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Author: Ernest Hamilton
Original Article: Tech Times

Since the start of the pandemic, IT departments have been working overtime. They’ve gone above and beyond in helping remote employees get up and running while keeping their organizations secure. And while every company has a handful of tech workers who are always there to help, the data show that they aren’t immune to employee burnout.

According to a recent survey, 40 percent of workers say they’ve experienced burnout directly related to the pandemic, and the number of workers struggling with mental-health issues has tripled. This is due, at least in part, to longer working hours during lockdown.

Forty-one percent of CIOs are looking to reduce IT costs in 2020, but investing in tech workers has never been more important. They are the backbone of every organization – especially with so many of us working remotely – and it’s in every company’s best interest to keep them happy and productive.

1. Give employees paid time off – and encourage them to take it. 

One unexpected side effect of working from home is that it has essentially erased the line between work and home life. As a result, remote employees are putting in three more hours per day than they did before lockdown. Half of Americans don’t take paid time off, and two out of five feel guilty when they do.

IT workers in particular may not feel that they can or should take time off right now – especially if their workloads have increased. Yet 43 percent of workers feel that encouraging time off is one of the best ways their companies can support them – second only to offering more flexibility in their work hours.

The best way leaders can communicate that taking time off is a good thing is to take time off themselves. They should also consider changing their organizations’ vacation and sick-leave policies to allow employees to carry their days over to 2021 when it’s safe to travel.

2. Choose software that lightens their workload. 

Now more than ever, IT departments around the world are juggling a handful of competing priorities: strengthening cybersecurity measures, improving the online customer experience, and implementing digital-collaboration tools. With this in mind, organizations should be focused on lightening the tech team’s load.

CIOs should be proactive about advising department leaders on the best collaboration tools before they all go and choose their own software. Whenever possible, leaders should opt for out-of-the-box solutions rather than asking IT to build a custom digital tool. Yes, we’re all special snowflakes, but building an app or a piece of software is extremely time-consuming, and, in most cases, there’s already something on the market that would work just fine.

In a fully remote world, the best software is often a SaaS solution. Unlike on-premises software that needs to be installed and updated on a regular basis, SaaS platforms are hosted off-site and don’t require ongoing maintenance.

3. Invest in continuing education and IT certifications. 

A third approach – focusing on learning – can actually mitigate the effects of stress, including burnout and negative emotions. Researchers found that learning new skills or information helped employees cope with stress by arming them with knowledge that could help them solve current and future problems. Learning also empowered people with feelings of purpose, competence, and growth.

One way leaders can support their tech teams during the pandemic is by investing in ongoing education. As an example. IBEX IT Business Experts offers IT certification courses on popular platforms such as Cisco and Amazon Web Services. They also offer on-demand learning on topics like cloud security, leadership, and project management.

Online certification programs are terrific because they are an investment in employees’ education that can pay dividends for years. Better yet, employees can complete them while they work from home. Certifications equip them with the advanced skills they need to be more effective in their roles, and it shows workers that their employer is invested in helping them advance.

4. Bring in specialists to provide expertise. 

With the pandemic ushering in a new age of remote work, organizations are suddenly being confronted with issues they’ve never faced before, and weak points in their cybersecurity strategies are being exposed. Three-quarters of cybersecurity professionals report that their job duties have changed in the wake of COVID-19, but only about half believe that their team is fully prepared to detect and respond to new threats.

With phishing attacks on the rise, IT departments can no longer hide from the fact that they might not know how to educate their co-workers on security best practices. With whole offices going remote overnight, the security of cloud platforms and IoT devices are suddenly being put to the test. If a company’s IT department doesn’t have the expertise to address these emerging threats, the entire organization could be vulnerable.

If hiring additional workers isn’t in the cards, bringing in a consultant with specific expertise is the next best thing. He or she can work with the tech team to create solutions in-house and expand the team’s knowledge. Tech workers will appreciate getting their questions answered, and bringing in an outside expert with specialized skills can invigorate the entire team.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, and tech workers are no exception. The IT department is always toiling quietly behind the scenes, and these are the employees who are probably most overworked and underappreciated. To keep morale high and burnout low during these tough times, leaders should be investing in their tech teams to make their work lives a little better.