Exploring health and well-being in 2019

The impact of technology disruptions is having a significant impact on Ireland’s business leaders

Awareness of mental health and well-being has never been higher on the agenda for Irish businesses. More high-profile public figures, including business leaders, have begun to speak out about the mental health struggles they have faced, and many organisations now educate employees on the signs of stress and mental illness across every level of the business. But despite this, business leaders are expected to be incredibly resilient during stressful times, around events which are often out of their control.

The importance of health and well-being in the 2019 workplace

The impact of technology disruptions is one example of this, such as cyber-attacks, failed upgrades, IT outages or network failures. There has been much press coverage around the financial impact of these kind of disruptions on organisations. Indeed, plummets in share price, through to reputational damage and loss of staff should certainly not be ignored; companies in the UK & Ireland now lose on average €1,123,000 through downtime in their organisation as a result of an IT crisis. But what about the impact these kinds of events have on people, and their mental health and well-being?

Our study found a staggering 62 percent of C-suite members suffer from stress-related illnesses and/or damage to their mental well-being in the aftermath of a technology disruption. This pressure of crises can manifest in different ways. For example:

  • More than three quarters (79 percent) of Irish CEOs report that either they or their family members suffered physical or online abuse following a technology crisis. In some cases, they had even received physical threats.
  • A third (32 percent) of CIOs and CTOs we spoke to also experience this kind of abuse, but are perhaps less likely to receive this treatment due to being less of a public figure

Ensuring business resilience to help protect mental health and well-being

Successful – and often high profile – cyber-attacks are occurring every week across Irish organisations, despite vast improvements in security software and protocols. IT and network issues have also led to several recent high-profile outages for some of the UK & Ireland’s largest banks, with customers recently being locked out of their online banking.

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In the event of a cyber-attack, or a technology outage, the question will always be – why did this happen, and who was responsible for ensuring it shouldn’t have? Inevitably, ultimate ‘blame’ lies at the top, and the C-Suite is more accountable than ever before for the impact of a technology disruption or crisis on their organisation and its customers. In fact, data breaches from cyber-attacks have resulted in many high-profile CEOs stepping down from their roles.

Traditionally, technology has been considered the remit of the IT function. But today, the public are far more aware of how organisations handle their data and the impact of breaches, meaning other areas of senior leadership are much more under the spotlight. One in five of our respondents said that cyberattacks, IT outages or network failures have resulted in a CEO departure.

Considering the evidence above, organisations need to be fully aware of how a technology crisis can impact the mental health and well-being of their business leaders and have a plan in place to increase both business – and personal – resilience to these kind of IT crises.

This plan should include:

  • Ensuring processes, applications and infrastructures are recoverable and available for continuous business operations in the event of a disruption or crisis. Businesses need to get back to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible.
  • Providing guidance within organisations – especially for those employees most accountable – on best practices for communicating with family members, and support staff accordingly through periods of significant disruption.
  • Offering counselling or coping mechanisms as an option for senior leaders after significant disruption.

Organisations today are exposed to an ever-more-complex array of risks, threats and uncertainties, which are only set to accelerate in the years to come. Whether driven by technology developments, cybersecurity threats, data privacy concerns, or natural disasters, ensuring senior leaders can cope with these threats, both from a business standpoint but also from a personal standpoint, is no longer an advantage, but a necessity.

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Noel O’Grady is Director – Sales Ireland at Sungard AS where he supports companies with their production and recovery projects including DRaaS, IT Resilience and Workplace Recovery.

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