Work Anxiety in the IT Field

Written by Hazel Bennett

February 20, 2021

In the fast-paced tech industry, the fear of falling behind can produce overwhelming anxiety. IT professionals must balance daily tasks, client requests, and tracking the latest trends with the pressure to be an expert on everything from network design to the newest software. Neglecting any of these areas can have long-term effects on a whole organization.

Is it any wonder that, in a recent survey by workplace app Blind, over 56% of tech workers reported job burnout? While many companies have become sensitive to preventing burnout in the tech industry, there is still a stigma around work anxiety. Industry leaders often talk about “stress” and “pressure,” but feelings of dread that don’t go away after a client crunch may suggest a deeper issue.

If you feel anxious at work, you’re not alone. About 18% of Americans live with anxiety disorders, a number that rises dramatically within stressful professions. So, how can anxious people enjoy a fulfilling IT career? Read on to learn more about the effects of high-functioning anxiety at work, the complex relationship between mental health and technology, and tips for using tech to stay productive.

 

HOW HIGH-FUNCTIONING ANXIETY HURTS PRODUCTIVITY

Symptoms of high-functioning anxiety can leave tech workers struggling to communicate, paralyzed by to-do lists, or failing to find joy in what they used to love. In the end, an anxious, stressed-out IT consultant is not a happy or productive one. Job performance may suffer in several ways if employees struggle with work anxiety:

  • Trouble Focusing: When panic attacks strike at the office, fight-or-flight symptoms like racing thoughts, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing make it hard to concentrate. An anxiety sufferer’s nervous system is in overdrive, so even typical workplace interruptions like a slamming door may startle them and break their focus.
  • Missed Deadlines: Nervousness about important projects or new tasks can result in late or incomplete work. In an industry that applauds quick solutions, fear of longer response times can create a self-fulfilling cycle of worry, procrastination, and poor performance.
  • Lack of Motivation: Job pressure often leads to exhaustion and insomnia. Tired workers find it tough to absorb new information or to care about assignments. These factors can make it difficult for employees to be productive while on the clock.
  • Strained Work Relationships: People with anxiety frequently fear an emotional outburst on the job will reveal their condition or cause distractions. When staying away from other people is the goal, collaboration on projects and manager-employee relationships suffer.
  • Frequent Call-Offs: Anxiety disorders can have physical symptoms as well as mental and emotional ones. Burned-out workers often take more sick days due to medical issues like muscle aches, nausea, and headaches. In turn, missed days make it difficult to gain momentum on big projects.
  • Loss of Passion: It’s hard for employees to enjoy the job when they’re nervous and on-edge. Since the desire for excellence is one of the biggest drives for professional fulfillment, it’s easy to see how workers who live with the constant fear of failure could lose job satisfaction.

 

TECHNOLOGY AND WORK ANXIETY

By now, most people are familiar with the darker side of technology. Warnings about how smartphone and social media use increase anxiety are everywhere. Whether it’s blue light disrupting our sleep cycles or social media igniting our fears of missing out, connectivity to and through technology can wear away at our emotional wellbeing.

For better or worse, learning and using the latest tech is the status quo for IT consultants. So, dealing with negative aspects of technology in and out of the workplace is part of the job. Managers trying to create an inviting work environment or employees advocating for themselves can take these steps to decrease tech-related stress:

  • Mute Notifications: The many reminders and pop-ups that come with technology can interfere with our ability to focus. Try turning off any unnecessary notifications to decrease distractions. When you can’t get away with silencing everything, try to limit checking messages to every half-hour so that you can stay on track without missing important information.
  • Preserve Work-Life Balance: The ability to check email or project boards from home can make it tough to leave work at the office. However, it’s vital to draw clear boundaries between business and personal time so you can return to work feeling refreshed.
  • Walk Away From Your Desk: If you’re feeling stressed or losing concentration, try getting up and moving around. Give your eyes a break from the laptop or phone for a few minutes and take a lap around the parking lot or make a fresh cup of coffee before returning to work.

 

APPS TO THE RESCUE: HOW TO CALM DOWN USING TECHNOLOGY

While tech sometimes presents challenges, it can also provide practical solutions to manage work anxiety. If there’s anything we love in IT, it’s finding simple, efficient fixes for everyday problems. Many tools can help you stay productive, control your workload, and connect to your team.

Tech-friendly productivity hacks for anxiety sufferers

1) Use high-tech software to cut low-tech clutter

Did you know that a messy desk can be a symptom of work anxiety and trigger more stress down the road? People who are nervous about falling behind on a project tend to keep all the related materials on hand. New files pile up as workers struggle for confidence and motivation, creating a stress feedback loop.

Migrating your papers to notetaking and document-sharing apps can help cut the clutter. Once your desk is clear, why not optimize your neat office for productivity? Add organizers to corral supplies or hang some calming wall art to make your workstation feel welcoming and personal.

2) Automate workflows

Artificial intelligence is an easy way to reduce demands on your time. Delegating crucial but tedious tasks such as approval requests or follow-up emails to productivity-enhancing tools lets you focus on the big picture and stop stressing about the little things.

Automation also reduces the risk of human error, limiting the need for confidence-eroding micromanagement. Notifications triggered by certain actions can help teams keep in touch, too. Just make sure to find a good balance between helpful communication and unhelpful interruptions.

3) Try productivity apps

From task trackers to communication apps, several tools can help anxious employees stay connected and productive at work. While one size doesn’t fit all, apps that let your team collaborate and delegate big projects in the same space can make everyone feel they have more control over their workload. Consider team or project management software to help with these major goals:

  • For better communication: Those who struggle to connect with others may find it easier to digitally stay in the loop. Many people who suffer from anxiety may feel tempted to withdraw, so maintaining relationships with supportive coworkers can make the office a more inviting place to be.
  • For structured team workflow: Team-oriented apps let stressed employees break down overwhelming projects into smaller assignments on a clear timeline. Checking off bite-sized tasks frequently helps anxious workers build confidence and momentum.
  • For personal to-do lists: In theory, a daily to-do list should feed productivity. However, vague or overstuffed lists can make us fixate on unfinished goals and steal focus from new projects. Task management apps with options for individuals let anxiety sufferers create a doable, personal action plan separate from shared project boards.

4) Develop a routine

A regular schedule can be extremely comforting to people with high-functioning anxiety. While an IT professional never knows which fires they’ll need to put out from one moment to the next, simple routines, such as starting every day with the same task, can make your schedule feel less chaotic.

It might also help to create a response plan for when you start to feel anxious at work. Try apps that guide you through breathing exercises or meditation to help calm panic attacks. Journaling apps can also help you record episodes, notice patterns, and figure out triggers for better long-term emotional control.

 

HOW DO I STOP ANXIETY AT WORK?

For many people, anxiety is a part of daily life, including their job. IT isn’t the most peaceful field, but chances are you chose this path because you enjoy meeting abstract problems with creative, practical solutions. Accepting yourself and finding the low- or high-tech workarounds that meet your needs is a healthy step in learning to live and thrive with anxiety.

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