This blog post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
Many of us put our hearts and minds into the work we perform every day. While this dedication often creates expertise in a given field, it also means that employees must carefully consider how the pressures of work seep in and affect mental well-being—particularly in rigorous fields like cybersecurity.
Fortunately, conversations about mental health are on the rise, with employers and team members communicating more openly than ever. Recent surveys illustrate that two-thirds of workers verbalize how mental stress affects them, both in the office and beyond.
In cybersecurity where daily stakes are high, transparency and honesty are crucial. Companies looking to hire and retain top talent must be aware of the challenges cybersecurity pros face—and be prepared to offer resources to cope when anxiety, stress and burnout become too much.
A High-Stakes Industry = Big Performance Pressure
In typical work environments, a standard amount of workplace stress is expected. Many of us have experienced tight deadlines, big projects or the occasional heavy lift.
But when this stress becomes constant rather than episodic, employees could experience that burden in the form of extreme mental fatigue—a losing scenario for any organization.
Red Alert: Modern Threats Shape Our Workplace Mindset
In a digitized culture with rapidly expanding remote capabilities, it’s no surprise that cybercrime is increasing. In fact, most large companies now receive and handle at least 1,000 security alerts per day. These alerts range in severity from minor to critical, but staff and skill are needed to identify and mitigate incoming threats.
The most recent (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study highlights how the rapidly expanding field of cybersecurity is set up to mitigate security risks around the globe. As of 2022, the international cybersecurity workforce consists of over 4 million workers. Rapid growth brings the need to innovate and think critically—not just about filling cybersecurity job openings but also about instilling satisfaction and mental well-being into daily work.
Facing Unique Mental Health Challenges In Cybersecurity Roles
What’s so different about stress in cybersecurity versus other types of jobs?
For starters, cybersecurity has grown exponentially in recent years, especially post-pandemic. Even though mental health struggles aren’t directly caused by issues that take place at work, 51% of cybersecurity workers in an Australian workplace survey said that their mental health issues were related to poor management styles in a growing field. Additionally, a VMware report found that 47% of cybersecurity professionals experienced burnout or stress during the past year.
Cybersecurity professionals face ever-changing external demands, internal policies and innovation requirements. New tasks can be related to supporting other departments or teams within a business. Examples of these pressures include:
Fast, unexpected changes between remote and in-office work environments.
Increasing demand for support to BYOD (“bring your own device”) policies.
Delayed IT advancements and improvements that create further stress.
Alert fatigue from thousands of new notifications, security alerts and data issues.
Reducing or managing these unique challenges for cybersecurity professionals not only streamlines business processes but can also positively affects team culture at large.
Craving A Healthier Culture? It’s Time To Collaborate
In fast-growing fields like cybersecurity, HR and talent leaders can work with and alongside security team leaders to create an environment that welcomes talk about mental stamina. Creating a psychologically healthy culture means considering mental health alongside performance excellence.
How can mental health workplace initiatives happen successfully? The following practical tips are a good place to start:
1. Create an open dialogue with all employees.
With more and more remote work policies, it’s easier than ever to miss important clues. Unfortunately, nearly 40% of employees say no one at their company even asks how they’re doing. Don’t let distance prevent you from maintaining an open dialogue about mental health. It could be as simple as managers spending the first five minutes of every one-on-one talking to employees about how they’re feeling and what they can do to support them.
2. Carefully review workloads and job responsibilities.
Employees’ mental stress may accelerate when faced with job duties they might not have signed up for. Before assigning new tasks or filling new roles, HR and department heads should collaborate to ensure that employees and job candidates have a realistic view of their future workload.
3. End the stigma with specialized resources.
Unfortunately, mental health can still be taboo in some corporate environments. Remove the stigma around mental wellness by ramping up your messaging, invitations, group support and community outlets. Many organizations are also increasing their mental health benefits, from meditation app subscriptions to company-wide days off.
4. Provide managerial mental health training.
Although the head of a department should never be expected to fulfill the role of a professional mental health counselor, basic mental health training can equip managers to field tough (and sometimes awkward) conversations about employees’ relationships toward and within their work.
Protect Mental Health In The Cybersecurity Space
Collectively, we’re moving toward a more inclusive and supportive environment for talking about mental health concerns, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. Today, only 54% of cybersecurity pros say their workplace prioritizes mental health.
Creating a safe and supportive work environment is not only good for employees—it’s also good for business. Stress and burnout affect our ability to get our work done. By promoting emotional well-being and supporting employees' mental health, HR and business leaders can ensure security teams are well-equipped to tackle the biggest threat of all: a workplace mental health crisis.