IT burnouts work less to escape stress

An increasing number of workers in stressful fields such as IT are leaving their careers behind, according to new figures

British workers in highly stressful fields such as IT are increasingly opting to leave their careers behind in favour of leading a simpler life, according to a new report.

The report from analysts Datamonitor estimated that, in 2002, 1.9 million people across Europe left stressful jobs and moved house, up from 1.6 million in 1997. Another 12 million opted to work fewer hours in exchange for a pay cut, up from 9.3 million in 1997. The UK had the largest group of these so-called "downshifters", at 2.6 million, up 8.3 percent from five years ago.

The trend is one of the after-effects of Britain's Internet-fuelled economic bubble, which saw employees putting in increasingly long hours and finally burning out, according to Datamonitor analyst Dominik Nosalik, author of the report, entitled "Simplicity".

"That feeling of burnout that you get at the end of each working day does push a lot of people to think, 'Is this the right thing for me?'" he said. "This trend is very much linked to burnout."

The long hours IT managers work make them particularly vulnerable to burnout. Ninety percent of IT managers in the UK work over the 48-hour working week specified by the European Working Time Directive, and one in four regularly working over 60 hours a week.

A recent report found that low morale and staff burnout amongst IT workers were beginning to have a real effect on business, with 71 percent of IT managers citing them as serious problems.

"My feeling is that IT workers would be quite well represented in this group (of downshifters)," because of their burnout potential, Nosalik said.

Long hours aren't the only factor leading IT workers to consider making a career change: the very technology employees rely on to do their jobs can add to work stress, according to research. An earlier report by Families & Work Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers found that those who use technology such as mobile phones, pagers and email to do their jobs outside of work hours felt more overworked. Four in 10 employees fell into this category.

Datamonitor classified those who gave up stressful jobs and moved house as "holistic simplifiers", defined as having the desire to reduce physical and informational clutter and increase their leisure time and energy. They tend to be highly educated, in their 30s and 40s and spiritually-orientated, Datamonitor said.

"Downshifters" chose to simplify their lives by reducing the number of hours they worked, but did not relocate. Downshifters tend to be highly successful people whose jobs have left them unsatisfied, and can afford to take a pay cut and focus on family life. Sixty percent of downshifters have young children.

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