On April 25, 2013, Economic Times reported that there is a sudden rise in cases of depression among IT workers. NASSCOM was quick to refute that statement and IT Majors meekly said stress is similar to other industries. Now, hear from a Horse’s mouth.
What the truth is?
- I belong to IT Industry for over a decade now.
- I and my colleagues constantly feel that we are extremely stressed.
- I know at least one colleague who needed to take medical help due to extreme work pressure.
- We witness bouts of rage, anger, irritability, helplessness and indecisiveness
- Back pain, shoulder pain, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and fatigue are regular occupation hazard.
- Alcoholism is quite common. Smoking is also prevalent.
- I have witnessed similar symptoms in other ITES industry where outsourcing occurs
- Some of the IT Buzzwords that I frequently hear -
- “I am available 24X7″ [proudly]
- “We will have night out today”
- “We are working over the weekend”
- “The coming holiday is working for us”
- “After dinner time, calls start” [every evening]
Why is there so much stress?
- People are costly – Salary is the main cost head in an IT/ITES company. Obviously, any cost cutting measures start with reducing the cost on humans. It can including reducing manpower, hiring less skilled resources or reducing any amenities that can be considered more than basic amenities
- Specialized job with very difficult replacement – People employed in IT/ITES are highly skilled professionals so it is very difficult to replace one person with another. Any spike in work volume that requires to be completed within the same time frame requires a worker to stress beyond reasonable limits. Economic Times published recently that people who stayed in office for 8-9 hours and those who stayed in office for 10-12 hours both worked for 5.5 to 6.5 hours.
- Long talk time on phone – Coordination among onsite and offshore requires at least one of onsite or offshore person to burn his evening (or midnight) lamp. This time is that person’s could-be family time for official purpose. Read an interesting article on Hidden Cost of Offshoring.
- Communication gap – Coordination among workers on two sides of the great oceans requires great communication skills. Face to face discussion and conveying feelings/emotions can hardly happen and at least some level of communication gap and mistrust remains. Onsite and offshore coordinates occasionally show signs of rage for their counterparts.
- Constant need to stay ahead – There is a constant requirement for an IT professional to keep up with fast changing technology. Humans have to compete with machine and technology, and humans always need to win else the person’s position would be lost. This vicious cycle causes further stress.
- Transparency issues – Some level of mistrust always remains among junior staff for management on transparency.
- Appraisal process – IT companies zeal to reward good performers and punish bad performers further leads to dissatisfaction and competition among employees. Here’s an interesting article on TCS’s appraisal process.
- Imbalance of work load – This imbalance can be both in terms of a) tasks assigned to individuals i.e. some individuals are more occupied than others, or b) individuals are sometimes very occupied and other time not occupied.
- Generation gap – IT sector has seen rapid growth and the initial torch bearers are now face to face with a generation who is used to social media, smart phones and pursue their hobbies. Sometimes this gap too leads to stress for workers for both the generation.
How can this stress be reduced?
- To reduce stress one needs to address the causes of stresses.
- More automation and employing machines so that there is less cost on humans and more on software and machine may take the limelight away from humans. This technique also has a lopside that IT workforce may get fewer jobs which may add some level of stress.
- Work time of Onsite and Offshore coordinators should be adjusted so that there is always some overlapping in their work times.
- In formal settings, Face to face meetings and video cons should be encouraged. In informal settings, more team building events should be conducted so that people have human touch. These exercises foster trust and compassion.
- Companies should revisit their appraisal process. In some instances/projects, appraisal process may be relaxed or altogether sidelined.
- There should be more transparency in terms of targets, goals and work performed by each individual.
- For generation gap, companies may conduct generation awareness training to make different generations understand others point of view.
In sum, despite tall claims made by NASSCOM and IT Majors, I believe that IT and ITES employees are under extreme stress now than ever before.