New research has scrutinised the mental health of people working in the tech industries after stress levels among tech workers was identified as higher than the UK average.
The Tech Inclusion and Diversity report compiled by the UK’s digital trade body BIMA, in which over 3,000 people were surveyed, revealed that over a quarter of tech professionals have been diagnosed with a mental health condition mainly caused by stress and workplace discrimination, which led to induced anxiety and depression.
While it’s no doubt that the UK’s digital economy is thriving, and opening up opportunities for all sorts of employees – with people of different educational backgrounds entering the industry – the report’s findings suggested that there’s still work to be done on monitoring and improving workplace conditions.
People working in the tech sector are reportedly as stressed as those in the National Health Service and five times more depressed than the national average. With symptoms ranging from headaches, anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, indigestion and tiredness, it’s no wonder that respondents who claimed to experience constant or frequent stress are unable to complete tasks to their best abilities. The report found that bisexuals and people who define their own sexuality are likely to suffer most from anxiety and depression, closely followed by heterosexual workers.
Women are more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression than their male counterparts, while people suffering with neurodivergent conditions – such as dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – were also more likely to be impacted by poor mental health.
As progressive as the tech industry may seem, issues around discrimination remain with over a fifth of respondents feeling that their gender, ethnicity or learning capability has stalled their career progression in some way.
Responding to the findings, Adrian Webb, chairman of digital agency, LAB, told The Drum: “In the tech sector, there are two factors at play. First, it is well known that neurodiverse people often function perfectly well in work by moving into roles that suit - or even favour - their divergence. Many developers and coders are exceptional because of their ability to maintain very high attention to detail and focus - but in other contexts, particularly social, they may find life more difficult.
Second, stress is an evolutionary phenomenon. It turns on the physical and psychological fight and flight mechanisms via the sympathetic nervous system in response to threat and danger. The issue with tech is that deadlines, under-resourcing and high expectation all trigger psychological stress which in turn makes it harder for people to relax, sleep and digest. This can turn into a self-reinforcing vicious circle quickly."
The report reveals many of the reasons why mental health is so poor in the tech industry, but it also suggests six steps that companies can take to reduce workplace stress as well as raise awareness of mental health problems.
Nadya Powell, chair of the BIMA Diversity and Inclusion council, said: "The findings of the BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Report compel us to action - it provides a clear sign-post on what to do next. Within the tech sector we have a mental health crisis and discrimination is rife; we must act before more lives are affected. But there are green shoots - the barrier to entry is much lower than other industries, creating a genuine opportunity for diverse individuals to transfer into the industry, at whatever stage of life. And Neurodivergent communities are choosing Tech as a sector where they can potentially thrive. So let's honestly confront both the challenges and the opportunities, and together, build an inclusive Tech sector open to all."
Powell outlined her expectations in commissioning the report in her introduction to the publication, which has been replicated here on The Drum.