Mental Health and the IT Industry

Cast your mind back to March 2020, or what many IT Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers (MSPs) now refer to as “The Great Working From Home Rush”.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, IT support businesses such as yours were the heroes who helped small businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes to shift to a remote environment and keep the world turning.

Fast-forward to present day, and working from home and/or hybrid working environments are the “new normal”.

But something else became the new normal during these times too, and it was an unwelcome challenge for already stressed IT professionals.

That challenge was a significant slip in the mental health of many of us within the IT industry.

Unlike the computers we work with, we human beings are not emotionless robots who can work to capacity indefinitely.

At some point, our fuses blow and we experience burn-out and/or mental health issues.

My own journey with depression

In my early twenties, I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, a common, but serious mood disorder which can be extremely difficult to cope with and, if not managed effectively, can greatly reduce your quality of life.

Despite this, I built and sold an MSP business, all the while pushing myself harder and faster against the depression, a perceived hindrance to my productivity.

After selling my business and slowing down, I became much more aware of my depression and how to manage it in order to lead a full life.

This awareness of my own mental health has also opened my eyes to the challenges we (perhaps even you, reading this now) as an industry face.

Managed Services and Mental Health

A few months ago, I gave a presentation to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) conference about my own struggles with mental health.

I shared with the audience that statistically, 1 in 4 people suffers from a diagnosable mental condition in any given year.

After my presentation, I was encouraged that a number of men and women from the audience quietly approached me to share that they were struggling with their own mental health, and that they were almost relieved to find out that they were not alone in struggling.

Which leads us to the question, if so many of us are experiencing mental health challenges, what can we do as an industry to help?

You Are Not Alone

I believe that the first thing we need to do as an industry to help with mental health challenges is remove the stigma and raise awareness of the issue.

If you run an IT business, then I’d encourage you to speak openly about mental health and encourage your staff to approach you if they would like to talk.

I speak from experience in saying that once you’re able to talk to somebody about your mental health challenges, it is far easier to manage than to suffer in silence.

As human beings, we need connection. We need to be heard and understood. And letting people know they are not alone is the first, great step.

Technology for Mental Health

In my book, “The IT Business Owner’s Survival Guide” (https://www.tubblog.co.uk/books/) I encourage fellow technology fans (of which, I’m the world’s biggest geek!) to regularly put the tech down, to take time out and to give your mind a rest.

I stand by this advice, but technology can also be a great tool to use in the fight against poor mental health.For instance, within my own business, we use a tool called Geekbot (https://www.tubblog.co.uk/blog/tech-reviews/geekbot-remote-team-check-ins/) which allows our remote team to check in and share their mood.

Every week, we also use Slack for a “Truth Tuesday”, where colleagues are encouraged to share how they are feeling. Even an emoji response to this question can give you an indication of whether your colleague needs a helping hand.

Another piece of tech I’d recommend is the Moodbeam Smart Wristband (https://www.tubblog.co.uk/blog/tech-reviews/moodbeam-emotional-wellbeing/). Moodbeam is a UK business that enables you and your friends, family and colleagues to monitor your emotional wellbeing. As well as making you more mindful of your own mood and triggers, Moodbeam enables you to share your data with trusted 3rd parties — a great way to enable your friends and family to check in on you.

So, while technology can cause a great many of our stressors nowadays, it can also be used to help monitor our mental health and provide support.

Conclusion

The IT industry is ever changing, and while many of us thrive on this constant stream of change, it can also prove to a stressor that damages our mental health.

It’s important that we, as the IT industry, embrace the growing awareness of mental health challenges and offer help to our friends, family, colleagues and peers.

By speaking openly about the mental health challenges that we *all* face, we can change the perception of mental health, improve people’s ability to cope and save lives.

 

Richard Tubb is one of the best-known experts within the global IT MSP community and is the author of “The IT Business Owner’s Survival Guide”