Thriving or Surviving: Employee Mental Health in the Tech Industry

Tek Experts -

6 min read

Mental health touches all of us, and this holds especially true in the fast-paced technology sector, where innovation never sleeps.

While the tech industry continues to shape the future, it’s crucial to pause and reflect on the mental well-being of those driving the digital revolution. In fact, 2 in 5 tech workers show a high risk of burnout in the workplace.

Let’s delve into the challenges faced by tech employees, the impact of poor mental health, and effective strategies for fostering a happier and healthier workforce.

Mental health challenges in the tech industry

According to recent research, the mental health experience of tech employees reveals some concerning trends, including increased attrition rates and a high prevalence of mental health problems, among others. Here’s a quick look at the data:

  • Increased attrition rates: 68% of Millennials and 81% of Gen Zers have left roles for mental health reasons. This alarming trend highlights the pressing need for organizations to address mental health issues and create supportive environments to retain young talent.
  • Burnout and stress: Burnout is a prevalent issue, affecting 56% of IT professionals once their workday is over. Moreover, a significant 62% of tech employees report feeling emotionally and physically drained due to the demands of their job. This chronic state of exhaustion not only impairs individual well-being but also hampers productivity, innovation, and overall job satisfaction.
  • DEI implications: Mental health challenges within the tech sector reveal a disproportionate impact on specific groups. Younger workers and historically underrepresented individuals face a higher prevalence of mental health symptoms, with Millennials and Gen Zers, along with LGBTQIA+, Black, Latinx, and female respondents, more likely to experience mental health issues. Addressing these disparities is crucial in fostering a more inclusive and diverse work environment that supports the well-being of all employees.
  • Negative impact on leaders: Contrary to the belief that successful leaders are immune to mental health problems, C-level executives and other leaders in the tech industry also face mental health issues. The demanding nature of their roles and the pressure to deliver results can take a toll on their well-being, impacting their ability to lead effectively. Challenges like self-inefficiency, where leaders doubt their abilities, can have a negative impact on decision-making, interpersonal relationships, and organizational performance, ultimately affecting the bottom line of the organization.

The data is clear: Poor mental health has profound effects not only on tech employees’ well-being but also on business performance. So, what’s the price tech companies pay for this widespread workplace issue?

Poor mental health affects employees and businesses

Employee mental health challenges come with staggering costs, resulting in billions of dollars lost in productivity annually. In the US alone, poor mental health costs employers a staggering $1 trillion each year. A recent Deloitte study highlights the toll of poor mental health on UK businesses, with costs soaring by 25% to £56 billion in 2020-21, up from £45 billion in 2019. These figures emphasize the urgent need for businesses to prioritize and invest in supporting their employees’ mental well-being to safeguard productivity and overall business success.

The cost of poor mental health to businesses extends far beyond financial burdens and leads to significant implications for employee retention, engagement, and productivity. Key data points from Deloitte’s research include:

  • Employee retention: Poor mental health is a leading factor behind the “Great resignation” phenomenon. In fact, 61% of employees leaving their jobs cited poor mental health as the reason for their departure. Younger employees are particularly affected, with a higher likelihood of leaving or considering job changes due to mental health issues. This high turnover rate puts a strain on businesses as they lose valuable talent and incur costs associated with recruitment and training.
  • Employee engagement: Burnout among employees, characterized by feelings of exhaustion, reduced job performance, and mental distance from work, became more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long hours, increased stress, and job insecurity have a detrimental impact on employees’ quality of life. Poor mental health negatively affects employee engagement, as disengaged employees are less productive, less motivated, and more likely to underperform their work responsibilities.
  • Productivity loss: When employees are struggling with mental health challenges, their ability to concentrate, make decisions, and perform at their best is compromised. Reduced productivity can harm a company’s reputation, impede growth opportunities, and lead to substantial financial losses. Moreover, in competitive industries like the technology sector, decreased productivity can make it difficult for businesses to stay ahead and meet market demands effectively.

Let’s face it: tech employees don’t experience mental health problems in isolation. Work culture has a significant impact on workers’ well-being, engagement, and productivity. By recognizing the causes of mental health challenges, organizations can take the necessary steps to address these issues effectively. Here’re some of the main causes of poor mental health at the workplace.

Causes of mental health problems in the tech industry

When demands exceed resources, tech employees experience tension and distress. If this persists, workers can exhaust their resources and fall into a state of burnout and demotivation. Here are three key factors that contribute to poor mental health in tech workspaces:

1. Unsustainable work practices

The tech industry is notorious for its fast-paced work environments, which take a toll on mental health. In fact, 62% of tech workers report that at least one aspect of their workplace negatively affects their mental well-being. Emotionally draining work, characterized by high-stress levels, overwhelming responsibilities, and repetitive tasks, emerged as the most prevalent factors impacting mental health. Additionally, work-life balance issues loom large in the demanding tech industry.

2. Lack of communication and connection

Poor communication practices and a lack of connection or support from colleagues and managers have worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to remote work has exacerbated these challenges, leaving employees feeling disconnected and isolated.

3. Insufficient resources

While companies have increased investment in mental health support, many employees still find the provided resources temporary or inadequate. There’s a disconnect between what employees want, such as a more open culture around mental health, and the accommodations and support offered by employers.

One silver lining in this challenging landscape is the normalization of mental health issues at work. Here’s how employers are addressing the stigma and helping their people thrive.

How to support mental health in tech organizations

1. Establish a supportive and inclusive culture

Prioritizing diversity and inclusion is key to improving mental health among employees, considering underrepresented groups tend to be most affected. Plus, research shows both male and female employees are more likely to report that female managers are more emotionally supportive compared to their male counterparts. This is especially important to note considering the immense gender disparity in tech.

It’s important for leaders to provide an inclusive space for diverse talent by providing learning and growth opportunities for people of all backgrounds, but especially those that belong to underrepresented communities in tech, like women and people of color.

2. Provide resources and support

To improve employee well-being, tech companies should focus on enhancing mental health benefits and providing comprehensive resources and support. This involves offering access to therapy services, counseling, and mental health professionals. Additionally, flexible work arrangements should be implemented to promote work-life balance. Companies should also consider providing employee assistance programs (EAPs), mental health hotlines, mindfulness and wellness programs, and other relevant resources to address the mental health needs of their employees.

3. Foster social connections through events

By organizing employee engagement events like team-building activities, off-site retreats, and casual networking opportunities, companies can foster camaraderie, drive collaboration, alleviate isolation in fast-paced tech environments and build trust among leaders and colleagues. Nurturing social connections through events enhances employee engagement and creates a vibrant work environment.

Our commitment to mental health

Tek Experts is committed to prioritizing the mental health of our employees through various initiatives, including promoting diversity and inclusion, providing supportive leadership, offering wellness programs, implementing flexible work arrangements, and fostering a positive work culture. We have a strong representation of women in tech and leadership roles, and our leaders actively guide and mentor employees to achieve work-life balance. Additionally, we provide access to mental health resources and counseling services. Open communication, transparency, and collaboration are fundamental aspects of our efforts to cultivate a supportive work environment.

“At Tek, we care, we’re stronger together and we’re constantly learning and growing. We extend our support to one another, navigating through the challenging and emotionally demanding moments both in and outside of work. And by embracing our company values, we have the power to make the world a better place,” says Mark Shafer, SME, who shared his inspiring personal story at our 2023 ‘Reframing Anxiety’ internal webcast. Mark is passionate about removing the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health challenges and is a major advocate for the EAP program provided to the USA Tek Experts employees.

Helping people and businesses thrive

The tech industry faces diverse mental health challenges, with burnout, stress, and high attrition rates posing significant problems for both employees and businesses. But there’s a way forward. By prioritizing mental health initiatives, creating inclusive environments, and fostering work-life balance, tech organizations have the power to make a positive impact. Together, we can actively support the well-being of our people and create a brighter future for all.

Interested in joining a company that values your mental health and understands the importance of both personal and professional growth? Apply now.

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