This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.
In the last 18 months, many people have learned a lot about themselves. The solitude of lockdowns, isolation, remote work, and seemingly endless video meetings have taxed everyone’s mental health. One would think that cybersecurity would have been unaffected by these shifts in working environments and habits. After all, many of us are introverted by nature, which is one of the reasons often cited as why we gravitated towards technology as our chosen path. It would stand to reason that we would be comfortable working away from others. However, is this entirely true?
Is it possible that the extreme isolation brought about by the pandemic may be even more than the hardiest introvert can stand? Many introverts function quite well with short interactions with others. As one introvert describes it, “It’s not that I dislike people, just that interacting with people drains my emotional battery faster than any other activity.” There is a distinct difference between self-imposed introversion, and mandated introversion. Couple that with the stresses of the cybersecurity profession, and the problem compounds to a degree that can result in dangerous, and accelerated professional burnout.
When the lockdowns began, many people felt as if they would be on an extended vacation. Contrarily, during the course of the lockdowns, it became clear that people were actually working more hours than if they were in the office, and according to one report, this seems to be the new trend in remote work.
This presents a unique problem for people in technology. As stated a very long time ago, technology professionals are often awakened by a multiplicity of both good and bad alerts, generated by equipment. The problem is amplified in cybersecurity, as these are the people tasked with protecting the organization against attack. It is one thing to maintain a failed piece of equipment, or to acknowledge a backup job notification, but it is quite another to respond to an attack that could threaten the future of the company.
Burnout is a hazard of all professions. According to reports in the health care field, and financial professions, burnout increased during the pandemic. While it is understandable that those in the health care industry would experience burnout due to their front-line exposure to the crisis, one must take pause to wonder why people in wealth management would experience higher burnout while away from the high-stress office environment. According to the report of financial services professionals, “52% feel more burned out in their job now than at the beginning of the pandemic, citing top causes of burnout as financial obligations (38%), being isolated from others (34%) and their job (30%).”
While no formal studies among cybersecurity professionals have been conducted yet to verify if the burnout rate has increased since throughout the pandemic, it is reasonable to assume that the burnout rate in cybersecurity professionals would parallel those of financial professionals. Both professions are high-stress, yet not in the same exposure zone as those working directly with infected patients as in healthcare.
Cybersecurity already suffers from a shortage of skilled professionals. Let’s hope that the added stress of the pandemic does not cause burnout to such a degree as to threaten the profession even further.