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In IT Together blog: Organisational and employee wellbeing
28 Feb 2023
Winter is a time when people are more likely to get ill; more bugs, colds and flu viruses circulate, and generally immune systems are low. Any actions taken throughout the year to boost health and wellbeing and build up the immune system pay off at this time of year. But have you ever considered the importance of this type of immune system building for your IT infrastructure? How its health and wellbeing is affecting the health and wellbeing of your organisation? Or the extent to which both of these entities play a role in your own personal health and wellbeing?
In this rather unique and seasonably timed blog, we take findings from our recent study which interviewed 300 IT decision makers (ITDMs) from both the US (200) and the UK (100), to explore to what extent these three organisational elements are interlinked.
If you’ve not considered the questions above, once you’ve read this blog you might just want to.
Diagnosing IT infrastructure health
Let’s begin by understanding what we’re talking about here - what do we mean by a healthy, high performing, optimal IT infrastructure? According to the ITDMs we surveyed, contributing most are qualities such as security, for example in data storage, backups and within their networks (66%), controlled information access and availability (41%) and scalability (38%). Based on these qualities, how would you consider the health and performance of your organisation’s IT infrastructure? Perhaps somewhat of a pitiful basis for comparison is our respondents’ assessment of theirs.
Unfortunately, it’s not a gleaming picture - when asked to rate their current IT infrastructure overall, only around half (52%) believe it to be completely healthy, immune, high performing and optimal. And things are even less shiny in UK organisations, with fewer than four in ten (38%) saying the same – considerably less than their counterparts in the US (60%). Even when looking across the sectors surveyed, although those from IT, technology and telecoms are most likely to report that their IT infrastructure is completely healthy, which may be expected as this is largely their turf and expertise, still only around six in ten (65%) report this. A similar story emerges when asking respondents about the various components of their IT infrastructure; the hardware, software and network within it. In fact, only a third (33%) of ITDMs in the UK consider their hardware to be completely healthy, the lowest of the three components.
Infrastructure pain points felt throughout the organisation
An IT infrastructure being in anything less than optimal health potentially leaves systems wide open to problems such as downtime, bugs, data loss, cyberattacks and latency. And, unfortunately, this is happening to our surveyed ITDMs pretty frequently – over half (53%) report experiencing these issues at least monthly. For those in the manufacturing industry, these kinds of challenges are happening weekly to around four in ten (42%).
Such issues are not localised to the IT department and this is not just an IT problem, Almost all (99%) report that their IT infrastructure plays a role in their organisations’ overall success or performance, and the majority (75%) consider that role to be significant. Alongside a similar proportion reporting the same about their organisation’s wellbeing (69%), it is not surprising to see the level and variety of impact ITDMs cite. Of those who experience issues with their IT infrastructure – the vast majority (96%) of our respondents – a similar proportion (95%) report that they impact their organisation in some way.
The knock-on impacts of IT infrastructure health and wellbeing to the organisation are seemingly wide reaching and somewhat nuanced, affecting not only its wellbeing and performance through increasing exposure to cyberattacks, affecting the bottom line, losing valuable data and the like, but also the hardworking employee within. While the latter can be less tangible and harder to measure, it is no less detrimental or important. Such impacts including reducing productivity and efficiency (51%), preventing employees from doing their jobs effectively (49%) and employees needing to work more as a result (33%) can even create a compounding effect; all having considerable negative impact to an employee’s stress levels, their health and wellbeing and consequently their performance. Alarmingly, the vast majority (82%) – and nine in ten (90%) of those holding c-level and/or senior management positions – agree that their mental health and wellbeing is influenced by the health of their organisation’s IT infrastructure. Equally concerning, though, is that these figures seem to correlate with their physical health and wellbeing, with a similar proportion (78%) – and, again, around nine in ten (89%) in leadership positions – agreeing that their physical health and wellbeing is influenced.
Such stark effects are also evident by the variety of ways respondents report their organisation’s IT infrastructure issues to impact them personally. Most likely are that they have to work more than their contracted hours and that they impact their emotions by feeling a sense of frustration about them at work, with more than a third of ITDMs reporting these consequences.
It may be obvious that the health of an IT infrastructure plays a significant role in its organisation’s overall wellbeing and performance, however, would you consider it to play a similar one in your own personal wellbeing, success or performance? Perhaps surprisingly to some, or perhaps not considering the reported impacts, our results suggest that it does – and considerably. Similar to its role in the overall organisation, the vast majority cite that the health of their organisation’s IT infrastructure plays a role in their personal success or performance (97%) and their wellbeing (92%).
There is a clear level of concern over the issues caused by their organisation’s IT infrastructure which is considerably higher in the US (80%) compared to the UK (59%). This is accompanied by a strong consensus (92%) across ITDMs in both countries that more work needs to be done to build a healthy IT infrastructure within their organisation. Almost two-thirds (62%) agree that a lack of investment is holding the health of their organisation’s IT infrastructure back, with a similar proportion (64%) blaming a lack of training.
Reassuringly, however, an overwhelming majority (92%) of the ITDMs we interviewed agree that their organisation possesses a clear vision for having a healthy IT infrastructure. This indicates that, while organisations may not currently be as resilient or indeed digitally immune as they’d like to be, those working within the organisation are optimistic at the path ahead. With the right investment, training, and overall focus on increasing organisational wellbeing and IT infrastructure health, organisations can greatly improve their overall immunity, health, wellbeing, performance and, ultimately, success.
What can be done?
So, what can be done to enable IT infrastructures to be in their most optimum state, with a healthy immune system and potentially mitigate issues? As with humans, one place to start is to build resilience; IT teams can perform maintenance tasks such as software and hardware updates, auditing, monitoring and upgrading that will go a long way to ensuring their IT infrastructure is as healthy and as immune to bugs and issues as it can be. Optimistically, at an overall level, the vast majority of our surveyed ITDMs report that they are performing these various maintenance tasks at least in line with recommendations, if not more. A good news story on the surface.
However, when digging a little deeper the picture varies depending on which side of the Atlantic they work. Perhaps not surprising, given the prevalent reports from UK ITDMs of less-than-optimal IT infrastructures, maintenance tasks are less likely to happen in UK organisations, compared to those in the US. This is particularly notable in tasks such as hardware updates (23%), upgrading and streamlining the various elements such as cleaning up servers and refreshing internet connectivity (21%) and maintaining up to date training for employees on security best practice (16%), where respondents report these tasks are happening somewhat or considerably less than recommended. Conversely, US organisations are more likely to go over and above and perform these tasks somewhat or considerably more than is recommended.
Perhaps this somewhat lower likelihood of adhering to these maintenance tasks in the UK may be explained by the slight deviance in the general opinion around them. Less than a quarter of UK ITDMs (24%) report that they consider them to build full resilience and generate complete immunity to prevent issues, while nearly double that of US ITDMs (46%) believe this to be true. Or, perhaps there are deeper and wider issues at play here as, overall, there is clearly an appetite and positive opinion around carrying out such tasks. Indeed, almost all (99%) of our surveyed ITDMs consider them to build at least some resilience and immunity to prevent issues with their IT infrastructures. Perhaps IT teams don’t have the time or skilled resource to even consider the benefits of proactive maintenance, instead, their time is spent firefighting and remedying the frequent issues which leaves them burnt out and ineffective? Conceivable, as more than three quarters (78%) agree that theirs and their colleagues’ ability to maintain their organisations’ IT infrastructure would improve if more focus was aimed at their personal wellbeing.
Organisational and employee wellbeing are intrinsically linked
Organisations seeking excellence might be well placed to direct equal consideration of the health of their IT infrastructure towards employee wellbeing. Exactly 9 in 10 (90%) of those we interviewed agree that having a focus on employee wellbeing would result in a direct improvement on their organisations’ bottom line. A similar sentiment is reflected through the ranks from junior (88%) through to senior (94%) management, with almost nine in ten (87%) of those in c-level positions in agreement. And even lands across both sides of the pond, albeit with a slightly greater consensus forming in the US (92%) compared to the UK (86%).
With more than eight in ten (82%) respondents agreeing that the health of their organisation’s IT infrastructure influences their mental health and wellbeing, it is arguable that the health of an individual can be intrinsically linked to that of the organisation they work in. In fact, 9 in 10 (90%) of those interviewed agree that the health and wellbeing of their organisation influenced the health and wellbeing of its IT infrastructure. When probed, around two thirds (65%) also agree that organisational wellbeing has a disproportionate impact on the mental or physical health and wellbeing of its employees. As suspected, therefore, an overwhelming majority of respondents (90%) agree that the health and wellbeing of their organisation, that of its IT infrastructure, as well as its employee health and wellbeing are all holistically intertwined. The Atlantic, however, poses more than a physical divide; the findings indicate that our UK colleagues are perhaps more able to create some detachment given only 79% of UK ITDMs see a link, compared with 96% of their US counterparts.
Are wellbeing priorities starting to pivot?
It's not all doom and gloom, however, far from it! There is certainly an appetite for change. Despite a potentially disturbing majority (60%) of ITDMs currently prioritising the health and wellbeing of their IT and digital systems at work over that of their own, they recognise the need and highlight their desire for change. When asked which they would rather be actively prioritising at work, more than half (55%) would rather focus on their personal health and wellbeing over that of their IT and digital systems. Those in the UK appear to assign even greater importance to self-care, with just over two thirds (67%) in the UK versus just under half (49%) of their US counterparts feeling the same. More encouragingly, ITDMs are currently prioritising equally their personal mental health and wellbeing as well as that of their organisation.
With the importance of wellbeing being integrated into increasingly more organisations worldwide, more needs to be done to understand the role it plays among the business and its employees. It could be argued that shifting priorities from an organisation-centric to a more employee-centric mindset is counterintuitive to the wellbeing of an organisation, yet it’s clear that the success of one cannot be achieved in isolation. As per their human counterparts, organisations with a healthy (digital) immune system will always be better placed to defend themselves from unwanted contagions. As with any organism, the wellbeing of an organisation is directly linked to those who work within it, and leaders might be wise, therefore, to not only actively invest in the health and wellbeing of its IT infrastructure, but also its employees, given its impact on the bottom line.
300 IT decision makers from across the US and UK were interviewed in January 2023. All respondents were from organisations in the private sector, with 1,000 or more employees.
For a conversation about how we can help your organisation with its insight objectives for 2023, get in touch with David or Fern to discuss your ideas further. You can find lots more technology research insights and inspiration on our blog and explore the work we do for our clients via our Project Portal.
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