IT equals stress

With most employees relying on computer equipment for more than three-quarters of their working day, IT-related stress in the workplace becomes a productivity issue.

Internal customers or users are a constant headache according to IT managers who spoke to Computerworld.

As IT is now an integrated part of most people's jobs they can be passionate when computer-related problems arise.

Radio Frequency Systems Asia Pacific CIO Bhagwan Hassaram said the pressure is for continuous systems availability to employees.

"Often, IT staff are very busy and don't communicate to the user community what is going on. However, we publish electronic IT updates and notices where we tell users if there will be server maintenance or a major system upgrade so they can be involved and can see what we are doing to help them do their jobs. In this case users would be more than happy to accommodate slight interruptions if they are made aware of it beforehand and are aware of how it will help them."

Hassaram said it is destructive if IT staff feel they have power and are doing users a favour when assisting answering users requests.

"We need to look at what we can do to help and analyse what requests are coming through from users to see if there is a trend where we can put a final stop to that problem," Hassaram said.

Hassaram said it is important for IT managers to report the trends of requests to senior management so executives are aware of the IT department's performance, as well as keeping the users in the know.

"It's not only good enough to reduce the requests from users, you have to be pro-active in [preventing the need for] requests. You need to get to the bottom of it and sort the problem out so it doesn't re-occur," Hassaram said.

"We did an analysis on the requests for our new SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that was implemented a few months ago. We found more than half of the requests were related to training issues, so we've taken this on board and will do something about it. This is part of monitoring the trends of requests and fixing problems immediately."

Sudath Wijeratne, manager of information systems at Griffith University's information and communication technologies department, agreed with Hassaram's comments, saying it is important to organise and plan systems outages and keep users aware.

Wijeratne said the best way for IT managers to manage stress is to leave the problems at work, which he said isn't easy, and to take whatever holidays are due.

With a huge number of users including university staff, teachers and 30,000 students, Wijeratne said the university has a system in place to log users calls and problems and to address them as soon as possible.

Paul Singh, IT Manager, Harlequin Mills & Boon said system outages are stressful because of the impact it has on staff productivity.

"If I am stressed it will effect my productivity and will end up in more stress around as problems will not be solved faster; I try to educate new staff and I feel more you give is better for all of us to work as a team. Sharing knowledge is the key," Singh said.

Singh said his organisation experiences around 10 to 30 IT-related problems each day, including "how to clear a paper jam in the printer. Once you teach the user, then next time they will try to solve the problem".

An IT professional from a government department said the most stressful part of her job is answering e-mails.

With more than 300 end users, the IT professional said she experiences more than eight users with IT-related problems each week.

A survey carried out by BMRB International on behalf of Mercury Interactive Corp found 60 per cent of UK employees are stressed by IT office problems, and 62 per cent think these technology problems affect their productivity.

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