Is your IT department overworked and understaffed?

Working overtime is not a new concept. Employees in various industries do it often and in some cases it’s the norm. However, overworking employees is a risky proposition for organisations of all sizes.

For example, when IT departments are under-resourced and working long hours, they can understandably get burnt out, which affects their ability to address critical technology issues in a timely fashion. And according to latest research from Spiceworks, IT pros in EMEA work an average of 49 hours per week, much longer than the average work week. So why are IT pros working extra time and why should this be a warning sign for businesses?

What’s the problem?

Eighteen per cent of IT pros worldwide said they work more than 60 hours a week and 35 per cent said they work at least 50 hours. Add all those hours up and it works out to several weeks of full 24-hour days above and beyond a 40-hour work week over the course of a year. The fact that a significant proportion of IT pros work so many hours begs the question of why management lets this happen. And if businesses claimed ignorance before, now the harsh reality of everyday working life for an IT pro is out in the open.

And given the modern business’ reliance on technology, it’s even more important for management to recognise when IT pros are overworked and understaffed. Organisations are heavily dependent on their IT department to leap into action when things go wrong, but when they’re constantly fighting fires, IT pros have less time to be proactive about identifying and implementing new tech solutions to help companies become more efficient and save money in the long run.

Why are they working so late?

User issues. Anyone in IT can tell you that end user issues are time consuming and stressful, and now we have the data to prove it. The Spiceworks IT staffing survey shows that IT departments with more dedicated help desk technicians work fewer hours on average, and departments with fewer help desk staff tend to work more than 40 hours per week. It’s clear that the workload associated with fixing end user issues consumes a considerable amount of time for IT pros so adding support personnel can help free up time for all IT staff regardless of role.

However, smaller IT departments often lack the resources to employ dedicated help desk technicians and systems administrators, and as a result they tend to work longer hours. In fact, IT pros in small businesses worldwide with less than 100 employees work an average of 50 hours per week, and IT pros in medium-sized businesses with 100 to 499 employees work an average of 53 hours per week. This makes sense because some IT pros in small and midsized businesses may run a one-man shop managing more devices and user issues on their own, which can easily lead to a long work week.

So where possible, businesses can alleviate this burden by investing in more help desk technicians, which gives the rest of the IT department the chance to add value rather than just keep the lights on.

What sector is working the latest?

In terms of working patterns across different sectors, it’s clear that IT pros working in the public sector get a better deal. Those in education, government, and healthcare generally work fewer hours compared to other industries. Only 33 and 37 per cent of IT pros in government and education respectively work more than 40 hours per week. At the other end of the spectrum, construction and engineering has the highest percentage of IT staff doing overtime with 72 per cent of IT pross working more than 40 hours per week.

What now?

It’s no surprise that IT pros work incredibly hard and are often overworked. So how do businesses counteract this? There’s no magic formula to determine how many IT pros your company needs to ensure peak tech performance and adequate incident response times. However, the findings of the report provide a clear indication of when it might be time to employ more IT staff based on the numbers of hours worked per week, your industry and the types of IT pros employed.

Ultimately, because properly functioning technology is vital to every company in the world, it makes financial sense to invest in people that make sure IT “just works.”

Peter Tsai is an IT Analyst at Spiceworks

Photo Credit: Roman Rybaleov/Shutterstock