Often viewed as a cost center (versus an asset) to the company, uninformed budget cuts and reductions in headcount are leaving many IT organizations understaffed and their employees overworked. In fact, 40% of IT professionals surveyed by Global Knowledge report that their workloads are either very challenging or the worst they’ve ever been. While IT organizations work on closing the skills gap, IT leaders who actively work to reduce workplace stress have a much better chance of retaining existing staff.
If you think you have garnered loyalty from your staff (whether from competitive pay or other perks), 66% of respondents to a recent study by TEKsystems say they’ve looked for employment elsewhere due to stress levels, and 51% have considered taking a new, less stressful job for less pay.
Some would argue that stress is just part of the job in IT. But it will be the creative and empathetic IT leaders that look for new ways to combat stress and hang onto their best and brightest. Following the same approach as solving technology issues, CIOs and IT managers simply need to follow the symptoms back to its root cause.
TEKsystems reports that stress “seems to be spread evenly over three primary areas: the impact on work/life balance, keeping up with organizational requests/workload and keeping up with technology. Of particular note is that work/life balance is tied for the top stressor and nearly half of those asked report they’ve missed a significant personal event for something work related.”
IT leaders can reduce the stress arising from all three areas by adding intuitive and integrated collaboration tools to the arsenal of tools available to IT team members.
I recently spoke with a CIO who joins a call with his European-based team right after he gets his kids off to school. When he arrives at the office he transfers the call from his mobile phone to the Polycom Trio on his desk, and participants are none the wiser (except when they notice the improvement in audio quality). When one of his managers asks him to send information when he “gets to his desk,” he’s able to say, “I’m already here, and it’s already sent.”
Video conferencing takes that use case and others to the next level. It means having a face-to-face meeting with vendors from your home office and then making it to a social function with friends. It means having a personal 1:1 review with a direct report and then taking the dog for a walk. In other words, it is an exceptional work-life balance tool.
It also goes beyond face-to-face and becomes face-to-tech when users turn the camera around or use the one on their mobile device. If there’s a technical problem, screen sharing can enable them to see code or system dashboards; if there’s a wiring problem, video can enable them to see the actual cables. So even if you’re unwilling to give flex work a try for IT, video conferencing allows IT support reps to better support users regardless of where they are located.
In addition to facilitating work-life balance, a video collaboration solution can help IT employees – and their managers – better handle workloads and related stress. Productivity often improves when employees work remotely. In a well-designed home office, distractions are often significantly lower than in the office. Working from home once or twice a week may be just what some IT professionals need to get a handle on their workloads.
At the same time, video conferencing can give managers valuable visibility into the state of employee morale. Nothing communicates better how an individual employee is handling their workload than visual or non-verbal communication. An unkempt appearance, rubbing one’s forehead, wringing one’s hands, etc., are all visual cues that you can’t get through text-based or even voice-only communications. Are the all-caps and exclamation points excitement or exasperation? Looking that employee in the eye is the only way to really know.
Working from home can also help IT employees better manage, as well as reduce, stress. Instead of commuting to and from work (after all, what’s more stressful than rush-hour traffic?) employees have the time to exercise and eat a complete meal. These are important factors that can help employees reduce stress and the risk of stress-related health issues, like sleeplessness, anxiety, and irritability – the top health issues caused by work-related stress, according to the TEKsystems survey. Left unchecked, these issues can impact employee productivity, the quality of work, as well as general workplace morale.
Finally, video conferencing can be the technology that helps IT pros keep up to date on other technologies. For example, employees can participate in live, video-based training courses or meet with vendors via video for product demos. IT pros save the time they’d normally spend traveling offsite without losing any of the benefits of a face-to-face or interactive meeting.
Closing the IT skills gap is a challenge for organizations, particularly as they move to the cloud and strengthen their cybersecurity. So when you finally recruit and develop the staff to effectively support the business, it’s a heavy blow to lose that talent to turnover. Fortunately, reducing your existing staff’s stress levels isn’t nearly as difficult. With a video collaboration tool IT workers can get the flexibility they need to achieve better work-life balance, handle workloads, and stay on top of technologies.