CyberCogs: Accenture

As part of the TechNExt Festival in June, we hosted a roundtable event with one of main supporters, Accenture.  The discussion centred around burnout, what it is, how it manifests itself and the techniques to not just help your team avoid but also recognise the early signs. 

A hugely important subject for all of us in any industry but particularly pertinent in cyber security where teams often find themselves in high pressure situations for prolonged periods of time. 

Cyber security professionals are constantly looking for threats, expecting a breach imminently and finding ways to reduce the risk of that happening. 

And that’s the issue. For cyber security teams, an attack is inevitable. They can only plug holes and fortify protections but they cannot prevent all breaches. It might be small or big but it will happen and because of that, cyber security professionals are “always on”.

This heightened level of stress comes with the job, which also has many perks full of excitement and achievement but we must look after ourselves and are staff to ensure they function well on the front line. 

So how do we do this and what are the signs?

Well, part of the discussion was sharing our experiences with burnout and whether we classed it as burnout or just on the brink of it. However, we shouldn’t have to get to the point of breakdown before we accept that our mental wellbeing is not in a healthy place.

Further, tired, burnout teams present a higher risk to a company because they are easy to target for would-be hackers. Most breaches occur through human error, and errors occur way more frequently if we are struggling to pay attention.

If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.

Fatigue, struggling to concentrate, irritability, not taking breaks, continually working later than expected are all signs of burnout. 

Decreasing team size to save money but not reducing the workload risk producing burnout quicker. Many companies at the moment cannot afford to pay the big London salaries so instead make up for that by giving talented professionals interesting projects to take on but there is a risk of overcompensation with too many interesting projects. 

What can we do to help prevent burnout?

Some of the suggestions comprised regular catch ups to catch any issues early and limited people to three projects as a maximum. 

The general consensus was that there is a fast way (reacting to signs of burnout and dealing with the symptoms when they arise) or there is the right way (fostering a culture of trust, honesty and integrity. Where staff feel comfortable to talk about issues and perceived weaknesses).

Ultimately, there is no right answer or process but planning, processes and practice instilled in the culture of the team will really help to keep the mental wellbeing of your staff high and prevent burnout in the future. 

Future plans

The event sparked such a discussion and allowed a lot of the room to talk about their experiences, which in itself was very beneficial to those who attended, that we will be continuing the chat in the future and maybe create a space for professionals to openly chat with each other. 

If you think that would be something you would like please let us know. We love to hear from you!