Tech Industry Burnout: How To Prevent Employee Exhaustion Becoming Your Biggest Security Risk

Burnout could be the most critical cybersecurity risk facing organisations in 2022 – 1Password CEO Jeff Shiner addresses how to tackle it

When it comes to protecting our organisations’ security, we always need to look at our own habits first. Globally, some 85% of security breaches involve a human element, while the massive shift towards remote working has led to record levels of concern among employers over rising risks.

They’re right to be concerned – particularly when it comes to the rising number of employees around the world that are reporting feeling burned out. It’s important we tackle this problem head-on before it’s too late.

1Password’s State of Access report – aptly named ‘The Burnout Breach’ – found that burned out employees can be dangerously apathetic about workplace security measures. They’re more likely to skirt policies, take shortcuts and download unapproved apps. Nearly twice as many burned-out employees pick easy passwords and use the same password or just a few passwords for everything at work (12% vs. 7%), compared to those who aren’t feeling burned out.

Three key steps to protect your organisation from burnout-driven breaches

Addressing the pervasive issue of employee burnout, and its related cybersecurity risks, requires a multi-pronged approach. Here are my three main tips for organisations that are looking to protect themselves and their employees:
Make security human-centric
Whether it’s logging in to a VPN or using a company-approved app that’s clunkier than the unapproved one, employees make hundreds of decisions a day between what’s safe and what helps them get more work done. Between the explosion of cloud-based apps and the intermingling of work and home, employees are constantly logging in.

Strive to erase the tension between security and convenience. Any time we can use tools that make the secure way the easy way, everyone wins.

Embrace simplicity

Despite the high level of automation in today’s business world, too many workplaces still rely heavily on non-expert individuals to strictly follow critical and often complex security protocols.

Keeping security simple can free people from boring, repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on more creative, satisfying work that requires higher-level thinking. The right solutions can also remove human discretion from the security equation – while also lightening employees’ cognitive load, by reducing the number of decisions they have to make.
Create a mentally healthy workplace

Once a taboo topic in the workplace, mental health conversations are now front and centre at the best organisations. Leaders can foster these conversations by creating Slack channels, virtual meetings and wellness surveys devoted to the topic, giving employees an opportunity to share their experiences and access resources. It can also help to boost employees’ mental health by ensuring they can disconnect from work fully when needed, giving them a period of time to support their recovery.

Sometimes, however, burnout has less to do with crushing workloads and more to do with a company’s broader culture and environment. When workers feel that their contributions are being recognised and that they’re being treated fairly, they report higher levels of engagement and lower levels of burnout. A positive workplace culture inspires employees to adhere to security measures – while also making ex-employees less likely to attempt breaches. In short: be kind!

As advances in remote work, cloud-based applications, AI and automation continue to reshape the modern workplace, productivity can soar.

By tackling employee burnout from multiple angles – and, where possible, removing human discretion from the security equation – we can derive the benefits of these innovations without falling prey to the security vulnerabilities they all too often expose.