Workload, stress rise for IT; firms respond

Increasing workloads are the leading source of stress for information technology workers, according to a recent survey.

But companies seem to be addressing the problem by offering perks - such as training and additional paid time off - that enhance quality of life.

More than half of the 1,400 CIOs surveyed for a report released earlier this month by RHI Consulting, cited rising workloads as the No. 1 stress factor among IT professionals. Other sources of stress include office politics, balancing work and personal lives, and commuting.

With so many IT jobs unfilled, workers are feeling the pinch, said Maria Schafer, program director at Meta Group in Stamford, Connecticut.

"Companies are trying to do whatever they can with the least amount of staff possible," she said.

Another problem is that IT departments are adopting systems from a variety of vendors, resulting in more complex projects and greater workloads, said Schafer.

But companies seem to be dealing with the problem. Meta Group this month released a survey of 500 compensation and IT specialists that found that companies on average have doubled their training budgets since last year. Businesses reported spending an average of $US1,000 to $1,500 per employee to train IT staff this year vs. $500 to $1,000 last year.

Companies with at least 100 employees reported offering eight to 10 days of training per employee, compared with three to five days two years ago, said Schafer.

In addition to training, companies are offering flexible hours, telecommuting and additional paid time off as quality-of-life incentives, according to the Meta Group survey.

But stress factors for IT workers may vary according to industry. William Gillespie, CIO at South Central Community Health in York, Pennsylvania, said the leading source of stress among IT employees in the health care industry is from impending government regulations affecting the privacy and security of Internet health data.

Because the government has yet to issue its final guidelines or say when it will, many health care projects remain on hold, said Gillespie.

"The unknown is very stressful," he said.

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