BT warns tech anxiety could stunt growth by £11.8B

This Mental Health Awareness Week, new research from BT has uncovered widespread anxiety among business leaders about the pace of technological change in the workplace.

Nearly nine in 10 (86%) company directors and executives report suffering from ‘bytemares’: tech-related stress that’s severe enough to disrupt their sleep – with security and AI the top causes. BT estimates the resulting tech paralysis could cost the economy £11.79 billion by 2030, as many small businesses right up to large multinationals opt to defer investment in tech transformation.   

To help tackle this, BT is teaming up with ex-Dragon Sarah Willingham and meditation guru Izzy Judd, to arm business leaders with the mental tools to take on worries around tech transformation head on. Together they’ve created The Business Reboot, a series of tech-inspired guided meditations, designed to help businesses of all sizes, and their employees, to hit the reset button before facing up to the tech challenges of the day.   

Rapid pace of tech evolution

From AI to cybersecurity, big data to digital skills, nearly nine in 10 (88%) businesses are investing in new technology this year to improve productivity and gain competitive advantage, as tech investment overall is set to increase 31% year-on-year.    

For most business leaders, selecting and implementing the right technology plays a pivotal role in the success of their business. Nearly two-thirds (62%) recognise that digital and tech transformation is critical to the survival of their company. But the sheer pace of tech evolution is a cause for concern. 9 in 10 (88%) say workplace technology is a source of stress in their lives and three in five (59%) decision-makers say tech is advancing so quickly they worry about the future of their business. Financial services (74%) and HR (78%) are most concerned about the impact on their sector this year.   

The concern is that the associated stress of delivering tech transformation is standing in the way of progress, at both a business and national scale. BT’s research estimates 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. It suggests that this tech paralysis could stunt growth by an estimated £11.79 billion by 2030.   

Tech anxiety 

Whether it’s worrying about cyber security (32%), tech transformation (25%), or digital skills (24%), directors and executives are calling out for support to navigate tech, with half (50%) wishing they had a trusted partner to help them with tech transformation.   

While cybersecurity is seen as the biggest technological threat to businesses this year, AI is proving to be a huge source of stress. Three in four business leaders say that it has made them feel stressed or anxious in the past year. Worries include data privacy and security (34%), as well as quality and reliability (29%). One in five (21%) see it as an existential threat to their business.    

Bas Burger, CEO – Business at BT, says: “Today, every business is a digital business – and our research shows that the pace of change is taking its toll. Our job is to make things easier: providing the rock-solid digital foundation businesses need to thrive. Together with former Dragon Sarah Willingham and meditation expert Izzy Judd, we’re helping business leaders get into the headspace to make the most of the tech opportunity. Whether that’s AI, digital skills or cybersecurity, BT’s got their back.”   

Sarah Willingham, former Dragon, says: “Dealing with change and uncertainty are two of the hardest things about running a business, and I’ve always found meditation really helps with that. It’s an essential part of my every day – without it, I won’t be as present or productive for myself or my team. With all the tech challenges businesses are facing this year, I want leaders to embrace the power of mindfulness and meditation in their working lives.”   

Three in five (57%) business leaders already practise meditation at least once a week, and one in 10 (11%) do so every day. A third (38%) of those who have never tried it say they would consider it to help with work-related stress.   

Izzy Judd, host of the BBC’s Music and Meditation Podcast and voice of BT’s Business Reboot series, says: “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. 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. That’s what BT’s Business Reboot series is all about.”   

Developed with Sarah Willingham and Izzy Judd, BT’s The Business Reboot guided meditation series is specifically designed to help business leaders beat their ‘bytemares’, with episodes focusing on AI, cybersecurity, data analytics, digital skills, and Cloud computing. The audio meditations are available for free to everyone, including more than one million BT business and public sector customers across the world.