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  • The science behind stress
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Are you putting on a little weight? Do you think no one understands you? Do you feel out of control? Of course you do. Why should you be different from any other CIO? Here's why you need to stop, take a look around and change your ways.

For seven years, Joe Gagliardi, a programming manager for Southeast Frozen Foods, worked in what felt like a sick ward.

Everybody was constantly ill, though Gagliardi fared better than most. "There were always colds, sneezing, temperatures and a lot of sick days," he says.

The programmers worked in a separate building (no, not a freezer) so some became convinced that it must be the building making them sick. What else would explain it?

A programmer called the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and eventually the company hired some environmental consultants to investigate.

The consultants came. They sampled the air and the water, looking for poisons and pollutants. They sniffed the rugs and peered into the air-conditioning ducts, looking for viruses and bugs.

They didn't find anything.

Five and a half years ago, Gagliardi left that job to become CIO of Unisa, a distributor of women's shoes and accessories.

And he got better.

So maybe the consultants had missed something.

Or maybe all the coughing and sneezing and fevers had something to do with the fact that Gagliardi and his fellow programmers regularly worked long weeks and 12-hour days. Most of Gagliardi's colleagues eventually quit, until it was just him and a woman who started at the same time he did.

As he's talking about this, Gagliardi has an epiphany. "My God," he says. "I realise now that that's why we were sick all the time.

"It was the stress."

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