Stress and SOC Staff Burnout

SOC staff is dealing with threats and investigations on regular basis every day. In many cases these threats are repetitive. Dealing with continuous onslaught of Cyber threats makes SOC staff stressed. Stress and burnout are real problem.

What is stress?

According National Institute of Health, MedlinePlus, “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. But when stress lasts for a long time, it may harm your health”.

Chronic stress results in burnout of SOC staff. Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion due to prolonged stress that drains out energy.

Burnout is a result of constant stress. If you find a co-worker calling sick often or coming late to work, it may be a sign of burnout.

Burnout may also manifest in an otherwise efficient person taking longer to finish tasks.  

SOC manager should not only take care of themselves against these very real issues but also make sure SOC staff is healthy with a good work-life balance. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for a successful SOC.

How to identify if SOC staff is stressed out?

SOC managers need to understand stress and take actions to minimize its impact on SOC staff. Every person takes stress differently while living through the same type of experiences. Prolonged stress results in exhaustion and results in visible signs of damage to one’s health. If you see a co-worker agitated, frustrated, or overwhelmed, it could be first sign of stress.

What SOC managers can do?

Well-being of SOC staff must be at the top of any SOC manager agenda. It is not only a good practice but is also essential for staff retention and operational efficiency of SOC. TO start with, managers must know:

  • What causes stress and burnout?
  • How to find if an employee is stressed out?
  • What managers can do to address this issue?

One of the ways stress manifests in terms of physical health is hypertension. The research in this area is well documented and largely accepted.

Following can reduce stress for SOC staff.

  • Flexibility of working hours
  • Reduce console time for staff, rotate their duties
  • Provide some time where staff can work on “things they like” or on “problems they want to solve”. 
  • Since triage of events could involve performing the same tasks over and over, work on tools and automation to minimize fatigue from these repetitive tasks. If you have not yet, consider investing in SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) tools.
  • Make sure staff members take vacation and other time off.
  • Celebrate successes, no matter how small they are.
  • Making sure staff gets time for lunch and breaks and are not too much absorbed in work such that they forget to take breaks.
  • It may not be a bad idea in investing in buying gym membership for SOC staff.

I would strongly recommend that each SOC should encourage SOC staff to check their blood pressure on regular basis. To address privacy concerns, an option should be provided to staff to buy and keep a blood pressure meter at home. Decent personal use equipment costs less than $100 and is a good investment in SOC staff health.

Another general recommendation is increase awareness of stress among SOC staff. One way to do so is to purchase few stress posters and place these on SOC walls as a constant reminder.

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About Rafeeq Rehman

Consultant, Author, Researcher.
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