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A year on in the Pandemic.

We are coming up to a year since the UK was thrown into lockdown, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Now we apparently have a roadmap out of this, contingent on a continued successful vaccine rollout. Where is the mental health support. 

 

Economically, many sectors have struggled and suffered as a result of the pandemic and lockdowns.

 

The tech sector isn’t one of them. PwC says that the UK tech sector has “demonstrated an impressive degree of resilience.” Even the amount of investment into the sector hasn’t reduced, with $15 billion raised in 2020, according to Dealroom.

 

All very impressive. However, we need to take a step back, beyond the figures and think about how people in the sector are actually coping with a global pandemic, lockdowns and working from home (WFH).

 

Why this is impacting everyone’s mental health?

As a mental health startup, we share similar experiences to those in the tech sector. A pandemic and the consequences and policies to contain it, are a shared experience, regardless of sector.

 

Everyone’s mental health has suffered. Everyone has missed family and friends. Most people have Missed the simple things. Missed and are missing going places other than supermarkets. People want to plan fun things for the future. Missed everything that was normal before this all started.

 

It’s worth remembering that nothing comparable, on this scale, has happened to humanity in over 100 years. There have been other viruses that have infected and killed in large numbers. However, nothing this devastating has spread across the world like this since the Spanish Flu, also known as the 1918 influenza pandemic. It infected 500 million at the time, a third of the world’s population, and killing between 17 and 100 million between 1918 and 1920. Nothing comparable has happened since, and so everyone, including scientists when this started, is in uncharted territory.

Shared experiance

So yes, this is a shared experience. Albeit one that is not affecting everyone in society the same way. And of course, those who’ve lost loved ones are suffering even more. The pandemic is something that none of us can escape until the virus is under control.

 

But for the moment, and easily for the next 6 months, we are all living and working under similar circumstances as the previous 12. Fortunately, there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. The vaccination program is going well, and in the UK there is a tentative roadmap out of this.

 

However, that isn’t to downplay the massive impact this pandemic has had on the mental health of those in the tech community. It’s something we at Discova are so concerned about that we are currently conducting a survey in the sector, and will publish an eBook in March, to help everyone understand the current situation.

 

How is the tech sector coping? 

 

Until that primary research is complete, we can look at our own experiences and research on mental health already published.

 

One of the reasons for the “impressive degree of resilience” that PwC mentioned, is the tech sector has “remained a key enabler of the UK economy while driving transformation and innovation across other sectors.”

 

In other words; thank goodness for the tech sector continues to work hard and push forward, because that’s ensured other businesses have been able to keep going. For example, IT companies helping businesses go remote for the first time, or video platforms providing the tech needed to ensure calls and meetings can happen, even when staff are scatted around, working in spare rooms.

Resilience

That resilience has come at a cost. Working harder and longer hours, such as coping with a sudden surge in demand for a product or service, isn’t easy under normal circumstances. As many in the sector know, it’s wonderful when new clients land, or when current clients need more support (and therefore spend more). More money flows in, which means founders/owners can breathe a sigh of relief, especially if this is unexpected.

 

Under normal circumstances, extra work can be handled more easily. As things are now, extra work can push staff (and owners) towards burnout and mental exhaustion.

 

A Harvey Nash Tech survey found that 25% of those in the tech sector are “concerned about their mental health right now due to working pressures.” Before the pandemic, that figure was only 1 in 6. Harvey Nash is a global IT and tech sector recruitment and staffing company. These findings were published in an Information Age article, in June 2020.

 

Also from the survey: 36% (1 in 3) have said “heir mental health has deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Different pressures on mental health support

For many being surveyed, this is the first time they say their mental health support has been a real concern. Those under the greatest strain include managers of every kind, such as project managers, product managers and those in IT operational roles.

 

Different people are facing a range of pressures. Parents are juggling home-schooling with working from home (WFH). Really not an easy task! Whereas those living alone can’t benefit from socialising, causing equally difficult mental health challenges.

 

To combat these challenges, Bev White, Harvey Nash Group CEO encourages companies “to review the mental health support measures they have in place and ensure they are fit for purpose.” Over half of the companies in the sector currently don’t offer any extra support, and this needs to change, to ensure staff are looked after. Otherwise, you might find your best team members go elsewhere, to companies that support mental health more effectively.

 

 

 

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