COVID-19 has transformed the cyber security industry, but it has also presented a new epidemic — long-term sick leave for cyber staff. The new threat landscape carved out by remote working has led to longer hours, higher levels of stress and burnout in cyber teams. Rachel Davis of our Cyber Security team explores the issues and solutions.

Practical solutions

Integrating practical solutions which promote wellbeing into the cyber team culture is the only solution for sustainable positive change. Since the idea of wellbeing can feel abstract, there tends to be a lot of corporate jargon around the topic. Let’s talk in more practical terms — here are five actions leaders can implement today to make a positive change.

Before we start, I want to note that there is no substitute for professional medical help. Each individual may define wellbeing differently, so cookie-cutter solutions may likely not work. Organisations should provide a range of initiatives to meet the wellbeing needs of a diverse team and consider which combination of the following actions might suit the profile of their own teams. 

5 simple actions to promote wellbeing

1. Communication

Start simple and promote open communication amongst the team at all levels. Start with weekly leadership-endorsed team meetings. These provide structure for a team and help showcase leadership commitment to ongoing wellbeing conversations. My own wellbeing thrives off routine and accountability, so such meetings supported that need during lockdown when so much structure was taken away. Layered on top of these formal meetings, more casual placeholders, such as bi-weekly coffee catchups, can provide a safe space for open conversations without the pressure of an agenda. Communication may flow more naturally as a hierarchy is less important in these meetings, which can help spark unexpected working relationships.

2. Sports & social

Encourage clubs and groups which are not necessarily related to work. Team members can create long-lasting connections and improve their physical and mental well-being by coming together to support their common interests. The KPMG Cyber Running Club popped up quickly once the lockdown set in. As team members used their lunch hour to post about their daily run, conversation flowed more easily in team catch-ups as there was already established connection. Inspired by the running club, I set up a Cyber Book Club. I got to talk to my colleagues about new genres of literature, but I also felt a sense of pride in founding a club team members of all levels could enjoy. 

3. Mental health toolkit

As mentioned, wellbeing is a very individualistic notion, and some people prefer an approach that isn’t focused on socialising. Apps which corporations can offer their employees and families, provide a great toolkit to help improve mental health and wellbeing. Key features include:

  • Self-guided programmes and bite-sized interactive courses to help improve sleep and relationships, reduce stress or manage anxiety.
  • In-the-moment exercises, including mindfulness meditations, sleep melodies, healthy recipes and more, which help to boost your day-to-day wellbeing and health.
  • Insights to assess how well you're doing, such as questionnaires and mood diaries.

4. Team challenges

Endorsing team challenges such as step-a-thons, 30 days of meditation or yoga, and bake-offs can spark friendly competition and encourage communication. It also can break down the barriers of team hierarchy and inspire all levels to learn from each other. These challenges can also bring a sense of community, motivating teams to monitor and support each other’s wellbeing. 

5. Surveys & feedback

Visibly actioning feedback from monthly workplace satisfaction and wellbeing surveys could show team members that leadership values and trusts their opinions. To help achieve a cultural change, team members may need to feel empowered and supported by leadership to take responsibility for their wellbeing. The positive feedback loop should not be underestimated and can support long-lasting positive change within a team.  

Building a strong culture of wellbeing

Of course, I can’t fail to mention the potential wellbeing benefits cyber teams can gain from implementing technological support into operations. Cyber teams can invest in technologies that cut down their workloads on a day-to-day operational level. In incident response teams, Security Orchestration and Automated Response (SOAR) solutions can help efficiently manage early triage and containment activities, and machine learning solutions can speed up analysis processes across a wide range of security controls.

However, these are topics for another blog. When it comes to the package of wellbeing initiatives, the most important thing to recognise is that these are long-term efforts. Give them time to materialise; often, you won’t realise you have a strong wellbeing culture until you’re already deep into it. 

Get in touch

If you have any queries on any aspect of cyber security, please contact Rachel Davis of our Cyber Security team. We'd be delighted to hear from you.