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In the cyber security industry, especially now, during the Mental Health Awareness Month, we should address the significant burnout. There are currently 400,000 jobs requesting cybersecurity-related skills, which means existing teams are overworked and understaffed. In fact, 51% of cybersecurity professionals experience extreme stress or burnout in their current state, which is not surprising when in 2021 alone 50% more cyber attack attempts are made every week.
This is the time to start a conversation about what these findings mean for the future of cyber security, take the time to speak openly and honestly about traditionally “forbidden” issues and how such stress will have a lasting effect on these employees. The cyber security industry – and society at large – cannot afford to expand the current talent shortage, especially as the risky environment continues to expand.
Analyze unique industry needs
Cyber security is an essential component for almost all industries, including finance, education, healthcare and the federal government. The stress on each will also be different, meaning there may be unique solutions that work for some, and not for others. It is important for the leaders of each space to analyze the sources of overwhelming stress and come up with a specific action plan for their own specific cyber personnel.
For example, safety professionals in the healthcare industry burn more, if not more, than others. The epidemic accelerated the digital transformation, and threats, data breaches, and ransomware attacks pushed the already stripped security teams beyond limits. With such pressures from this global health crisis, the massive increase in data due to the acceleration of new telehealth and testing services means more risk for the industry as a whole. In response, health facilities need the support of large, well-equipped teams, including data security specialists, when patient safety / privacy is at stake.
With this in mind, addressing the mental health of people working in the healthcare cyberspace may require a comprehensive expansion of multiple teams, not just the security team, to effectively reduce mental burnout across the organization. The healthcare industry could also benefit from more automation and cloud strategies, as legacy systems still rely on it, increasing the workload and stress of cyber professionals who should continue to work with such technology.
Install support from above
Regardless of the industry, the company’s board is responsible for managing risk and strategy. Employees are feeling tired because they do not have enough talent to meet current cyber security needs or future needs, and are therefore more likely to leave the organization in a more vulnerable position. This not only enhances communication but also makes it a top priority for the executive team and the board.
Leaders of the entire organization should empower individuals to take their mental health into their own hands and do the best for them without risking any decision or outcome. This means that when their cyber security personnel are overwhelmed, organizations should allow them to take a break to isolate, re-group, and focus on their health, and that may look different for everyone.
For example, I journal every evening to “bookend” my day by reviewing my actions for that day and identifying areas for improvement. Once the thoughts get on the paper, it goes out of my mind and I can move on. Such exercises should be suggested, championed and prioritized by cybersecurity professionals and support for doing so should come from their own managers, leaders and mentors.
Improving recruitment practices
With remote work we have reached a point where flexibility has become the key. The ability to hire from anywhere, regardless of remote work and physical office proximity, has benefited the talent pool, but there is still a long way to go. Rethinking the job description to focus on more inclusive and key requirements may open the door for unconventional cyber security candidates. It also means emphasizing the availability of training, guidance and resources to support individual skills and career growth in the security sector. Mental health resources are a powerful recruitment tool.
In turn, applicants for cyber security positions should also ensure that the company puts culture and people first. While it is the responsibility of the company and individual managers to ensure a healthy, “psychologically safe” environment where employees feel comfortable living, new employees should be empowered to take a defensive stance on their own work / life balance. Evidence that the company prioritizes this should be found in the job description and if not, applicants should follow to learn more about the company’s culture.
Expand cyber education
A better understanding of the responsibilities from both organizations and current cyber security experts is also needed to better educate young professionals about security careers. When thinking about the cyber business, many young minds imagine the black hat hacker and the pressure that comes with such a role, but that is not the end of this career. From chief security officers to enterprise security architects, policy makers, communicators and educators, the industry is full of roles that require security-related skills, but we are not doing enough to advocate and educate young professionals on those career paths.
Not only sound education but his alertness and dedication too are most required. Balancing both parties through any academic experience will ensure that future cyber security personnel are better prepared for the security careers they can offer and start prioritizing mental health right from the start.
While Maine has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, it goes without saying that there is currently a year-round need for attention in the cyber security industry. We are at a critical juncture between the adaptation of flexible working systems and the rapid implementation of digital transformation and modernization efforts. Fortunately, this creates timely and valuable opportunities for industry leaders to put the mental health of their current and future cyber professionals first. This will eventually lead to more loyal employees, relax and be ready to fight the next cyber threat.
Shamla Naidu is the Head of Cloud Strategy at CSO and Netscope,
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