Cyberattacks may be on the rise, but one of the biggest threats to an organization’s cybersecurity isn’t just hackers — it’s burnout among cybersecurity teams. A recent study from Mimecast reveals that 84% of cybersecurity professionals in North America are experiencing burnout.

Employee burnout in the cybersecurity field is detrimental for several reasons. It leads to increased mistakes as overworked cyber defenders tend to overlook essential details, it causes a lack of motivation needed to come up with critical solutions, and it results in higher resignation rates that trigger further burnout, as teams don’t have the workforce to complete all the tasks needed for a job that runs 24/7.

With the shifting threat landscape, an organization’s security infrastructure must operate at its strongest capacity. Organizations cannot accomplish this when their cybersecurity teams are not fully functioning. As such, leaders must better determine the leading causes of burnout within their teams and how they can adequately address them.

The leading causes of employee burnout in the cybersecurity field 

The talent shortage within the cybersecurity industry continues to be a persistent issue. According to Cyberseek, there are nearly 770,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions in the U.S alone. When there’s a gap in the workforce, employee burnout tends to increase. In fact, the talent shortage was cited as a top reason for burnout among cybersecurity professionals.

When teams are left with an insufficient number of cyber defenders, those remaining are expected to work in multiple different roles, sometimes more than they can handle. This often means signs of stress and burnout are ignored, and it leaves no room for career growth. Leaders that prioritize work over their employees’ wellbeing will eventually create an unproductive work environment where employees will disengage or leave.

Another key contributor to burnout are inefficient work processes. There are often too many security tools and too little communication among teams. Tools that are not integrated increase frustration, as additional unnecessary steps may be required to complete a single task on list that keeps growing. Traditionally, information technology (IT) and security departments have operated in rigid silos, with cybersecurity working behind closed doors in solitary environments and, as a result, creating a fragmented security framework. This lack of integration creates challenges for teams as they are reacting to changes in IT solutions and policies being implemented, making it harder to operate efficiently.

Addressing burnout through hiring practices and work culture

Organizations must reevaluate how they recruit talent if they wish to effectively reduce the cyber talent shortage. Leaders will continue to struggle to maintain their workforce if they don’t look for talent beyond those with a traditional cyber background. This means recruiters should prioritize specific characteristics and soft skills, such as critical thinking, communication and problem-solving, that make a great cybersecurity professional rather than wait for the perfect resume. This will expand the talent pool and encourage innovative ideas essential for solving today’s significant cybersecurity challenges. Additionally, companies should invest in training programs that help potential recruits develop the necessary skills for the job while emphasizing the education of their employees. Even for those with years of experience in cybersecurity, education is a constant aspect of the job, especially as the threat landscape continues to evolve.

Creating a positive work environment that attracts and retains said talent is equally vital to recruiting talent. A people-first culture where team members feel empowered and prepared to face whatever threats they encounter is the ultimate solution. Cybersecurity can often be a challenging and intense field with constantly evolving threats, so if organizations don’t take care of their people first, they can’t be expected to do their best work. Leaders should encourage employees to try new projects and roles and voice their opinion on what needs to shift, whether it be team structure, changes to work schedules, or training opportunities.

To ensure teams are prepared to face the rise of cyberattacks, cybersecurity leaders must do better to minimize the stress and burnout that is easy to acquire in such a demanding job. At best, burnout leads to reduced performance, and at its worst, it leads to truly regrettable attrition with employees exiting the cyber field.

Overall, leaders must hold themselves accountable to reinvent the way they manage their teams to promote better collaboration and growth. As a result, this will foster a work culture where cyber defenders can do their best work. In a world full of unknown threats, the threat of employee burnout among cybersecurity teams can and must be controlled.