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Rising stress causing IT contractors to quit the industry

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Sixty per cent of IT professionals who either work alone as contractors or who run a small business, say that the IT sector is becoming an increasingly stressful industry in which to work. 

Over a third (35 percent) believe that stress levels have specifically risen in the past 12 months, leading to 16 percent of those surveyed considering quitting the industry altogether, according to new research by small business insurance broker, PolicyBee. The factors that have led to increased stress are: GDPR; a general increase in pressure from clients to do more for less; a rise in cyber crime and an expectation to be on call 24/7

Kerri-Ann Hockley, Head of Customer Service, who commissioned the survey for PolicyBee said: “Owing to the digital transformation of most organisations, IT professionals carry a heavy burden in ensuring the efficient and effective running of all systems. While low levels of occasional stress can lead to improved productivity at work, if that stress is relentless it can cause errors to be made and lead to more serious mental health problems – bad news both for the client and the individual.

“In contrast to in-house IT staff, these contractors and small business owners generally manage between two and five clients and so they have the added concern of balancing each of their clients’ individual needs, causing stress to multiply.”

The good news is that over half (51percent) of those who are personally experiencing stress, feel that their earnings in some way compensate for the amount of stress that they are under. Whilst that this isn’t necessary sustainable in the long term, feeling like the effort is worth the remuneration does go some way in terms of being able to cope in the short term.

The research also found that the average hours worked by full time IT contractors is 44 hours per week – well above the 37.1 hours average full time working week calculated by the Office of National Statistics. App and web developers work the longest hours in IT, with those who work in hosting services and help desks closely behind. Those who work remotely work longer hours than those who work onsite or a combination of both.

The biggest day-to-day impact of long hours and stress on the lives of IT contractors and business owner-managers in this sector, is their inability to take any exercise. Other factors include experiencing sleepless nights; missing out on enjoying a hobby or pastime; and being more emotional and short tempered than normal.

Eighteen per cent of individuals say that they have missed out on a social occasion such as a party or meal out; a ticketed event or concert; and even a child’s party or school play.

Nearly half (46 percent) of IT contractors and business owner-managers believe that the gig economy is affecting what they can charge due to increased competition and the availability of people to work for an hourly rate.

Kerri-Ann Hockley continued: “The fact is that IT workers are able to tolerate high levels of stress because, to some extent, they feel their earnings warrant it. However, the numbers of people considering leaving the industry may rise further if their future earnings potential is reduced by the gig economy.

“Unfortunately stress and long hours are a recipe for mistake-making so all IT professionals would be wise to look at their working practises to see what they can do to alleviate this stress and to put safeguards in place to negate any errors. 

They may want to beef up the way they ask for a client brief, check the T&Cs in their contracts; improve their sign-off procedures and, if all else fails, make sure they’ve got suitable insurance. Professional indemnity insurance can be invaluable as it covers for accidental errors as well as unfounded negligence claims – both of which can be expensive and traumatic to deal with alone.”


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