Work-life Balance for Cyber Security Professionals
Cyber security is a booming profession – and it’s easy to see why: cybercrime is the world's biggest criminal growth industry with global costs projected to reach $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. This rapid growth is perpetuated by cybercriminals’ determination and ability to develop innovative techniques to fit new trends.
The army of cyber security professionals that are charged with safeguarding organisations against this ever-expanding and increasingly sophisticated threat landscape have their work cut out. Despite their dedication and demonstrable success in identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber risks, the evolving nature of cybercrime, the volume of attacks, and 24/7 demands can make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This is essential not only for worker well-being but also for sustaining the sharp analytical and problem-solving skills that underpin cyber security roles.
If you’re a cyber security professional or you’re considering becoming one, the following strategies can help you strike a healthy balance between work and personal life:
Don’t fall into the trap of always being 'on-call'. While some cyber roles require 24/7 attention, it's important to set boundaries by limiting the amount of time you spend checking work emails or responding to non-urgent issues outside of work hours.
Given the pressure involved in mitigating cyber-attacks – with the organisation’s reputation on the line – regular breaks can improve concentration and reduce fatigue. Taking short, scheduled breaks away from your computer screen during work can help maintain peak performance.
Identify the most critical tasks and tackle them when you're most productive. The following matrix – devised by Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States – can help you separate your actions based on four possibilities:
- Urgent and important – tasks you will do immediately.
- Important, but not urgent – tasks you will schedule to do later.
- Urgent, but not important – tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important – tasks that you will eliminate.
Cyber security is littered with repetitive tasks. Rather than getting bogged down by these laborious processes, embrace automation. By leveraging automated tools, you can reduce your workload and focus on more complex tasks.
Remain up-to-date with the latest trends, tools, and best practices in cyber security. Ongoing education can help you deal with challenges more efficiently – reducing the likelihood of long hours trying to manage unexpected issues.
Don’t suffer in silence if your workload is getting on top of you. Seek support from colleagues, supervisors, or external networks and forums. Talking about challenges and seeking advice can provide new perspectives or solutions.
Flexible work arrangements
Since pandemic-induced lockdowns, employers have recognised the benefits of flexible work schedules and remote working. If possible, explore these options to achieve more accommodative working arrangements.
Regularly review and adjust
Personal and professional circumstances change over time. Therefore, it's essential to periodically review your work-life balance and make adjustments as needed. For example, if you have children, you might need to tweak your work pattern to accommodate school and nursery arrangements.
It can be tempting to skip vacations, especially when you're engrossed in a project, or you feel that your presence is vital to its successful outcome. However, time off from work is crucial to recharge and avoid burnout – especially in a fast-paced and demanding field like cyber security.
Incident response plan
A clear and efficient incident response plan provides a blueprint for navigating the chaos and potential damage of a cyber breach. This well-defined approach details the processes to follow when an incident occurs, ensuring everyone understands their role and issues are dealt with in a structured manner – reducing stress levels and recovery time.
Cyber security is as demanding as it is rewarding, but with robust strategies and self-awareness, you can strike a balance that fosters both career success and personal well-being.