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Study reveals technology crises take significant personal toll on business leaders

A new study shows the serious impacts on business leaders when disruption hits their organizations, with 54 percent suffering from stress-related illnesses and/or damage to their mental well-being in the aftermath of cyber attacks, IT outages or network failures.

The Sungard AS survey-based study highlights the extent to which senior executives are linked to their company’s resilience. Findings from the survey of 250 C-Suite respondents in companies with 500+ employees in the UK, found that 49 percent of CEOs have suffered from stress-related illnesses and/or damage to their mental well-being, rising to 62 percent amongst CIOs/CTOs.

One of the contributing factors to the stress-related illnesses and damage to business leaders’ mental well-being is the backlash that they are receiving, both online and in person. Almost half of respondents (45 percent) state that they experience abuse online or verbally, and in some cases even physical threats. A fifth (20 percent) say that this criticism extends to their family and friends who also receive abuse verbally and/or physically. The results demonstrate why more must be done to instil resiliency in UK businesses today and aid leaders with their personal responses in times of disruption.

“This research has identified a new resilience imperative, the personal impact on the individuals involved,” comments Kathy Schneider, Chief Marketing Officer at Sungard AS. “The lost business, costs to repair what is broken, and the reputational damage have not only a business impact, but a personal impact. Many business leaders are suffering from stress-related illness or damage to their mental wellbeing when disruption happens. Boards within organizations must take a long hard look at their company’s approach to resilience today.”

Companies have long known the financial and reputational impact of crises, and this research has revealed the negative personal impact it can have on a firm’s leadership. Over one in five (22 percent) respondents state that a result of suffering cyber attacks, IT outages or network failures, have resulted in a CEO departure.

Findings from the study also highlight the financial impact of crises and how a lack of resilience in the face of a crisis can impact leadership capabilities:

  • The organizations surveyed reported average losses of £1,411,148 annually due to downtime;
  • 30 percent of respondents admitted strategic decisions become more difficult to make;
  • 24 percent stated it becomes harder to provide a clear direction for business, and puts the future of their job into question.

About the research

This research of 250 C-suite respondents in companies with 500+ employees in the UK was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Sungard AS in March 2019 as part of a wider piece of resilience research of 851 C-suite respondents in the UK, Ireland and US.

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