Australian IT execs suffering 'information fatigue'

The phenomenon of IT worker burnout is becoming particularly severe in Australia, due to concentration on offshore markets and demanding new performance monitoring schemes

The downturn in the information technology sector is beginning to take its toll on the mental health of senior and skilled Australian IT practitioners, according to an industry analyst.

John Brand, Meta Group senior programme director, today said that emotional and psychological conditions such as "change-rage" and "information fatigue" are now commonplace throughout the industry, as its workforce adjusts to new global market conditions.

Brand's statement follows the release of the Meta Group's annual staffing and compensation guide, which suggests that burnout among IT professionals is reaching critical levels in the United States. According to the Meta Group's survey, 71 percent of US-based IT managers rank burn-out as a serious concern in their organisations.

Brand said that while Australia's brand of burnout unique in that it is more prevalent among senior executives than top-tier ranks, its impact could be severe. It appears that Australian senior managers are being hit from both ends, under increasing scrutiny from their masters and with fewer resources at their disposal.

According to Brand, Australians are being asked to tackle the diverse needs of a large number of offshore markets with a narrow skills-base, while their employers are subjecting them to performance measuring programmes that are matched more closely than ever to those used by investors. While performance reviews were once annual, said Brand, now they are commonly conducted quarterly -- and in extreme cases monthly.

"What you're seeing in response to this is the idea of 'extreme productivity' where you've got a small number of employees, on incredibly small budgets trying to propel the organisation on incredibly ambitious projects -- that seems to be becoming the norm in Australia," said Brand.

Exacerbating the senior managers' problems is the fact that Australia's skill base is "misaligned" with the requirements of the markets that it is trying to compete for in Asia and Europe. According to Brand, Australia has the right level of skill to compete in those markets, but not the right type.

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