How IT contractors are giving breathing space to busy tech teams

By Robert Half on 3 June 2020

Since the pandemic began, IT teams have experienced increased pressure across multiple sectors.

A study into the impacts of COVID-19 on business functions shows tech teams are one of the most prone to burnout during the pandemic, with 60% of IT professionals saying they’re burning out on the job.

A survey by Robert Half supports this, finding that more CIOs (66%) think their employees will experience burnout in the coming year, compared to the average of 60% for all executive leaders.

Another study by McKinsey shows that since the pandemic began, Australia, out of five major global regions, has the highest proportion of employees experiencing burnout to a ‘high degree’ or ‘very high degree’.

While workloads have risen because of the need to rapidly advance technology infrastructures for a highly digitised working environment, restrictions on permanent headcount in the wake of economic uncertainty have resulted in many current IT staff working overtime – and an urge for companies to consider IT contractor hiring solutions to alleviate the burden.

What’s causing burnout in Australia’s IT teams?

Some of the most common causes of burnout as identified by Gallup research include:

  • Unmanageable workloads
  • Lack of role clarity
  • Poor communication
  • Support from managers
  • Unreasonable time pressures

All these triggers are likely to have become more widespread among IT professionals during the pandemic as organisations rolled out critical transformation projects and initiatives, often with challenging timeframes.

Also worth considering are the sudden changes to strategic objectives and a surge in demand for niche tech skills that have left technology teams feeling under-resourced, ill-equipped, and lacking direction – especially if additional support or training isn’t provided.

Counting the costs of burnout

Burnout among staff comes at a high price for businesses.

While it’s estimated that burnout contributes to a productivity loss of around $1 trillion across the global workforce each year, other consequences of burnout include poor staff retention and the inevitable higher costs of staff turnover . Increased sick days and lower levels of engagement are two key reasons for fledgling productivity in teams suffering burnout.

For this reason, there is need for a shift in 2021 to promote staff wellbeing and alleviate burnout for exhausted IT departments.

Time off is critical to wellbeing

With demands on IT teams set to grow even further during an unprecedented time of disruptive and technological change, ensuring that staff can take well-earned breaks will play an important role in reducing the risks of burnout.

Insights by Deloitte suggest that re-evaluating time-off policies and team culture around taking time off will play a crucial role in improving the health and performance of staff during the pandemic .

Working with a recruitment agency to leverage the benefits of skilled IT contractors can be a solution to managing peaks and troughs in workload without your staff working extended hours or missing out on regular breaks. According to recent research by Robert Half, nearly half (45%) of Australian CIOs are using contract professionals to alleviate the burden on existing staff and a third say they plan to increase the number of contractors in 2021.

Additionally, here are three key reasons why IT contractors could have a positive impact on the wellbeing and performance of your IT team.

1. Maintaining BAU tasks and projects while permanent staff take leave

When permanent technology team members take leave, their essential tasks and duties cannot always be fairly absorbed by colleagues. Experienced IT contractors can alleviate this conundrum because they’re able to immediately fit into your team and pick up tasks with minimal training and support.

By making use of contract IT staff, you can confidently encourage your permanent staff to take the regular breaks they need to stay motivated without compromising project deadlines or your BAU team deliverables. In fact, a Robert Half survey found that 81% of CIOs would consider hiring a contractor to replace a full-time employee when they go on leave.

2. Giving IT teams mobility to scale and upskill

One of the biggest challenges for IT leaders in the pandemic environment is finding a way to scale their team’s capacity in response to sudden but often temporary influxes in workload. What’s more, new transformation projects and initiatives across organisations are demanding new niche skills from IT teams to meet goals.

Rather than buckle under the pressures and stress, IT contractors can give leaders fast access to the additional support they need to cope with rising workloads. A flexible, minimal-commitment approach to increasing headcount afforded by contract IT professionals also means that staff levels can be reduced again as soon as needs change.

Importantly, using contract IT workers isn’t just about being able to do more work – it also gives organisations access to the latest and most sought-after tech skills which might enable them to implement short-term strategic projects outside their usual scope of work. As many as 43% of Australian CIOs say they’re using contract staff to support specified projects.

3. Helping to manage budgets and keep costs low

Because of advertising fees and the length of time it takes to recruit and onboard staff internally, hiring permanent staff can be expensive and demanding on resources – especially with severe skills shortages in the Australian tech sector protracting recruitment times for some roles.

Committing to the high costs of recruiting new permanent employees might not always be the best solution during the post-pandemic recovery phase as some companies continue to re-evaluate their priorities and resourcing needs.

Maintaining an adjustable headcount of IT contractors can help to immediately plug skills gaps at an affordable cost because they offer employers predictable hourly rates that are easy to forecast and budget for. It could also help to avoid engaging in a bargaining war when it comes to negotiating permanent salaries for the most competitive in-demand roles.

Leveraging IT contractors

When technology teams are under pressure, one of the first things to be sacrificed is the flexibility to take time out, and all too often, it goes unnoticed until it is too late.

Using IT contractors is a cost-effective way to ensure you continue to meet changing goals and objectives without compromising the health and wellbeing of your staff or team productivity.

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