Running since 2001, Mental Health Awareness Week is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health, promoting the message of good mental health for all. This has never been more important, as the covid-19 crisis heightens stresses in the cybersecurity industry.
The demanding role of cybersecurity professionals often requires them to work overtime in order to manage critical situations. The high-pressure nature of the role means employees are vulnerable to stress and burnout. In fact, a recent CISCO benchmark study found that 42% of cybersecurity professionals reported to be suffering from cybersecurity fatigue.
This has only been escalated by the coronavirus crisis. Cybercriminals have become a persistent threat during the covid-19 pandemic: using it as an opportunity to exploit security vulnerabilities created in the move to remote working. The industry has seen an invasion of phishing emails mimicking organisations such as WHO or the NHS. In the past few weeks alone, coronavirus-related cyber-attacks have jumped 30%.
With increased threats, security professionals have endured long hours, often working overtime. Sam Humphries, Security Strategist at Exabeam, says: “A data breach can happen at any moment, demanding the attention and expertise of cybersecurity professionals.
“There is an unspoken expectation for security teams to work excessive hours, but this leaves many with the inability to ‘switch off’ when they leave the office. Security professionals cannot outrun this in the long term; it will inevitably take a toll on their health and personal lives.
“Current events have introduced a whole new level of unprecedented pressure. We have seen the number of data breaches, compromised video-conferencing and Covid-19 related phishing scams soar. In addition, working from home for many individuals also means balancing parenting and home-schooling with their professional responsibilities.”
“Working in the technology space, workloads are often so high that something is missed,” Rob Mellor, VP & GM EMEA at WhereScape, also warns. “An individual could choose to make an easy decision for the time being, which could lead to difficulty down the line. It is much preferred to have an honest admission to an excuse or passing of the blame. Encourage employees to take the tough decisions for an easy life when it comes to managing sometimes unrealistic workloads.”
In the current global situation, a focus on mental health is more important than ever. Employers need to acknowledge the impact that the current crisis, remote working and heightened cybersecurity threats will have on their employees’ mental health.
Best tips for promoting good mental health for all
When it comes to promoting good mental health, Jen Locklear, Chief Talent Officer at ConnectWise, argues that “company and HR leaders, in tech and beyond, should aim to over communicate with their employee base to let them know that they are there and care about them as individuals. So send motivational messages, hop on a 15-minute video call, frequently ask your employees how they’re doing and flood group chats with relatable memes.
“As leaders we need to put the right tools in our people’s hands, especially with being home and added stress. These include:
- Updates on healthcare benefits, waived copays and COVID-19 testing options where applicable
- Mental health support applications like io
- Meditation applications like Calm and Headspace
- Online educational resources to share with children while they are out of school
- A feedback mechanism where employees can make suggestions or share feedback.”
Agata Nowakowska, AVP at Skillsoft, also explains the importance of employers keeping their organisation connected. She says, organisations “need to take workplace wellbeing virtual – meeting the needs of all employees, wherever they are and whatever environment they are in. Even if this is just regular check-ins – whether by phone or video call – everything you do as an employer makes a difference. Employee wellbeing should be a strategic priority for organisations, particularly given the uncertainty we’re all facing. Being supportive and lending a hand when employees need it will not just nurture their mental health, but the fundamental health of your organisation as a whole.”
For Nicole Sahin, CEO and Founder at Globalization Partners, it is just as important that employers support their employees by helping them manage their own expectations: “British workers put in some of the longest hours in Europe, and their ‘always-on’ mentality often means working overtime without pay. It is not unusual for them to sacrifice their personal wellbeing to succeed at work – even at the risk of their mental health. Reassuring employees that working from home does not mean being ‘on’ 24/7 is really important.”
Over the past decade or so, the perception of mental illness has changed – for the better. More people feel able to speak out and share their concerns or anxieties, and more employers are promoting positive mental health at work, encouraging open conversations and providing a safe space for employees. However, though we’ve seen improvement there is still a long way to go to remove the stigma attached to mental illness and for it to be considered as of equal importance to physical health. Nevertheless, as long as employers continue to positively engage with their staff, supporting them in prioritising their mental health and helping to relieve stress and burnout, it’s a step in the right direction.