It's a commonly accepted notion: A healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. And when worker health slips, companies pay a price. Employee illness costs companies 75 cents on every health-care dollar spent due to lost productivity, according to the Integrated Benefits Institute.
In almost any workplace, anywhere in the world, the number of employees suffering an undiagnosed mental- health problem is 10% to 20% of the workforce. That's a conservative estimate, according to Bill Wilkerson, co-founder and CEO of Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health, in a report prepared for the World Federation for Mental Health's World Mental Health Day 2001.
Not surprisingly, IT professionals aren't exempt from work-related stress. More than half of the 5,174 IT staffers in InformationWeek Research's 2002 National IT Salary Survey say job pressures have intensified during the last 12 months. The same holds true for a majority of the study's 4,061 IT managers: Three in five report more pressure-packed workdays than 12 months ago.
Job uncertainty might be causing some IT workers to crumple. But for others, proving the value of technology investments is making their blood pressure climb. In a survey conducted by Optimize, InformationWeek's monthly magazine for business-technology executives, return-on-investment analysis pertaining to technology purchases has become the responsibility of IT shops. Half of the 120 business-technology professionals surveyed say their IT divisions are under more pressure today to show a return for IT investments than they were a year ago.
Proving IT value is rarely easy. Technologies rolled out to improve business productivity often prove more temperamental than beneficial, helping to foster stress-filled workplaces. Nearly three in five of the 120 business-technology professionals interviewed by Optimize say that IT operations are struggling to react quickly to changing business or competitive conditions. While 8% consider their infrastructure too inflexible to react quickly, 51% report that their IT architecture and technology is somewhat flexible. For a fortunate group -- two in five -- adapting to shifting business demands isn't a problem because of the agility of their systems and products.
Almost every study on work-related stress predicts workplace pressures will continue to climb. Because this will affect profitability and worker productivity, business-technology executives can expect the topic of work stress and feasible solutions to increase in importance.
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Most IT workers are successfully fulfilling the demands of business managers who are seeking change. More than half of the business-technology professionals interviewed in May by Optimize say IT departments are extremely responsive when business executives ask them to modify an IT product or programs. However, another 42% of business-technology professionals are reluctant to give IT such a stellar review, saying IT efforts are "somewhat responsive."
Yet a disconnect is evident at some companies. Five percent of survey respondents report their company's IT department is unresponsive to requests by business management to make significant alterations to new or existing business processes. It remains to be seen if that has an impact on IT executive turnover.