To meet pie in the sky targets, to go faster, to do more.
Celebration for success is fleeting, and success means next time, the bar will be higher. This drives a continuous need to refresh knowledge and skills for sellers, technical support, and marketers just to name a few. What you knew yesterday is defunct and you must start over again today. Add on top of that the press for improved productivity which drives ongoing changes to tools needed to execute the daily job. New tools are constantly introduced. Existing tools are in constant churn to add new features and functionality.
Because the market changes rapidly on top of the new technology introductions, there are regular reorganizations of teams and people and even individual jobs. That leads to management churn. First line managers are often shifted and eliminated. Stressful environments generate stressed managers. Management styles are inconstant and many managers simply communicate stress and pressure downwards.
Finally, the competition is fierce in the industry, so growth must be constant. Layoffs and the threat of layoffs are the norm. Everyone is always in danger of losing their job. In addition, the “aging workforce”, let’s say over 40, is most exposed. Higher salaries (with higher financial obligations) and the entry of a continuous flow of newly trained next generation employees make them a mark.
The combination and relentless onslaught of these factors can be crushing over time. Many employers do acknowledge that the environment requires support for their employees. But at the end of the day, each individual must acknowledge and address their own level of stress. High stress careers are a reality. You can take measures to protect yourself and learn to manage the stressors. Here are a few things which can help.
Tips on navigating a high stress environment
Start by recognizing your limits. Time outs, recharging of batteries, simple acknowledgement of the stress you are under all go a long way towards avoiding burnout. Avoid negative thinking patterns Strive for a balanced view of every situation. Things are rarely black and white – learn to live in the gray.
Stay on top of work/life balance. Sometimes work projects may mean periods of time away from home or with a heavier work schedule. Don’t let the exception become the rule. Establish a balance between work, family and yourself. Define your professional boundaries and fight for them.
Have a financial plan. With job insecurity constantly looming over your head, it’s good to have both short term and long term goals to keep you financially safe.
Finally, take care of yourself. Work/life balance is not only about balancing between work and family. Create space for your self expression – whatever form that takes for you.
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