Are you thinking about going into IT for your career? If so, you may be wondering, are IT jobs stressful? More and more people are trying to avoid stressful careers because we are increasingly aware of how bad stress is for our general health and well-being.
59% of employees report having experienced negative impacts of work-related stress in the past month. Overall, IT jobs are considered stressful to work in and some IT jobs have high-stress seasons, while others have a low level of stress at all times.
However, it’s difficult to say whether IT jobs are stressful or not, because a lot of this comes down to your employer, your work culture, your colleagues, your responsibilities, and your workload. In this article, we’re going to discuss if IT jobs are stressful. Hopefully, by the time you have finished reading, you’ll have a good sense of whether this is the career for you or not.
Are IT Jobs Stressful?
Some IT jobs can certainly be stressful, and many people feel stressed in this industry. They may not be considered on par with industries like healthcare, law, or emergency services, but IT professionals do still face highly stressful situations.
Pressure Points: IT Professionals in Today's Digital World
However, IT professionals also face a lot of pressure at work, especially with how many businesses are now dependent on their online space working well with the rise of technology. Given that many also use legacy systems that are poorly designed, insecure, and inefficient, it certainly can be stressful to work in IT.
Many IT professionals face challenges when it comes to dealing with people who are not tech-savvy. These can take a whole range of forms, from helping those individuals overcome computing issues to explaining why a certain task cannot be done by a computer in the way that the individual wants.
The Evolving Tech Landscape: Increased Competition and Tighter Deadlines
As the tech industry has gotten more competitive, the deadlines tend to have gotten tighter, too. In 2021, some sources ranked IT management as one of the most stressful jobs in the US. It can have high stakes and extremely tight turnaround times, and because it requires skilled work, it’s often challenging to find cover, take vacations, and deal with resignations.
We’ve previously discussed whether software engineering is stressful and essentially the same issues apply throughout the IT sector.
Why Is IT Stressful?
The technology industry is always developing and changing, and this can make it significantly more stressful to work in. You need to be constantly upskilling and focusing on what has changed and what has stayed the same if you are going to succeed.
The main reasons why IT workers are stressed include:
- Strict deadlines
- High workload
- Long working hours
- Lack of funding and resources
- Lack of business appreciation
- Bugs in production
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Constant industry changes and upskilling
Staying Current: The Challenge of Keeping Up with IT Innovations
You need to be on the ball about viruses, safety measures, new operating practices, and industry standards if you are to be effective. There is a consistent and steep learning curve to survive in this industry, and if you aren’t on top of it, there’s a high risk that your skills will quickly become outdated.
Many professionals find this stressful. Even being out of the industry for a few months could leave your skills stale and make it harder to find work. In other industries, where change comes more slowly, there isn’t the same degree of pressure on people to keep learning.
Workload and Skill Mismatch in the IT Sector
Additionally, many people in IT tend to have a heavy workload and sometimes insufficient skills for the tasks they are asked to undertake. Because there is a general lack of understanding of IT from people not in the industry, it is common for people to be assigned tasks that don’t match their skillset or for the wider business to not properly understand the complexity of a task.
Many people in IT are viewed as “the computer person,” regardless of where their skills lie. This can result in poor matches and stress, especially if the role was misdescribed while being advertised.
High-Stress Areas in IT: Data Science, Machine Learning, and DevOps
Of course, the various areas of IT can vary significantly in terms of how stressful they are. Different sources put different values on the stress associated with these areas, but Data Science and Machine Learning are often placed pretty high on the list, followed by DevOps. Both of these are in high-pressure fields that are constantly developing, it's often why developers get a reputation of being rude.
Do IT Jobs Affect Your Health?
An IT job certainly can affect your health, both in mental and physical ways. Unfortunately, if it has one impact, this is likely to bleed into other areas too. If, for example, you are stressed, you might start experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches.
Likewise, if you are suffering from back pain as a result of sitting for too long, you are more likely to feel negative and unhappy about your work. Many people who work in IT do suffer from things like bad backs, sore shoulders, and stiff necks. These physical symptoms often result in low mood and more mental stress.
The Intersection of Stress and Physical Health in IT Job
IT jobs can also result in a major lack of physical exercise. Because they require the individual to sit still for long hours at a time and because they can be quite mentally draining, they may result in things like weight gain and poor muscle strength.
This will hurt your overall health and can increase your risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, since exercising is frequently tied to things like decreased stress levels and improved mood, being unable (or rarely able) to exercise can increase your stress and make you feel more anxious about life.
Lifestyle Challenges in IT: Balancing Health with Work Demands
IT jobs can therefore have a major impact on your health, both physically and mentally. You may be able to tackle this to some extent by making time to exercise and eat well, but it is worth being aware of the drawbacks of this career. You will have to make particular efforts to reduce your risks of weight gain and stress.
Understanding what it's like to be in IT is more than just the technology, understanding the impact on your mental and physical health is important.
How Can You Reduce Stress In IT Jobs?
There are often things you can do to reduce your stress levels, although there are aspects that will be outside your control (such as whether your manager is good, whether you are given reasonable deadlines, etc.).
- Pursue hobbies outside of work
- Set boundaries with your employer
- Take breaks during the day
- Have a hard cut-off for your finish time
- Have your home office in a different room
- Switch jobs
- Change teams
- Take on work you are interested in
One of the first steps involves respecting your time and maintaining a good work/life balance. If you work from home on a flexible schedule, this can be particularly challenging, but it is possible. Implement rules about not checking your email outside of your designated work hours, building in breaks, and don’t work when you are off the clock.
Choosing the Right Job: The Importance of Defined Roles in Reducing Stress
You can also reduce stress by selecting your job with care and looking for roles that are clearly defined. Having a specific set of duties, rather than being the go-to computer person, can make a big difference in how stressful a role feels. You are less likely to get overwhelmed by multiple different projects, and you may feel more in control of your work.
Setting Learning Boundaries and Considering Career Changes for Mental Health
Furthermore, recognizing your limits when it comes to learning new things may help. Although there is a requirement to keep up to date to a certain degree, taking a sensible approach to your work and not trying to learn everything at once can help to reduce stress.
In the worst-case scenario, you can always leave your current role if the employer is not helping to improve your mental health. Nearly 90% of employees believe actions and improvements from their employer would have significant benefits on mental health.
So, the quick and easy answer to “are IT jobs stressful” is that yes, many are pretty stressful. They require constant learning, and they often have tight turnaround times and high-priority deadlines.
If you are planning to get into this industry, think about ways to respect your work/life balance and look after yourself before you start.