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Burnout In Tech: What To Do About It?

August 11, 2021

A lot of people around the world will have seen professional and emotional burnout in one form or another; either personally or they may have witnessed a colleague suffering with this. The pace and rhythm of modern life is accelerating from year to year, and in order to keep up with all the vast changes, you literally have to work constantly. This type of lifestyle becomes incredibly draining for some individuals, to the point that they can no longer work effectively. 

The tech sphere is one field where constant striving for more and better is almost never ending. For example, you have to work on product development, then on testing, then you have to promote a product, you’ve got to go back and fix bugs, then you have to update the product again and so on. Inevitably, this persistent workload causes people to burnout in time. 

Burnout syndrome, according to the WHO is “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, when work productivity is reduced noticeably, and this is expressed by constant fatigue, insomnia, a tendency to somatic diseases, depression, and mental anxiety.” Burnout itself is dangerous, but this danger is intensified by the fact that a person runs the risk of getting addicted to alcohol and/or psychotropic drugs when they look for relief.

Burnout can manifest itself in different ways, but its reason is always the same – working stress, accumulated over months, or even years, that cannot be overcome. That is, a person does not pause at work, is not distracted by hobbies, does not maintain communication with loved ones, and is typically not distracted from work at all.

Stress is a bit similar to burnout, but the differences are, when a person is stressed they can still work and they can still show signs of interest. Whereas, in a state of burnout, a person loses complete interest in their own work. And, unlike stress, which is often accompanied by intense emotions, burnout usually means apathy. Stress is also about physical exhaustion, and burnout is about emotional exhaustion.

Does Burnout Only Impact Those Working In Tech?

No, burnout is not specific to the tech industry. In the modern world burnout is a global disease that can impact anyone in any field.

During the height of the pandemic, burnout was very common in employees working in these roles: physicians, teachers and social services. 

Lockdown, the general transition to working from home, and having adults and children at home 24/7, increased the problem of finding a balance between work and personal life. In the end all of this caused additional stress, and this only increased the scale of burnout that was spreading amongst the people.

Although tech specialists were not listed as the most susceptible group of workers to suffer with burnout, they are still at risk of becoming burnt out if they aren’t careful. Specialists like project managers are doubly susceptible to this, being both managers and representatives of the tech industry.

We live in an era where Millennials/Generation Y are the main driving force in the market. Unlike their predecessors, they do not want to be satisfied with high wages, social guarantees and a good comfortable office (of course, all these are very important). In addition to all of this they also want to receive intangible rewards, such as the ability to reach ambitious goals, interest in work and the opportunity to show creativity - all of which are important. 

And so, with these points in mind, it becomes quite difficult to get satisfaction from tech work, if you don’t receive these intangible rewards. This inistelf can cause burnout. 

Tech specialists such as programmers, testers, and product/project managers are constantly managing workloads. So you’ll often hear them saying things like "should have done this yesterday", or they work overtime. These factors all contribute to their work output, but they can also lead to professional burnout, if they are not managed carefully. 

Here are some numbers for you to understand the scale of the problem. According to a survey of tech professionals working in the top companies in Silicon Valley (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn), it was found that more than half of them, namely 57% of respondents, in one way or another, suffered from burnout at work. And for some companies, this figure exceeded 60% (Credit: Karma, Twitch, Nvidia, Expedia and Oath). 

Other companies, who demonstrated that less employees suffered from professional burnout were Netflix, PayPal, Twitter and Facebook, but employees still noted that burnout was a significant problem that was worth addressing.

Furthermore, developers, sales managers, and marketers were listed as more susceptible to this phenomenon, while testers, HR, and technical support specialists are less likely to face burnout.

The Signs of Burnout

Although QA is not as susceptible to this syndrome as much as other professions, burnout still happens among employees in this field. So, whatever your field, you must be prepared, and  be able to recognize the first symptoms of professional burnout as early as possible, so the problem does not get too bad.

Here's what you must focus on:

  • You have no motivation to do your job, or vice versa.
  • Difficulty with concentration. When you look at your monitor there are a lot of different thoughts going around in your head, but they have nothing to do with your work.
  • Inability to complete tasks on time. You try to delay starting work on a task as much as possible. You constantly postpone it until later, until tomorrow, and by the end of the working day. You don’t want to start anything and stuff like this happens daily.
  • Any interaction with colleagues, customers and your team is annoying. You try not to talk to anyone, and it seems that no one understands you.
  • Work is disgusting to you.

Now let's look at how to react to burnout. 

How To Manage Burnout? 

Here are some simple tips on how to deal with burnout.

Of course, you can talk to your loved ones: family, friends, relatives, or coworkers. Indeed, at first, they will probably support you, but you should be mindful about how this makes them feel too in the long term. 

So what can you do if you experience the symptoms of burnout at work?

  1. It is very important to immediately report this situation to your boss, and explain your problem in full to them. 

You should discuss this issue with your supervisor and together you should work out some acceptable solutions to the problem. Sometimes a transition to another project or a temporary change in the type of activity you do can work wonders. Change your usual routine and you will see a significant difference. 

  1. You must reconsider your attitude towards work. 

There are times when you cannot change the current situation. In this case, you can either accept the situation for what it is, reconcile with colleagues, try to look from the outside or change your attitude towards work. Sometimes this "outside view" allows you to assess all aspects of the current situation, you can think about everything rationally without the usual internal pressure. 

Of course, you do have the more radical option too, to quit your job. But you cannot do this in every stressful situation.

  1. Stop getting worked up. It’s very important for you to remain calm. After all, your colleagues feel the same way. Try to discuss this situation with them, preferably in some informal setting - go for a walk or to a bar. Your colleagues, whether you think it or not, may understand exactly how you feel, and perhaps they’ll understand your feelings like no one else can too.

What else can you do?

And here are a couple more practical tips:

  • Discuss your situation with your HR manager. People in these positions are often trained in Psychology and may be able to help you.
  • Seek help from a Work Psychologist. Since burnout is a psychological problem, a specialist will help you to deal with the issues, and they will help you to figure out solutions. 
  • Be alone with yourself, and look for the answer to this question in the depths of your soul. If you can manage to look at it from an outside perspective, you may be able to find the right solution too.
  • Take a vacation and travel, or visit your loved one, if you haven't seen them in a long time. Even if you go on a short trip for 2-3-5 days, it will allow you to be distracted. On your way, you will have to solve completely different tasks, and this will stimulate your brain in various ways. This will, as odd as this may seem, give your brain a rest and it will help you to “reboot”. You can even make small trips part of your usual routine, if need be.

Conclusion

The main thing to do is to address the problem, do not ignore the problem. If one thing does not help, try another, and if need be, rest or travel. But do try to distract yourself from the issues that are causing you pain, whenever it is possible to do so.


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