IT Pros Cite Lack of Staff, Budget as Major Stress Inducers

The top sources of workplace stress for IT managers were dealing with managers, lack of IT staff and tight deadlines.

The number of IT professionals considering leaving their jobs due to workplace stress has declined from 67 percent last year to 57 percent in 2013, a 10 point drop in one year, according to GFI Software’s second annual IT Administrator Stress Survey.

The independent blind survey of 207 IT administrators in U.S. organizations with more than 10 employees was conducted in March by Opinion Matters on behalf of GFI Software, and gauged respondents’ stress levels at work and revealed their opinions on their main stressors, as well as how their stress levels compare to those of friends and family, and how they affect their personal and professional lives.

While GFI termed the percentages "still staggeringly high," the results suggest a measure of improvement in working conditions and attitudes over the past 12 months. Nearly one-third of those surveyed cited dealing with managers as their most stressful job requirement, particularly for IT staff in organizations with fewer than 50 or more than 500 employees.

The other top sources of workplace stress for IT managers were lack of IT staff and tight deadlines, with 24 percent and 20 percent of respondents citing these as primary contributors to their stress levels. The cities with the highest percentages of respondents who say they find their jobs stressful are San Francisco (89 percent), Denver (80 percent) and Philadelphia (80 percent).

Nearly one-third of those surveyed work more than eight hours of overtime each week to keep on top of their workload—the equivalent of working more than 10 weeks a year in overtime. IT staff from companies sized between 10 and 49 employees are most likely to quit their current roles due to stress, with 41 percent regularly considering a change.

"The increasing importance of IT in the workplace and the 24/7 availability paradigm that has been created obviously creates a stressful atmosphere for many IT administrators," Phil Bousfield, general manager of IT operations at GFI Software, said in a statement. "Companies are more reliant than ever on IT innovation, uptime and speed of deployment, and thus, IT staff members are under extreme pressure to deliver for the benefit of the whole business."

Of those who work at companies with more than 500 employees, one out of 10 employees (10 percent) regularly considers switching careers because of on-the-job stress. However, last year nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of IT administrators were regularly thinking about making a change, suggesting the environment has improved.

"While it’s promising to see the U.S. survey results reflect a slight improvement in morale, it’s also concerning that more than half are still stressed to the point that they are actively considering leaving their current role," Bousfield said. "For SMBs in particular, the research is a stark reminder that IT staff need to be supported and given the right resources to do their job efficiently—and that management needs to be an enabler, not an obstacle for IT progress."

The survey also asked IT administrators about the most ridiculous things their users have done. Responses included stories of users throwing a PC when it wouldn’t function properly, falling asleep on the keyboard, forcing an Ethernet plug into a phone jack by breaking the plastic connector and calling IT to report that all the phone lines in their location were down.