How CIOs can mitigate IT employee fatigue

Gartner has identified four ways in which chief information officers (CIOs) can go about mitigating IT employee fatigue, to effectively retain talent

According to Gartner research, eight in 10 CIOs aren’t making employee fatigue a regular part of conversations around business technology initiatives, yet many staff are still becoming overwhelmed by the unprecedented amount of change since the Covid-19 pandemic.

While many businesses are devising sufficient change management plans, as well as implementing culture change where needed, many CIOs do not get the results they want due to overlooking the possibility of fatigue while at work.

Gartner defines employee change fatigue as as the negative employee response to change (including apathy, burnout and frustration) that harms business outcomes.

“Any employee is dealing with digital acceleration, staff departures, having to adjust to various working models, and many more workplace disruptions, and they are exhausted,” said Daniel Sanchez-Reina, vice-president analyst at Gartner.

“Fatigue hurts an employee’s performance in many ways, including apathy, burnout and frustration. It also decreases a workers’ ability to make decisions, solve complex problems and communicate.”

>See also: Open source and mental health: the biggest challenges facing developers

To decrease employee fatigue among tech talent, Gartner recommends the following four steps that CIOs can take to keep employees satisfied and engaged:

1. Treat change fatigue as a business issue

With the majority of CIOs surveyed by Gartner failing to make employee fatigue a regular part of workplace discussions, integration of this topic into planning initiatives can be achieved by adding a fatigue evaluation.

This should be arranged as a discussion with business partners, with the process including, at a minimum, the level of effort each initiative requires and how to combine day-to-day tasks with the initiative.

“Most CIOs only work with business partners to set project timelines and communication plans, and do not consider the employees’ context. Ultimately, they do not address worker fatigue,” said Sanchez-Reina.

2. Distribute change leadership

Gartner also advises CIOs to establish a distributed leadership, such as overseers and tactical decision-makers dispersed across the company, who would have a closer contact with workers and can shift gears when fatigue rises.

Distributed leadership, unlike a single leader who focuses purely on getting a project, product or initiative done on time, also spreads the burden of decision-making — another key cause of stress.

3. Co-create execution and involve stakeholders

The C-suite, IT and business stakeholders, and lower organisational layers all need to be involved in the conversation around employee fatigue and change management.

Additionally, CIOs should set guidance for how teams should approach tasks, helping to ensure that the multidisciplinary departments share accountability for results and focus on delivering business outcomes, as opposed to merely completing a project plan.

Sanchez-Reina added: “CIOs should create teams that include technical experts as well as experts from all of the functions that the initiative will touch. The blend of people with different perspectives will contribute to the cohesiveness of the people involved in the change.”

4. Care about the emotions of change

Lastly, with any positive or negative emotional impact on staff capable of leading to a long-lasting memory in the affect staff’s minds, CIOs are recommended to create a mental track record of as many positives as possible.

“For example,” said Sanchez-Reina, “some companies include ‘listening to the drawbacks’ sessions in the change plan, where employees have the chance to openly share their concerns. This initiative replaces the occasional venting moments in the water cooler or vending machine, making those concerns manageable.”


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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.