From time to time, we all feel tired, demotivated, or annoyed at work. However, being in this state for a long time might signal job burnout—a problem much more severe than temporary fatigue. Burnout in the workplace happens across all industries, including tech. And it is essential to identify its signs early and take measures before it causes serious damage to our physical and mental health.
Today we will discuss why burnout is so common in the tech industry, what causes it, and how to prevent it.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion resulting from chronic unmanaged workplace stress. Employees who suffer from burnout feel disinterested in their job, tired, overwhelmed, anxious, and irritated. They tend to procrastinate, have trouble focusing on work-related tasks, and their productivity level is low. Such workers disconnect from a company's goals and cannot show the results their coworkers and managers expect from them.
In 2019, the World Health Organization included employee burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The document describes it as a syndrome characterized by:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one's job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
- A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Studies confirm that workplace burnout has become a widespread phenomenon. According to an Indeed report from 2021, 52 percent of US workers are experiencing it. And 67 percent feel the problem has only worsened during the pandemic while many were forced to work from home.
Long-term burnout can lead to depression and anxiety. It negatively affects every area of one's life, including physical health and relationships outside the workspace. That is why it is important to identify and address this problem as early as possible. Let's take a closer look at the main symptoms of burnout.
Signs of Burnout
We can divide burnout symptoms into three groups:
Physical signs of burnout
- Low energy and fatigue
- Change of sleep patterns and eating habits
- Lowered immunity and frequent illness
- Headaches and muscle pains
Emotional signs of burnout
- Chronic feelings of self-doubt and a sense of failure
- Loss of motivation and decreased satisfaction at work
- Feeling no control over life
- Loneliness and detachment
- Anxiety attacks
Behavioral signs of burnout
- Being irritable around coworkers
- Isolating oneself from others
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Inability to concentrate
Burnout is a gradual process that does not happen overnight. The symptoms are subtle at first and become worse over time. Understanding what usually leads to this state can help to deal with this problem effectively. So, what are the common causes of burnout?
Causes of Burnout
Burnout doesn't occur only because an employee is dealing with too many tasks, although that can also play a significant role. Usually, it's caused by a combination of different factors, including work-related issues, personal traits, and lifestyle, such as:
- Lack of recognition and inadequate rewards
- Poor leadership and unclear expectations
- Unmanageable workload and unreasonable deadlines
- Lack of support and opportunities for professional growth
- Toxic workplace: conflicts between coworkers, bullying, unfair treatment by managers, etc.
- Poor work-life balance and an inability to unplug from work
- Inability to delegate tasks and the urge to always be in control
We can face these causes of burnout in any industry. Unfortunately, tech companies are no exception. In the next section, we will look at the state of burnout in tech.
Prevalence of Tech Industry Burnout
One might expect job burnout to be very rare in the tech industry. Salaries are high, schedules are flexible, and office environments are so cool. And yet, the opposite is true.
Blind surveyed 11,487 US tech workers in 2018, asking them if they were experiencing burnout; almost 60 percent of them answered “yes.” And in the recent State of Burnout In Tech report, Yerbo analyzed 33,644 answers from IT professionals across 33 countries. This study revealed that 42 percent of tech employees are at a high risk of burnout.
The fast-paced, competitive, and demanding environment of tech companies often forces employees to work late hours and neglect their well-being, which inevitably leads to burnout. Those who land their dream jobs—be it at Google, Facebook, or some other tech giant—feel especially pressured to overperform, even at the cost of their health.
While at first glance, burnout looks like an employee's personal problem, it damages companies too. A high level of burnout among employees leads to reduced performance, frequent sick leave, and high turnover. This can mean the difference between success and failure in the highly competitive tech sector. And luckily, most tech companies understand the dangers very well. Many of them do everything they can to prevent job burnout and support a healthy work-life balance in their workplaces. Let's look in more detail at how they do it.
How to Reduce Employee Burnout in the Tech Industry
There are many strategies companies can implement to lower the risk of burnout among employees. In addition to obvious things like monitoring that all employees get fair salaries, their workload is adequate, and deadlines are reasonable, focusing on these five areas can help tremendously:
#1 Role clarity
Uncertainty about one's scope of responsibility will inevitably lead to anxiety. That is why it is so important to ensure workers understand what is expected from them, how their work aligns with broader company goals, and what the main priorities are at any given point.
A work environment where employees feel listened to and appreciated helps to decrease the risk of burnout. Thus, ongoing communication, regular feedback, and managers' support are all crucial.
#3 Safe environment
Chronic stress and fear of serious consequences for the slightest error inevitably lead to burnout. Therefore, it is essential that all employees feel safe to ask for help or advice if they need it.
Employees who can plan their schedules, work from home when needed, and take vacation time regularly find a work-life balance more easily. Giving people time to do things that excite and energize them is the best way to prevent burnout.
#5 Access to counseling resources
Another way of preventing burnout is offering access to online or in-person counseling. Professionals can help employees cope with stress and anxiety as well as identify and treat more severe problems like burnout earlier.
Although tech companies implement many initiatives and programs, it is also essential that employees themselves take their mental health seriously. So, what can they do to avoid burnout?
How Can Tech Employees Prevent Burnout?
For many employees, working in the tech industry is a dream come true. However, this does not mean they are immune to burnout. That is why it is important to acknowledge the risk and take proactive steps to prevent it. You can start with these five easy-to-follow strategies:
#1 Establishing clear boundaries
If your colleagues expect you to respond to work-related emails over the weekend or answer their questions late at night or early in the morning, it might feel like you lack control of your life. It is essential to give yourself time to unplug and recharge. So, be transparent about your normal working hours and set clear expectations.
#2 Letting go of perfectionism
Attempting to do everything perfectly leads to chronic stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. And that is why perfectionism significantly increases the risk of burnout. So, work on the right mindset, treat mistakes as opportunities to improve yourself, learn to delegate tasks, and don't be afraid to say “no” when needed.
#3 Building healthy relationships with colleagues
We cannot choose the people we work with, but we can control the dynamic of our relationships with colleagues. Simple things like saying “thank you” or appreciating a good presentation from your team member create a more pleasant work environment and decrease the risk of job burnout.
#4 Proper self-care
Getting enough sleep, a healthy diet, or regular exercise may not be the first things we would consider when looking for ways to reduce stress at work. When you take care of yourself, however, you become more productive, patient, and engaged at work—and therefore less likely to feel burned out.
#5 Professional help
And finally, if you see signs of burnout and have trouble managing it yourself, consider seeking professional help. An experienced counselor can help you identify what causes burnout and develop strategies to cope with it.
A collaborative effort between tech companies and employees is needed to mitigate factors leading to burnout. Although the tech industry still has a lot to do in this area, many organizations understand the seriousness of the problem and are willing to invest in proactively addressing it. As a result, they get a significant advantage over their competitors. Their employees are more motivated and productive, and they deliver better results and stay with the organization for longer.