A CISOs workday is riddled with high-stress situations as they constantly battle the deluge of threats emerging from the ever-expanding threat landscape. Therefore it is no wonder that the majority of technology leaders are feeling stressed.
In recent years the challenges that CISOs face have only intensified. Since the pandemic, security professionals have had to carry out a mass overhaul of their companies systems and infrastructure in order to facilitate a work-from-anywhere environment. When they once had to secure an internal network containing a limited number of devices, they must now secure an unknown expanse of devices belonging to a range of unprotected, unknown networks.
According to OneLogin’s recent IAMokay Mental Health Survey of 250 global tech leaders, the stress of the cybersecurity environment is taking a toll on security professionals. The survey found that over 77% of respondents felt that the pandemic has lead to an increase in work-related stress. While 86% have experienced an increase in workload since the pandemic, with a quarter of which having seen a significant increase in workload. The survey also reported that as well as increased stress and workload, a majority of respondents reported an increase in work hours, with 26% believing this increase to be significant.
Despite the increase in stress, workload, and work hours, most of the tech leaders felt that their organisation care about their wellbeing, with three-quarters of the survey respondents believing that their employers valued their mental health. Furthermore, the majority of technology professionals are turning to healthy coping mechanisms for their increased stress. OneLogin’s survey found that the primary stress management technique for IT leaders was exercise. Over 80% of respondents turned to exercise as a way to cope with stress, while 40% relied on meditation.
Unfortunately, not all of the technology leaders surveyed felt that they were able to cope with their stress in such positive ways, as some turned to unhealthy stress management techniques. Approximately 24% self-medicated to manage their stress, turning to narcotics, prescription medication or alcohol in order to cope with the difficulties of their jobs.
Dr. Robin Massey, is an industrial organisational psychologist, who has extensive experience in helping industry leaders understand how the state of their body influences their performance and productivity. Massey believes that “Historically, business has been preoccupied with efficiency, while sacrificing human relationships. On some level, this perspective may have worked in the past, but times have changed. What we know is the current state of the body influences behaviours, feelings, and thinking. Therefore, it is important to understand how physiological factors are interrelated with the relational and psychological.” Massey, explains how essential stress management techniques are for leaders, saying that, “practising just one to two changes can have a significant compound effect over time.”
The American Psychological Association (APA) has created a list of stress management methods for leaders to practice in order to deal with work-related stress, with some examples below:
- Recognize the physical warning signs of stress: Stiff muscles, headaches, teeth grinding, and stomach-aches are all physical reactions to stress. Pay attention to these symptoms and focus on self-care.
- Hit the pause button: Pausing to reset and focus is very important when you feel overwhelmed. Adopt a routine of 5- to 10-minute breaks each hour to assess your stress signals and emotional needs.
- Prioritize self-care: Leaders need to recharge, recover, and stay fuelled. Movement and exercise is necessary for improving mood and physical well-being. Restorative activities include outdoor recreation, mediation, deep breathing, maintaining a proper diet, and talking with friends and family.