“It’s okay to not be okay” – Supporting each other as a community through stress

To wrap up the topics surrounding stress awareness month, we wanted to look into stress in a little more detail, – it’s causes to how we can help manage it better. For this, we asked Ellen Kay, our Human Factors Specialist, and Jake Moore, Global Cybersecurity Advisor for ESET for a few words. They both identified several causes for stress and the impact it has on the cyber community.

Ellen Kay – The main cause of absenteeism in companies is ‘stress’ and anxiety related problems which then cause other health problems. And the biggest triggers are emotional and psychological stress. These then ultimately lead to other conditions and health problems, which cause people to be even more sick.

As a result of that, people become less creative. They’re less innovative. They’re less productive. They produce less outcomes. They communicate less. And they’re less engaged in the workplace. All of this is demonstrated by what they do more so than what they say. They are quiet, more reserved, and can become agitated and angry.

These negative behavioural traits then have a direct effect on profits and growth. These people also tend to be sick more frequently, they tend to be more competitive in a way that does not add real value to the business, they tend to resist change more, they’re more hostile, they’re more resentful, they’re more anxious, and ultimately more depressed. These behaviours are easy to see once we become more aware of our own body language and that of our colleagues.

Stressed employees add to the toxic environment that they’re reacting to, which then causes the environment to become more stressed, which causes people to become more reactionary. And the cycle continues. It’s a big problem all over the world.

Continuing, Jake said:

Jake Moore – There are factors that can contribute to stress in cyber security that you might not see in other areas. And one of these is that there is a cyber skills shortage, and with this you get more responsibility per job. With more people that are trained, you can distribute jobs more evenly, though because of the gap people aren’t entering the industry as much as we would’ve hoped. There’s also a lot of immense pressure on the industry because it’s linked to a business going down completely because livelihoods are attached to attacks. With this pressure and increased stress comes burnout because of constant mounting pressure. An issue is blame culture, though I think that we should move away from that and instead learn from every mistake

Ellen and Jake both have amazing insights into the topic of stress in cyber and it was really thought provoking to have conversations with them both. Interestingly, when I asked them about how we can help combat stress, they both highlighted the importance of human conversation to discuss stress in order to raise awareness to stress and to show our colleagues that they’re not alone in how they feel:

Ellen – The overarching support we can offer colleagues is 1) self-awareness i.e. be more aware of our own stress levels and what triggers cause us to have stressful reactions and behaviours and 2) behavioural changes in colleagues / changes in their body language indicating they are stressed. When we become more aware of ourselves then we can become more aware of others and help them. But awareness is not easy when we live in a state of survival (stress) most of the time and that stops us being supportive of ourselves and others.”

Jake – “I always think that cyber training isn’t just down to training but is also down to conversations and to discuss it with your colleagues. Discuss the funny things, as it all raises awareness in a very fun way. With phishing being the number one attack on businesses, why not discuss it? It just makes people that little bit more conscious about what they’re clicking on.

Talking about the human element makes people listen, they can relate to it. Put yourself into another person’s shoes and think about how can I not become another victim? That’s really powerful. Once discussions happen, people can be relieved and that stress can be taken away. I love telling people about what a fun industry the cyber security industry is. I think we can prove how fun it can be, and I think one of the best parts is the fast-moving element of it. It changes every day and it comes with its challenges that can be difficult, but that challenge is a fun challenge instead of us seeing it as something that can burn us out completely. To make it easy and open to talk about, emails from someone respected in the company just saying “it’s okay to not be okay” is really powerful. It’s good to reiterate it with a business mind. It’s okay to feel stress, or imposter syndrome. Stress has an amazing reaction that can spiral out of control and the end result can be burnout. There’s that assumption that people at the top have got it all covered, that they’re not stressed, but it’s simply not true. So, it’s good to have these conversations, and to show that everyone can have imposter syndrome to a certain extent. And working from home has made it even more difficult.”

As summarised by both Ellen & Jake, it’s important to recognise that stress affects us all, and by initiating and taking part in more of these conversations, together as a community we can break down barriers and combat stress as a collective to really drive home the message “it’s okay to not be okay”.

As part of the Human Factors programme at the Cyber Quarter in Hereford, we show people the formula to teach people how to make significant changes in their brain and body to help combat stress. To learn more, please complete an enquiry or send a direct email to our Human Factors Specialist, Ellen Kay: e.kay@wlv.ac.uk

Stress Awareness Month – The impact of stress & tips for dealing with it

Cybersecurity stress has been described as an industrywide epidemic amongst many cyber and security professionals. Talking about stress can be a difficult conversation for many, however, it is important to address workplace stress before its consequences affect both people and the business.

Stress can be one of the biggest underrated insider threats to a business. According to CIISec’s 2020/2021 State of Profession report, 557 security professionals have said that stress has become a major issue due the COVID-19 pandemic, with 80% also saying they have seen first-hand the effects of stress on their staff. These figures are a significant concern as it’s been shown that people are more vulnerable to the attempts of cyber criminals whilst feeling stressed. A Cyberchology (2020) report found that when stress levels are heightened, staff members are more likely to panic and potentially click on a malicious link or fail to report any security breaches to their IT team.

Workplace stress is becoming such an issue that, according to VMware’s 2021 Global Incident Response Threat Report, 65% of cyber professionals have said that they have considered leaving their job because of stress and CIISec’s 2020/2021 report states that 51% of cybersecurity professionals are kept up at night due to the stress of their job.

The facts and figures are clear that stress is a serious topic in the cyber community that needs to be more thoroughly addressed. Therefore, we asked our Human Factors Specialist, Ellen Kay, for her top tips for dealing with workplace stress and how we can spot signs of stress in others:

“I want to talk to you about one of the most common things in the workplace that break down teams and organisations around the world.

I’ve worked with MANY different companies, corporations, upper management and human resources, and they’re always talking about the impact of stress in their businesses. Stress is when your brain and body are knocked out of homeostasis. The stress response is what your body innately does to return itself back to order.

All organisms in nature, every creature, can tolerate short-term stress. But when the stressors add up and people keep reacting to threats and conditions in their external environment over and over again, they’ll keep their brain and body out of balance. And as a result, a system is going to break down. That means, individuals are going to break down. Teams are going to break down. Because no organism can live in emergency mode for an extended period of time.

Living in emergency means living in stress. And living in stress is living in survival. And what are the effects of that?

It turns out that the main cause of absenteeism in companies and organisations, has to do with stress and anxiety related problems that add to health problems. Over 75%of people who walk into a healthcare facility in the western world, walks in because of emotional and psychological stress. This emotional and psychological stress ultimately leads to other conditions and health problems, which cause people to be more sick. As a result, people become less creative, less innovative. They’re less productive and produce fewer outcomes. They communicate less and they’re less engaged in the workplace.

This has a direct effect on profits and growth in a business. They also tend to be more sick, and tend to be more competitive in a way that does not add real value to the business, they are more resistant to change, they’re more hostile, more resentful, more anxious and more depressed. They add to the toxic environment that they’re reacting to, which then causes the environment to become more stressed, which causes people to become more reactionary. And the cycle continues. It’s a huge problem all over the world.

It turns out that there’s a way to teach people how to make significant changes in their brain and body, and it’s actually a formula. The Human Factors offering at Cyber Quarter teaches this formula, and I want to share some of that information with you. Are you looking after your organisation, are you looking after your people, are you looking after you?”

To learn more about the impacts of stress and your business, sign up for our three upcoming Human Factors Briefings. Follow the links below to register your interest:

25th April – https://lnkd.in/dxvZ5ZCR
26th April – https://lnkd.in/dmJUm5Nn
27th April – https://lnkd.in/dvcaicPd