Half of senior IT professionals expect to be on-call — even while on vacation

Survey shows IT professionals' workloads and stress is on the rise. Not a good scene for employers or employees.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

A new survey shows that IT professionals are more stressed out than they have ever been by their jobs — to the point that they're actively looking for new employment.

Small wonder — close to half of the senior IT professionals say they're expected to be available, 24/7, even while basking at the beach or rock climbing in Yosemite.

Rock climber-climbing-halfdome_1 Photo from US National Park Service
Tablet PC handy? Many IT professionals are expected to be ready anytime, anywhere to restore a service. Photo: US National Park Service.

That's the key takeaway of TEKsystems' latest annual "IT Stress & Pride Survey," which explores the issues involved in working in today's IT. The survey findings represent the views of entry- to mid-level and senior IT professionals in North America across a wide variety of industries, TEKsystems reports.

IT professionals' pride in their jobs is slipping, and stress is on the rise. The survey finds that many organizations are even abusing senior IT professionals’ downtime. Sixty-one percent of senior IT professionals report they are expected to be accessible 24/7 — increasing from 57 percent in 2013.

Forty-seven percent of senior IT professionals even say they are expected to be available 24/7 while on vacation — increasing from 44 percent in 2013.

At the same time, for whatever the reason, expectations for entry- to mid-level IT professionals are far lower than before. Only 27 percent say they are expected to be available 24/7, down from 37 percent in the 2013 survey. In addition, only about 30 percent of staff-level IT professionals also say they are expected to be available while they're on vacation.

The survey's authors predict that many organizations about to see a lot of IT staff turnover. Nearly a third (31 percent) of IT professionals say the work they are currently doing is the most stressful of their career.

This stress is causing many IT professionals to start shopping their resumes around. More than four out of five (81 percent) entry- to mid-level IT workers and more than six out of ten (65 percent) senior IT professionals say they are initiating or contemplating job searches to less stressful settings. 

Managing workloads is now the number 1 stress factor, TEKsystems reports. Workload issues rose from third place in last year's survey to replace “keeping up with technology.” (Now in second place.) The third-highest stressor this year is “impact on work/life balance,” followed by “coordinating, interacting with co-workers/supervisors."

If many IT professionals are consumed with keeping up with growing workloads, it may even "jeopardize strategic focus for low-level task completion," the survey's authors warn. "If IT professionals become too distracted by day-to-day tasks, they could lose sight of emerging technology trends that will become important for their organization in the future."

Of course, that's been a problem in many IT shops for some time — IT professionals have been consumed with firefighting and maintenance, and not as able to pursue cool new technologies or innovations.

In addition, all this stress and overwork is wearing down IT professionals' sense of pride in their jobs and career choices. The percentage of senior IT professionals that indicate they are proud of their career choice and their current role, assignments and responsibilities dropped from 72 percent in 2013 to 64 percent in 2014. 

Still, the percent that indicate pride in IT in general as a career — but not their current role — increased from 25 percent in 2013 to 29 percent in 2014.

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