Management, compliance & auditing

Keeping your team fresh: How to prevent employee burnout

June 9, 2022 by Christine McKenzie

Burnout can be a nightmare for a cybersecurity manager. It sucks the energy out of your staff, demolishes their morale and, eventually, causes them to go out in search of proverbial “greener pastures.” And in an industry facing a crunch on qualified candidates, losing just one employee can mean a vacant spot on the team for months or longer. 

According to Cybersecurity Magazine, tech employees reported being: 

  • 51% are “kept up at night” due to work stress
  • 47% work between 41-90 hours a week 
  • 80% report elevated stress levels during a crisis 
  • 22% feel that stress makes them more vulnerable to cyberattacks 

Stress is an inevitable part of the job, but what can be done to reduce it to a manageable level? And more importantly, how can managers curb burnout and keep their teams happy and their employees sticking around for the long run?  

What causes employee burnout? 

Burnout is a response to long periods of emotional, physical and interpersonal stress. When a worker is “burned out,” they’re likely to feel tired, cynical and like their efforts don’t matter. Many factors can cause burnout, but here are the most common, according to the Mayo Clinic

  • Lack of control: This can apply to an employee’s work schedule, tasks, workload and more 
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Dysfunctional workplace environment 
  • Volatile work cadence 
  • Lack of support
  • Work-life imbalance

If your staff is feeling burned out, they’ll let you know. They may not always express it in those words, but they’ll probably exhibit employee burnout signs. According to the Mayo Clinic, these signs include anger, irritability, impatience, low energy, lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating. If those sound familiar, then it’s time to take action! 

Here are some techniques on how to prevent employee burnout: 

Build-in team-building activities

Humans are social creatures; we look to one another for help, reassurance and support. We’re also great at helping each other unwind and blow off steam when things get stressful. In fact, studies have shown that social support has a major positive impact on everything from stress to health and engagement. 

As a leader, it’s important to foster a sense of community among your staff members. Social connections between your employees will help build a solid support network resilient enough to withstand tech employee burnout. Happy hours, weekly team lunches and team-building activities are all strategies you can use to bring your team closer together and foster a positive, supportive environment for them to thrive in. 

Provide learning and development opportunities 

People are naturally curious, and cybersecurity professionals, in particular, have a thirst for knowledge. Their curious nature and desire to be challenged are likely what drew them to the field in the first place. Feeding that hunger to learn will foster a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment — two emotions that directly combat employee stress and burnout. 

According to the Limeade Institute, a research group specializing in employee experience, “realizing personal potential and learning things” is key to long-term employee engagement. In other words, when employees feel like the company is investing in their growth and development, they’re less likely to become despondent and burned out. This can mean attending a conference, earning a new certification, taking classes or simply doing in-office skill-building activities for cybersecurity professionals.  

Encourage staff to “mono-task” 

In smaller organizations, especially, cybersecurity staff may end up multi-tasking and wearing multiple hats. And while it’s good to have agile, multi-talented staff, multi-tasking can lead to a spiral of frustration, overworking and irritability — all classic employee burnout signs. Moreover, chronic multi-tasking can pull staff away from core tasks.

Managers can curb employee overload by encouraging workers to concentrate on smaller tasks. Providing clear instructions and the necessary resources from the get-go will help your team members complete their tasks with speed, efficiency and — most importantly — a growing sense of accomplishment. 

Train non-technical staff on cybersecurity best practices

Not all sources of burnout come from within your team. Non-technical staff can be a major source of tech employee burnout. This is largely due to the startling fact that 95% of cybersecurity incidents are caused by human error, according to the World Economic Forum. Training your non-technical staff around security awareness best practices, such as practicing proper cyber hygiene and identifying and reporting potential threats will go a long way towards curbing future cyberattacks. It will also lower your team’s overall stress level because they won’t be stuck in a constant apprehension and crisis management feedback loop. 

If possible, offer flexibility 

Cybercriminals can strike anywhere, anytime, which means cybersecurity specialists often work nights, holidays and overtime. And while overtime pay can take the sting out of such a demanding schedule, it can’t erase the fatigue, emotional exhaustion and loss of family time. According to a recent survey by Help Net Security, 44% of cybersecurity employees feel they don’t have a healthy work-life balance. Introducing a degree of flexibility to the job can lighten the load for your employees.

Options for work-from-home, increased paid time-off and parental leave are some of your best weapons against employee stress and burnout.

Show burnout who’s boss. 

Employee stress and burnout are widespread in the cybersecurity industry, but that doesn’t mean your team has to be part of the trend. By implementing some of the strategies we explored above, you can set your team up for long-term success and job satisfaction. 

 

Sources

Posted: June 9, 2022
Author
Christine McKenzie
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Christine McKenzie is a professional writer with a Master of Science in International Relations. She enjoys writing about career and professional development topics in the Information Security discipline. She has also produced academic research about the influence of disruptive Information and Communication Technologies on human rights in China. Previously, she was a university Career Advisor where she worked extensively with students in the Information Technology and Computer Programming fields.

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