Practice Safe Stress

Practice Safe Stress

June 7, 1999

YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE how often over the past month I’ve heard the words: “I’m a bit stressed, could we do it some other time?” It’s almost as if stress is a new buzzword. And I’m also noticing it on all my mailing lists as the amount of traffic is decreasing; people just don’t have spare time anymore! I believe the current situation is quite serious and will probably become worse over the next year.

I know of several people, including myself, who moved into the area of IT with the notion of having a life outside of work. Everyone knows that IT professionals have quite flexible working hours, are able to work from home, can take a day off basically when they wish, as long as they’re up-to-date with all their projects. So why is this not happening? Why does “flexible working hours” seem to mean that work hours can stretch but not contract? Why are so many IT professionals suddenly closing in on an occupational burnout?

THE ANSWER COULD be that many of us are becoming one with our work. And becoming one with our work means becoming essential for everything pertaining to our work. Projects are speeding along at such an incredible rate today (everyone is always late for something) that there is no time for documentation. If there is no documentation it’s almost impossible for someone else to jump in and take care of your work when you’re not available. This basically means that you have an obligation to be available all the time.

It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that anyone can be available all the time, but there it is; 61 per cent of IT professionals interrupt their vacation to call and check if everything is okay at work. 25 per cent of IT professionals bring a laptop or cell phone on their vacation so that they can stay on top of developments at the office.

HAVING NO SPARE time puts IT professionals in a bad, downwards flowing spiral. No time to keep up with new technology means a loss of skills. More work and less skills creates immense amounts of stress – and this gap seems to be increasing steadily. No spare time also means less human interaction and instead more time in front of the computer – something that tends to cause depression. No spare time means less creativity. Less creativity means less fun and hence disgruntled workers. Depressed and disgruntled workers are costing IT companies a bundle of money today, and yet no one has pulled the emergency brake as more and more workers are hitting rock bottom.

The best thing you can do is pull your own emergency brake before a dreaded burnout strikes. Have a look at the way you work: Are you turning down meetings with your friends? Are you working late and weekends? Are you no longer having coffee breaks with your colleagues? Do you never find time to exercise? Do you work when you’re ill? Pull the brake!! Talk to your boss and get your stress out into the open. Just talking about it can get you a long way towards having more fun at work!