Half of all UK tech workers are worried about their mental health
It’s World Mental Health Day, an opportunity for all of us to help raise awareness of mental health issues and work to eliminate the social stigma attached to them. Reach out to friends, family and loved ones today, but also keep doing it. We're all going to need more than one day of sensitivity and concern a year if we want to cut down on the terrible toll that mental health issues take on our society.
Suffering in silence can feel impossibly hard, so if you’re going through something that feels like has no answers or happy ending, please reach out. If you’re not suffering from mental health issues, reach out to those who may be, get informed and get involved.
Every year, almost 800,000 people globally take their own life, and many more people attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. It's the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally, according to Time to Change.
In the UK’s tech industry, mental health is increasingly being revealed as a major issue. Half of the UK’s tech professionals have been concerned about their mental health due to work, either in the past or right now, according to The Harvey Nash Tech Survey, which surveyed over 2,000 tech professionals.
This is equivalent to over 600,000 UK tech professionals having had mental health concerns as a result of their work.
“No one would pretend that working in the tech sector is a walk in the park, but for it to be pushing over half its workers into a state of mental health concern is a real issue for the sector, and in particular, for those very small companies where a greater proportion of workers report that they are currently affected by stress,” said Albert Ellis, CEO of Harvey Nash.
While the survey found that companies are relatively supportive when it comes to mental health issues, with three-quarters (77%) having at least some kind of support in place, it also found that those companies who are ‘unsupportive’ have almost three times as many workers concerned about their mental health right now as ‘very supportive’ ones.
A similar trend emerged regarding how flexible an employer is on working arrangements: very inflexible businesses are three times more likely than highly flexible ones to have workers with mental health issues (31% versus 9%).
The single highest cause of stress is being short of staff. 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 for more than a decade, with almost two thirds of CIOs (64%) reporting a shortfall of talent. It seems that the existing tech team 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.
“It was once said we spend a third of our time in bed (so buy a good bed); a third at home (so keep work time at home to a minimum); and a third at work. In supporting colleagues, where do we look for the source of a problem and where do we look for their safe place?” asks Ed Hutt, Group CIO at SIG, when asked about the impact of company culture on employee mental unwellness, and how to support a staff member with mental health problems. “It does not have to be that work is the root of all evil. It may be a source of relief. Pain is nature’s way of telling us to slow down and mental health problems require the same type of wound recovery support. We might use paid leave of absence to give a colleague the downtime they need to recover before gently supporting them back slowly into the workplace. But always remember to ‘immobilise the injured limb’ and immobilise their email account so they do have a genuine rest.”
Good luck, stay safe and, from the team here at Gigabit, if you need to talk, visit Anxiety UK, Bipolar UK, CALM, Men's Health Forum, The Mental Health Foundation, Mind, No Panic, OCD Action, the Samaritans, or you can email me at [email protected] or call/text on 0743 20 88 051. I know a lot less than the other folks, but I'm always happy to talk.
Improving Skill Initiatives in Technology Businesses in 2021
According to Tech Nation’s most recent , UK technology companies now employ more than 2.93 million people, with the sector seeing a 40% growth in the last two years. The new world of work and the uptick in digitalisation caused by the pandemic with the mass uptake of digital services and online communications has meant that the technology sector has seen a huge demand for specific skills across the job market.
Whilst many businesses have done well to adapt to the digital transformation witnessed over the last few years, this rapid advancement of technology has also resulted in widespread difficulties recruiting experienced tech employees. McKinsey reported that over of organisations have reported huge digital skills gaps, which suggest that whilst most tech businesses are aware of and actively trying to tackle these issues, many are struggling to do so effectively.
To remain competitive and overcome this shortage of skilled workers, technology businesses must look at how they can upskill current employees, move employees to new areas of the business, and ensure their technology talent is as up to date as possible.
So how can tech businesses stay ahead of the skills curve this year?
Make an inventory of desired skills – and offer training for them
To introduce effective skilling programmes within technology businesses, management teams should identify and agree on skills that the business is in greatest need of – both in the immediate and longer terms.
Over the past three years, demand for tech skills such as AI, cyber and cloud automation has with AI and cyber in particular growing by 44% and 22% year on year, respectively, from 2019. For many tech businesses, these skills will continue to be desirable for the business to progress, and senior leadership teams must agree on what skills the business wants to prioritise in its workforce.
Next, management teams should then look to create an inventory of these desired skills and also identify what job roles need to be introduced to further this expertise within the business. This can be done through hiring external candidates or even introducing a programme that current employees can take to develop these particular skills.
This technique requires technology businesses to be malleable in their approach, and they can therefore look to introduce training that builds on these skills gaps or even move employees around the business to utilise their existing skills in areas that are most needed.
Incentivise the workforce
Finally, a good way to develop the skills available amongst the workforce in a technology business is to ensure employees are excited about the prospect. If new candidates and existing members of the team feel included in the approach, can see a benefit in taking additional training and feel motivated to further their own career progression, this could be the tech companies’ strongest asset.
For example, companies such as Amazon have set the bar for investing in reskilling and upskilling to keep their entire workforce motivated and, most importantly, up-to-speed. As many people join Amazon, some without any previous educational qualifications to some possessing PHDs, the business’s skilling programme is provided to give all employees the skills they need to either move up at Amazon or move on to a qualified position outside of the company. By offering this training, employees are motivated to think of their own career and future, and Amazon has the benefit of seeing the operational and financial benefits of a skilled, engaged workforce.
According to recent research completed by , software development, cloud migration and project management experience are top of the list for hiring managers in 2021, with tech-specific skills being some of the most in-demand across all sectors. The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated this increased demand for technology skills and talent, and industry leaders are at a pivotal stage to ensure their workers’ skills sets are up-to-date and being utilised effectively within the business.
For tech businesses that wish to attract this new talent as well as keeping current employees engaged and competitive within the industry, bosses must not only incentivise their workers with skilling programmes, but they must work to identify what skills they are in most need of and then put the necessary training programmes in place.