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How to Battle Burnout While Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset — Your People Combatting cybersecurity burnout is crucial in safeguarding our digital frontlines. With 66% of professionals experiencing extreme stress, leaders must address these inherent issues.

By Apu Pavithran

Key Takeaways

  • Through open dialogue, building sustainable systems and cultivating a culture of appreciation, we can craft a resilient workforce, our ultimate defense in the relentless cyber warfare.
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The cyber threat landscape is a relentless battlefield. As leaders in this unforgiving arena, we wear many hats — strategists, innovators, risk mitigators and, most importantly, leaders. In this constant state of defense, it's easy to overlook the most critical line of protection: our own people, the cybersecurity professionals who stand guard day and night. They are the human firewall, the skilled hands deciphering cryptic codes and thwarting insidious attacks. But here's a brutal truth: they are burning out.

The numbers paint a grim picture. A Forrester study last year revealed that a staggering 66% of cybersecurity professionals experienced extreme stress and burnout, with 51% being prescribed medicine and 19% consuming three drinks daily to deal with the stress. This isn't just a human cost; it's a business vulnerability. Burnout threatens to leave our digital castles unguarded in an industry already plagued by a 4 million talent gap.

Related: How to Spot Entrepreneurial Burnout (Before It's Too Late)

Reframing the narrative

The causes of cybersecurity burnout are multifaceted. The ever-evolving threat landscape generates a constant sense of urgency and an unending race against unseen adversaries. Long hours, on-call expectations, and the weight of potential breaches together create a highly strenuous environment. In addition to the resource crunch, understaffed teams grapple with inadequate budgets and outdated tools, further amplifying the stress.

To reframe this narrative, realizing that fostering such an environment starts by acknowledging stress is important. Hence, the first step is to promote open dialogue about the pressures associated with cybersecurity work. Creating a safe space for employees to express their concerns and providing adequate support can significantly impact them.

Companies that promote and facilitate the exchange of information and knowledge among different functions and departments tend to be more cohesive in pursuing objectives. Enhanced collaboration often leads to greater trust among teams, which in turn promotes additional sharing of knowledge. This positive cycle can significantly enhance organizational cybersecurity, as each employee's actions contribute to overall resilience. Another pillar of a stress-free workplace is encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Cybersecurity professionals must be reminded to take breaks, utilize vacation days, and disconnect after working hours. Moreover, leading by example is essential; as leaders, demonstrating healthy boundaries sends a powerful message.

Related: Are You at Risk for Burnout? This Psychologist-Created Quiz Lets You Know in 5 Minutes

Building sustainable systems

Addressing burnout doesn't stop with individual-level interventions. It necessitates a strategic and systemic approach that addresses the root causes. Businesses must take charge of building sustainable systems that support and enhance the resilience of the cybersecurity workforce.

One significant contributor to burnout is the overwhelming workload faced by IT teams. As companies embrace digital transformation, they have access to many solutions, each with its own benefits. However, a major drawback is the increasing burden on IT professionals. In this context, solutions integrating multiple capabilities are invaluable in lightening the workload.

For example, implementing a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution consolidates device management, application management, patch management and more into a single console. Similarly, secure access service edge (SASE) combines network connectivity and security functionalities into a unified platform.

Another approach is promoting cross-training. This facilitates knowledge sharing and fosters a collaborative approach within the cybersecurity team. Furthermore, it helps distribute workloads more effectively while also cultivating a sense of collective ownership. Finally, offering avenues for continuous training and upskilling ensures that employees have the necessary knowledge to stay ahead in the ever-evolving threat landscape.

Related: Cyber Attacks Are On the Rise — Here's How Your Business Can Continuously Prepare for Threats

Cultivating an atmosphere of appreciation and recognition

It's often easy to overlook the tireless efforts of our cybersecurity professionals, working diligently behind the scenes to thwart attacks without seeking recognition. Yet, this silent service deserves acknowledgment. Recognizing their contributions and celebrating their successes can reignite their passion and dedication. Highlighting successful security outcomes and the individuals responsible fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Additionally, to foster a culture of collaboration and trust, break down silos, and encourage open communication and information sharing across teams. Empowering employees to contribute their unique perspectives fosters a sense of belonging and deepens appreciation for their invaluable contributions.

We are fortunate to be in an era where mental health is regarded as important as physical health. However, in a field known for high-stakes scenarios, mental health often takes a back seat. Therefore, businesses should ensure that employees have access to assistance programs and mental health resources, fostering an environment where discussions about mental health are normalized and stigma-free.

In short, cybersecurity burnout is not an inevitable consequence of the job. It's a systemic issue demanding leadership. We can turn the tide by prioritizing our people's well-being, empowering them with the right tools and resources, and fostering a culture of support and appreciation. Remember that protecting our data and systems starts with protecting the human beings who are our most valuable assets in this digital warzone.

Apu Pavithran

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


Apu Pavithran is the founder and CEO of Hexnode. Recognized in the IT management community as a consultant, speaker, and thought leader, Apu is passionate about entrepreneurship and spends significant time working with startups and empowering young entrepreneurs.

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