Running on empty in the IT workplace

The longer employers ignore their staff's exhaustion, the bigger a human resources problem they'll have on their hands

Once upon a time, people associated IT pros with Jolt cola and the idea being that these folk were so enraptured by the music of the servers, they'd forgo basic human needs for the coding and troubleshooting activities they loved. Then the last decade rolled through, and the IT industry was hit by the recession. Now those IT pros may be relying on caffeine IVs not because they want to keep working, but because they have to.

On Monday, Thornton May put it bluntly:

Many of the IT people I meet are exhausted. Head count is decreasing, and workload is increasing. User expectations and regulatory requirements are expanding exponentially. A study analyzed the impact of multitasking and determined that most digitally aware people now work a 43 hours a day (that's not a typo; it's serious multitasking).

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Left out of his story: the mounting evidence that working long hours on the job can hurt or kill you. As Reuters reported, people working 10 or 11 hours per day are far more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who hew to the charmingly old-school eight-hour workday. And no, the long hours weren't linked to smoking, being overweight, or having high cholesterol. Instead, the article reported, "long hours may be associated with work-related stress, which interferes with metabolic processes, as well as 'sickness presenteeism,' whereby employees continue working when they are ill."

In addition to the physical threat that overwork presents, there's the emotional one. A recent survey by Cornerstone OnDemand revealed that a majority of employees feel undervalued in the workplace -- and their employers aren't exactly knocking themselves out to boost morale. In fact, they're slapping up to a quarter of their employees with new job responsibilities that are beyond the employees' skill set. Unappreciated and overstressed is hardly a recipe for worker reinvigoration.

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