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UK Tech Pros Struggling with Mental Health

Half of the United Kingdom’s tech professionals have been concerned about their mental health due to work, either in the past or currently. This would amount to more than 600,000 UK tech professionals who have had mental health concerns as a result of their work.

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The Harvey Nash Tech Survey” of more than 2,000 tech professionals also found that one in five workers in IT operations are currently concerned about their mental health.

While the survey found that companies are relatively supportive when it comes to mental health issues — three-quarters (77%) reported having at least some kind of support in place — it also found that those companies that are “unsupportive” have almost 3x as many workers concerned about their current mental health vs. “very supportive” ones.

A similar trend emerged regarding how flexible an employer is on working arrangements: Very inflexible businesses are 3x more likely than highly flexible ones to have workers with mental health issues (31% vs. 9%).

“While it’s understandable that tech leaders are focused on tackling the combined pressures of widespread skills shortages, Brexit planning and the impact of automation on their business, they still need to look very closely at how they provide support to those members of the tech team that feel overwhelmed by their mounting work load and associated pressures,” said Albert Ellis, CEO of Harvey Nash. “This is particularly relevant as our research clearly found that there is a strong connection between mental well-being and how supportive a company is.”

Cause of Stress
The single highest cause of stress is being short-staffed. This has become a major issue, as recently revealed by the “Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey,” which found that the UK’s tech industry is experiencing the highest skills shortage in more than a decade, with almost two-thirds of CIOs (64%) reporting a shortfall of talent. It seems that the existing tech teams are the ones being stretched to breaking point to make up for this.

Hours worked has a direct impact on stress levels, with the tipping point at over 50 hours a week. Tech professionals working these hours are twice as likely to be affected by stress to a great extent — and see their work suffer as a result — than those that work under 50 hours a week.

Tech professionals are most likely to be currently affected by mental health concerns if they:

  • Work 60+ hours per week: 21%.
  • Work in IT operations: 20%.
  • Work for a very small company (revenue <$1m): 17%.
  • Work in retail or leisure: 22%.

Looking after employees’ mental well-being is only likely to get more important as the tech sector enters a period of accelerating change.

Other survey results include:

  • Impact of automation on jobs: 34% of tech professionals believe their job will be affected significantly by automation in the next decade and 7% of those respondents believe it is happening right now, especially in testing, infrastructure and operations.
  • Skills won’t last forever: Keeping up with new tech is a tough game and, as technology evolves, so do the skills required to be successful. In fact, three in 10 tech professionals expect their current skills to be out of date within three years, rising to over six in 10 in six years. Testers and operations feel the most pressure to keep their skills up to date.
  • Work-life balance:A quarter of respondents left their last job because it didn’t provide them with an acceptable work-life balance, which is considered the second most important factor when looking for a new job.
  • Where are the women: While organizations have implemented diversity and inclusion programs, they seem to be making little difference to the gender balance, with women making up just 16% of tech teams in the UK.
  • The future is flexible: Almost half (43%) of respondents believe that the biggest growth area in technology jobs will be gig/freelance work. 

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