- May 17, 2022
The human factor of cybersecurity is arguably one of the most critical components to consider when managing a cybersecurity program. Although automation seems to overtake almost every cybersecurity conversation today, the reality remains: that many cybersecurity professionals are overworked, resulting in mental health issues in the long run. Unfortunately, the risk multiplies tenfold for employees because they are the first line of defense.
A recent report showed that 80% of cybersecurity professionals across the organizations agree that the anxiety and stress in their job have increased exponentially. Although it is essential for cybersecurity professionals to secure the digital world, they must also prioritize their health. Multiple factors are at play behind the industry-wide burnout of cybersecurity professionals.
From unrealistic and unhealthy expectations set by employers to the minimal break time to decompress in between relentless cyberattacks, security teams are reeling from frustrations with understaffing, insufficient budgets, resource shortages, inefficient leadership, and exhausting schedules.
As cyberattacks can happen anytime, security professionals are concerned with no time-offs and working long hours — even on weekends. In addition, the fatigue of keeping up with an evolving cyber threat landscape, new threat actors, technologies, laws, and regulations is prevalent among the professionals. This article explores how stress and burnout impact the industry and how to overcome them.
Effects of Stress and Burnout in Cybersecurity
A survey report also shows that 65% of security professionals consider changing their careers or leaving their jobs due to stress. Resigning cybersecurity professionals can increase the burden on an industry facing an acute workforce shortage. According to these professionals, although organizations have increased their cybersecurity budget, it is insufficient to keep up with the increasing resources needed to combat sophisticated cyber threats successfully.
Cybersecurity stress is a critical risk to an organization’s security posture because burned-out employees tend to be more sensitive to cybersecurity measures and are more likely to ignore cybersecurity best practices. Numerous studies have shown that burned-out people are more vulnerable to the manipulations of cybercriminals. The completely checked-out feeling in employees makes them do the minimum at work. Attitudes like this result in failure to identify security threats or flaws on time, making the organization vulnerable to cyberattacks.
With excessive stress, cybersecurity professionals do not feel they are achieving a work-life balance, negatively impacting their performance. High levels of stress and fatigue thus lead to negligent practices and human errors that result in preventable security incidents.
Overcoming the Stressors in Cybersecurity
Recognizing signs of cybersecurity burnout is the first step toward managing it efficiently. Security and tech teams must work together with other departments to highlight burnout and overwork. With the increased workload of security teams, the quality of work suffers, leading to resignations and exposing organizations to cyber threats. Strong leadership and communication are necessary to address this issue.
Below are some ways of overcoming stress in cybersecurity:
- Automate repetitive tasks: The use of cybersecurity automation tools in organizations is crucial for reducing the workload of security professionals, as automation takes care of repetitive, mundane tasks. In addition, careful planning and integration of automation tools with security solutions help improve the efficiency of security teams.
- Recognition and training: The emergence of new attack vectors, the challenge of juggling daily tasks, and the need to upskill are overwhelming. Offering security awareness training and investing in employee professional development make cybersecurity professionals feel valued – recognizing their efforts to keep the organization safe also motivates them – thus boosting workplace morale.
- Keep a backup team: Recruiting and retaining cybersecurity professionals is difficult due to the overwhelming workload and workforce shortage. Therefore, it is beneficial and cost-efficient for organizations to consider a backup security team. In addition, outsourcing security operations and allowing internal teams to focus on high-priority tasks is a practical approach to reducing security teams’ workloads and preventing burnout.
- Encourage employees to take a break: Implementing holidays and mandatory time-off policies increases efficiency as security professionals return to work refreshed and perform better. These policies also demonstrate the organization’s effort to prioritize their teams’ health and well-being.
Cybersecurity is an inherently high-stress profession. However, not the cyber threats alone cause burnout amongst cybersecurity professionals. Staff and resource shortage, pressure from management, and a work culture that prevents open conversation about burnout and mental well-being are among the prime reasons behind the poor work-life balance of security professionals. In addition, stressed-out professionals make organizations susceptible to cyberattacks.
Therefore, organizational leadership teams must recognize stress and burnout indicators amongst their security staff and immediately work toward a sustainable solution. For example, organizations can help security professionals reduce stress, maintain their work-life balance, and improve performance by introducing automation tools, outsourcing solutions, encouraging frequent time off work, and prioritizing risk management processes.