Overworked, overpaid and overfed - will anything make today's IT professional happy?

Stressed out IT professionals bear the brunt of the skills shortage

15 Dec 2015

Nearly three-quarters of Irish-based IT professionals in large and small organisations are sacrificing their health and personal lives to make up for the shortfall caused by the scarcity of talent.

A survey of more than 200 IT professionals from a range of SMEs and large organisations by the Irish Internet Association (IIA) found that the pressure is eating into personal time, causing strife with loved ones and ultimately this is taking a mental and physical toll.

Over 54pc do not believe they have enough time to accomplish tasks set by their employers and 69pc work 50-to-60-hour weeks.

Culture bluster

Despite all the IT multinationals’ bluster about culture and perks, more than 42pc of IT employees don’t use the recreational facilities that are provided due to lack of time.

Also, many succumb to the legendary “half stone” that afflicts those who join internet giants with lavish dining facilities. In 32pc of cases, IT professionals say their work has affected their diet and 25pc never exercise due to work pressure.


‘This just shows the urgency with which we need to resolve the skills shortage. If people are burning out, you have to wonder at which point they will just give up’

Ultimately, this has IT employees wondering whether or not their employer really cares about their well-being, physically or mentally.

61pc say they are unsure if their employer cares about their mental wellbeing, while 41.5pc are unsure if their employer cares about their physical wellbeing.

Trouble and strife

This unhealthy work style corresponds to an unhealthy home environment with 86.6pc of IT professionals admitting they have had personal time interrupted by calls or emails from work.

As well as this, 63pc take work home on evenings and weekends.

Worse still, 59pc never take their full holiday entitlement.

“This definitely corresponds to the skills shortage with existing employees carrying the slack,” said Joan Mulvihill, chief executive of the Irish Internet Association.

“This just shows the urgency with which we need to resolve the skills shortage. If people are burning out, you have to wonder at which point they will just give up.”

Hacker culture isn’t for everyone, not even Zuckerberg

Mulvihill said that the tech world’s hacker culture may be fine among young coders and engineers in their early 20s but staying up all night at hackathons eating pizza and drinking beer or fizzy drinks is not conducive to people in relationships or with families

““We have come a long way in the last few years in terms of mental health awareness and understanding. However, there is a perceived macho culture of long hours within the tech industry. We need to be careful that this culture does not push people to burn out.

“Also, there is the food side. In some of these big companies there is a proliferation of great food and there is the legendary ‘half stone’ weight gain that many put on in their first six months. On the other end of the scale, many are skipping meals altogether, not getting home to have dinner.”

Ultimately, said Mulvihill, it is about work-life balance, and her advice to stressed out IT professionals is that if their families are complaining, they should listen.

“I think the timing of this survey has been good because we’re close to the start of a new year and maybe it is time for professionals to have resolutions that involve diet and exercise.

“Employers also have a responsibility here. They are well aware there is a skills shortage and that there are just not enough hours in the day. They need to start the new year with the mindset of caring about how people are really feeling, have they done a good job, are we rewarding behavior?

“Culturally, Ireland was slow to embrace human resources management. But in the tech industry, in particular, there is that culture in start-ups and fast-scaling businesses putting pressure on employees, by implying that you are not really part of the gang unless you stayed up all night long at hackathons.

“But if you look at the age profile in the sector there is a shift towards the over 35s. But why are they leaving to start up their own companies? There is the philosophy out there that ‘if I’m going to work that hard I may as well do it for myself’.”

Stressed worker image at top via Shutterstock

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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