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Working in a modern datacenter is a critical role within many organizations. Internal and external customer demands, coupled with the varied demands of the job (not just IT), and physical and mental pressures combine to create a potentially stressful environment. In fact, according to a 2014 IT Admin Stress Survey conducted by Opinion Matters, “79 percent of IT staff are actively considering leaving their current role due to job-related stress.”

How does stress impact IT Admins?

According to the survey, there are a number of ways that stress can impact IT staff. Four of those mentioned include:

  • Missing social functions due to overrunning issues at work (38%)
  • Missing time with families due to work demands on their personal time (35%)
  • 25% Have suffered stress-related illness
  • 24% Attribute a relationship damage or failure due to their job

Clearly stress on the job is a significant factor for IT Admins, with complications extending to personal lives. So what are the sources of stress on the job?

Key sources of stress for IT Admins

In many environments, it can be challenging to wrap your arms around the exact causes of stress. In the case of IT Administrators, it’s very clear.

Long Hours - IT Admins can log a significant amount of overtime—in many cases the typical 40 hour work week can extend by eight to twelve hours—or even more if there aren’t enough bodies to do the work.

Management – As management pressures to achieve new business objectives and incorporate new technologies (cloud, marketing automation, BI), IT Admins are under more pressure than ever to perform.

Pay - In many areas of employment more work comes with more pay—but not for IT Admins. Given the fact that you could be working eight to twelve hours (or more) per week, if you aren’t compensated for that time, the value of your check goes down with every additional hour you work. 

Lack of Budget - With the current economic environment improving, this has become less of an issue, but for some sites, it’s still a challenge. Not having the financial resources to do the job can lead to lower pay, lack of staff, having to recycle old technology and a myriad of other issues.

Lack of Staff - The same way not having enough money for the right equipment to do the job (new technology is in play to actually reduce the stress of running a data center). According to Eric Hanselman, a chief analyst at the technology research firm 451 Group, “virtualization has helped reduce the number of physical servers that must be maintained, and automated systems have been developed to manage all the virtual servers from one desktop”

BYOD - With the ever increasing presence of personal devices (smart phones, tablets, and now—wearables), IT and System Admins are under more pressure to make sure that devices play nice—and are secure.

Physical Environment - One might not think that working in a data center would be physically stressful. And while it’s not the most dangerous (according to the UN International Labour Organization, someone dies at work every 15 seconds) But think about it. There are a number of conditions that (while some of them are rare) will contribute to physical stress in a data center:

  • Potential for fire or chemical leaks (happened at Apple)
  • Potential for electric shock (especially in environments where workers have to work on live equipment)
  • And a few softer health related stressors including too much junk food, too little exercise, and the whirring of equipment). From one commenter on Spiceworks’ IT message boards, "I've worked in a few data centers and they are LOUD and COLD!
  • Pure Craziness - Let’s face it. End users aren’t always the most brilliant bunch. IT Admins have to support even the oddest demands. For example, "A user jacked up his car and used his company laptop as a wheel support. It did not work”.

What are ways IT Admins can reduce stress?

  1. Develop a daily routine of relaxation techniques. NetworkWorld recommends deep breathing, muscle relaxation, meditation and a number of other techniques to “help even the most frantic tech workers combat stress.”
  2. Working away from the office. Almost 75% of respondents to a survey conducted by Regus said that “workers who have flexibility (to work remotely) are happier and 75% said they are more content being able to work outside the main office occasionally.”
  3. Reduce white noise. One critical component that WebMD leverages to reduce stress in the data center—as well as help their System Admins communicate is to reduce background noise using Sensear Smart Muffs.   

According to WebMD’s Lead System Administrator, “We are very pleased with the headsets so far.  The noise cancellation is outstanding, absolutely no ambient noise is heard on either end of our phone calls and the elimination of the ambient noise during our normal day makes a huge difference, the environment seems less stressful now!”

While not every cause of stress can be avoided or eliminated, there are a few key things you can do to reduce your stress. By coupling personal relaxation techniques, creating an environment that allows for occasional remote work, and reducing environmental stressors (like background noise), IT Admins can reduce the stress associated with working in a data center, improve quality of life and job satisfaction.

Interested in learning about how Sensear’s unique solutions can make working and communicating in your data center less stressful? Read more about how our Sensear products have helped reduce the stress levels at other data centers here or see more info on Sensear Smart Muff and Sensear smartPlug solutions.

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