‘The pace of change is taking its toll’: Business leaders are becoming burned out by rapid technological changes

Software developer burnout concept image showing female programmer sitting at a desk looking stressed.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The pace of technological change is giving business leaders sleepless nights, new research shows, with cyber security threats and AI the biggest culprits.

According to research from BT, 58% are worried about keeping up with current technology trends while nine-in-ten revealed the pressure of adapting is becoming a major factor in work-related stress.

Around two-thirds told BT that digital transformation is vital to the survival of their business, but they’re experiencing ‘tech paralysis’ and are unable to meet expectations.

While failure to adapt to technology trends is having a negative impact on business leader wellbeing, the issue also has wide-reaching economic implications, according to BT. Long-term, the inability to keep pace could cost the UK economy more than £11 billion.

"Today, every business is a digital business – and our research shows that the pace of change is taking its toll," said Bas Burger, CEO, business at BT.

Nearly 90% of businesses are investing in new technology this year to improve productivity and gain competitive advantage, with tech investment overall set to increase 31% year-on-year.

However, 59% of decision-makers say tech is advancing so quickly that they worry about the future of their business. This is an even bigger concern in financial services businesses and HR, the study found, with 74% and 78% respectively saying they're concerned about the impact on their sector this year.

BT’s research indicates that 104,000 British businesses could be opting not to invest in new technology this year due to stress associated with the implementation, transformation, and upskilling involved.

While cyber security is seen as the biggest technological threat to businesses this year, AI is also a huge source of stress. Three-in-four business leaders said it has made them feel stressed or anxious in the past year.

One-third are worried about data privacy and security (34%), with three-in-ten concerned about quality and reliability. One-in-five even see it as an existential threat to their business.

In a bid to combat technology-related stress, the firm recommended business leaders explore measures aimed at improving wellbeing and reducing anxiety, such as meditation.

BT has teamed up with ex-Dragons' Den dragon Sarah Willingham and meditation guru Izzy Judd, to create a series of tech-inspired guided meditations.

The Business Reboot podcast is designed to help businesses of all sizes, and their employees, to prepare themselves for the tech challenges of the day. Episodes focus on AI, cyber security, data analytics, digital skills, and cloud computing.


"Meditation plays an important role in millions of lives across the UK, and is increasingly being used in business to help tackle the stress of life in the fast lane," Judd said.

"Just taking a few minutes to step away from the to-do list, connect your body and mind, and reset your priorities, can provide a huge boost to clarity and concentration, while enabling you to feel calmer."

BT isn't the first company to explore the use of meditation apps to help stressed tech staff. In 2020, Snapchat teamed up with Headspace to bring guided meditations, mindfulness practices, and mental health help to its members.

And the problem of stress in the tech industry appears to be worsening, with a recent Gartner report finding that early half of cyber security leaders are expected to change jobs by 2025 due to work-related stress.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.