Whilst technology forges ever-stronger, emotionally intense connections, people within technology companies and organisations can be some of the most isolated. As a result, they often face substantial mental health issues, alone.
The recent Tech Inclusion and Diversity report compiled by BIMA, in which over 3,000 people were surveyed, revealed that:
- 66 per cent of tech professionals are stressed by their work
- 52 per cent have suffered from anxiety or depression at some point and
- Over a quarter have been diagnosed with a mental health condition
The same report put people working in the tech sector on the same stress levels as those in the National Health Service. The sector is five times more depressed than the national average.
This national average is substantial. Recent research from MIND has shown that nearly half (48 per cent) of UK workers have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.
It is not hard to see why this figure may be even higher in the tech industries. As such a broad church, ‘technology’ spans many types of companies. There are start-ups marked by long hours and intense pressure to secure funding. Elsewhere, data centre workers spend entire days in submarine-like conditions. Or there is a prevalence of (often lonely) remote working for freelancers.
Without a proactive attempt to balance this isolation and pressure, conditions can quickly lead to profound mental health issues. The BIMA research found that for those working in business ops, web design and development, admin and project management this is likely to be particularly acute.
Talk It Out
Our approach to helping balance out these pressures and bring some clarity to people who are struggling to find it is the launch of our free social enterprise tool ‘Talk it Out’. Talk it Out is a human, simple way to develop positive mental well-being.
Comprised of a quick ‘warm up’, followed by 20 minutes of walking and talking with a partner, then swapping over so that both partcipants get a chance to participate in uncensored discussions about issues concerning them, Talk It Out can be done anywhere at any time. Creativity has been shown to spike by 60 per cent when we walk and the experience of talking continuously for 20 minutes while walking briskly enables people to process subconscious concerns.
All you need is a buddy and a place to meet where you can go for a walk, and in just 60 minutes you can both gain a clearer perspective on life and connect more deeply with who you are and how you are living.
85 per cent of Talk it Out beta testers reported improved mental wellbeing afterwards and would repeat it, according to new study by Bristol University[i].
Can it really be that simple? Challenging the scepticism
But the key issue is not one of efficacy – it is, as with most technology, an issue of adoption.
Research by the CBI has found that 63 per cent of businesses saw workplace health and wellbeing as an important issue. However, most employers find it difficult to take practical actions because they are unclear about what works. Businesses are taking mental health and wellbeing increasingly seriously but need the resources and support to help them do it.
Applied to technology, this means creating enough of a compelling case to get IT workers (and managers) out of the office and actively discussing mental health, is critical to improving the industry. There are two major pillars of this:
Firstly, it has already been proven that a more well-adjusted, mentally healthy workforce, will be more productive. This can be seen qualitatively, as increased self-awareness leads to better performance in teams, and quantitatively in figures such as reduced sick days.
Secondly, in an industry with a ruthless, ongoing war for talent, a proactive and progressive approach to mental health is more than just a recruitment gimmick. It makes a real impact on improving retention.
There is also a further industry specific element – that of the ageing IT workforce. It has been shown that older IT workers are under more stress than ever. Any improvement to their productivity by reducing stress is a clear competitive advantage.
So whilst it is clear that reducing stress is an effective tool for technology businesses, it must also be driven by the organisational leaders. This will ensure good adoption and help improve the return on the time invested.
Try it out….
In an industry dominated by concerns of process and systems, the value of helping people to get more clarity and be better at communication are obvious, but they don’t apply to just the data and technology. They apply to front line staff, managers and directors that comprise the human face of the technology industry. It is time to start recognising that mental health for those working in technology needs to be addressed, urgently. Talk It Out isn’t the only answer to this issue, but from our experience it can help. And most importantly, it’s free, it’s easy & it’s fun. Try it here.
[i] Survey conducted at Bristol University of 164 adults in March 2019.
Upping Your Elvis is all about energy – we all know what it feels like when we’ve got the right energy for something. New ideas come bursting out, our days feel more fun, and we make extraordinary things happen. We call this ‘getting your extraordinary on’ and we think that everyone has the ability to do this. We just need to understand how to get our energy right first. Upping Your Elvis helps people bring the right energy to play with every day, so they can achieve more through their own extraordinary talents.