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Pressure Points

Pressure Points

While CIOs all have different ways of tackling pressure, they all point to its single source: everywhere

CIOs juggle tighter and tighter budgets, longer and longer to-do lists and rapid-fire technology updates that can shift the entire IT landscape overnight. They have to manage the expectations of tech savvy employees who want at work what they cobble together for themselves on the cheap at home; they have to find and retain IT staff and manage their Gen X/Y expectations while engaging intimately with the business; and they have to support 24x7 service demands.

Major upgrades invariably involve a weekend or public holiday being sacrificed by the IT team so as not to inconvenience the business. In order to tackle the pressures at the office, CIOs and their teams work long hours only to face more pressure on the home front because they are late or absent.

As another CIO puts it: 'CIOs have to realize they can't do it all. There will always be more demand on IT than resources to do it'

According to the recently released report It's about time: Women, men, work and family from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the average employed male with infants works 46 hours a week, and 37 percent of Australian employees work overtime regularly — a third of it unpaid. CIOs meanwhile say their working week easily stretches to 55 or 60 hours. It is sobering to reflect that the working week for convicts in 1799 was set at 50 hours.

Faced with bald statistics and lists of the pressures it is easy to sink into a funk. But some CIOs are quite upbeat about the pressure — yes, there's more to do, but look what new technology and increased efficiency is offering. Standard operating environments mean running the show is a lot easier and cheaper than it once was. Remote access means staff can fix IT issues from home.

Some don't see the pressure as negative at all — rather it is a fantastic challenge and intellectual stimulus. Some see evidence of pressure as a trigger to roll out new management techniques and procedures in the IT department — an opportunity to make a difference. Some have incredibly supportive families and partners. They thrive in the environment.

However, others refuse to discuss the impact the pressure has on their home life or health. They don't want to go there.

In 2006 a UK report was released investigating the links between working lives and managers' health and well-being. Written by Professor Les Worrall of the University of Wolverhampton and Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University, the report found that 89 percent of UK managers experienced significant organizational change in the preceding year, with two-thirds of that cohort reporting that their job security and morale dipped as a result. Almost two-thirds reported an increasing incidence of sickness in the workplace.

In addition, 92 percent of managers reported they were working over contract hours leading to a series of negative effects, 64 percent felt these extra hours eroded their social life, 59 percent said it negatively impacted their relationship with their spouse or partner, 56 percent responded that it affected their health and 54 percent reported a poorer relationship with their children.

Family relationships can raise the pressure stakes. As one CIO reflected, "When the kids were very young and I was putting in the hours, I thought: 'I hope when they are teenagers and don't want to spend time with me that I won't regret that I missed out on all this time.'"

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