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Ben Halpern for CodeNewbie

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Tech Industry Burnout: How Can We Prevent It?

Working in the tech industry can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful and intense. Long hours, tight deadlines, and high pressure can all contribute to burnout, which can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, decreased productivity, and even depression.

Have you ever experienced burnout? How did you recognize it and what steps did you take to address it?


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Top comments (20)

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (double agent) • Edited

I had severe depression episodes multiple times, all work related.

At the individual level, if you are at a good company, be very brave and start talking with your colleagues, that helps to at least alleviate the shame.

The good company can organize talks where subjects like burn out, depression, ADHD, autism, ... are discussed openly. Because it's getting better but it's still a bit like the early years of AIDS, where on top of being super deadly, the pandemic was associated with lots of shame because poorly understood and thought to be something that target the gays.

Bonus point if it's part of someone's job (at a bigger company) to help prevent the worst crisis to happen

Julian and Meredith, two ex colleagues did a great talk on neurodiversity at SHA

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erinao profile image
Erin A Olinick

This is a great share! As you note, burnout is still associated with a lot of shame, which makes it challenging for people to speak up and ask for help when they're struggling. How can we continue to normalize the experience of burnout and talk about it more openly? How can leaders and managers recognize the warning signs in employees who may not be “brave” enough to bring it up?

In your experience, what kind of intervention or conversation might have occured to effect a differnt outcome?

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (double agent) • Edited

If I follow my analogy with AIDS

  • coming out with mental health issues is about as easy as coming out as gay/lesbian in the early 90s
  • but it gets a bit easier everytime someone does it
  • and I'm grateful for people doing it at dev.to/t/mentalhealth/top/infinity
  • otoh what we saw on homosexuality is that people changed their mind, not when they merely had the information, but when they could see and discuss with some individual human being explaining basic things to them but face to face
  • so doing meetups and internal meetups would probably be the most effective medium imho
  • now you need to find the right host for those touchy non tech non fun topics. That's where I'm stuck at right now
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erinao profile image
Erin A Olinick

I know! (re: the stickiness). Do you bring in a resource from outside the team, like a third-party mental health professional or facilitator? Having open and honest communication with your team and exploring those options together is ideal, but obviously every team has a different dynamic and everyone has a different comfort level. But like you said, just talking about it AT ALL, is a start, and normalizing it will take time, so I’m grateful to you and others (thanks for this resource btw dev.to/t/mentalhealth/top/infinity) for starting this conversation and keeping it going).

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (double agent)

Do you bring in a resource from outside the team, like a third-party mental health professional or facilitator?

I have lots of great resources on mental health, but probably only useful if you speak French.

But like you said, just talking about it AT ALL, is a start

Yep and getting started is the most important step, no need to worry to do it perfectly

(thanks for this resource btw dev.to/t/mentalhealth/top/infinity)

I have thought about doing a #bestofdev of that for visibility

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iamschulz profile image
Daniel Schulz

There are multiple factors to it:

  • First of all: If you're feeling unwell with your work: find someone you can trust to talk about it. This can be a co-worker, someone from your workers union, a therapist, your partner, a friend... Try to get a new perspective on your job and start adjusting the things you don't like.
  • Shorter hours: no-one can concentrate for 8 hours a day. Cancel a meeting or two and get the same amount of work done in 6 hours. Alternatively, have some large breaks in between. Go out for a walk, play a video game, read a book...
  • Work on something that actually interests you. Working in an agency or in Big Tech can be soul-crushing. Maybe apply for a position in a company whose product you use, or that makes the world a better place. Maybe cut hours in your job and start freelancing on the side, if that's more your thing?
  • Do you like your tasks? Maybe you're a visual type and like front-end centric tasks more? Maybe you hate working with React and Tailwind? Maybe it's time to find a new product to work on.
  • Money: It can be a big motivator, but it shouldn't be long-time. Your mental health is more valuable than your salary.

Little disclaimer: I write from an incredibly privileged position of being a white cis male who's been working as a programmer for years. Changing jobs or changing workflows in your current job might be very risky or impossible for you. Please proceed with caution.

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oversec profile image
Ulad Ramanovich
  • Working hours. Vacation doesn’t help you to prevent burnout, only delay it. You should have a strict work hours and don’t overwork without a critical reason (yea. In tech it can happen).
  • Stay active. Find activity what you like. It’s not only about sport but hobby too. You need switch context. Ideally something what help you to relax.
  • Enjoy your work. Find the place where you can fulfill yourself. This is not always possible but try to find as comfort place as you can. If you hate your job burnout is question of time (or quite quitting)
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danbailey profile image
Dan Bailey

These are all good things. And you're right re: vacation time not preventing burnout -- particularly, when we're expected to have our phones and/or laptops with us when we go on vacation. (I stopped doing this when I went on my honeymoon in 2010, and it helped a ton. It pissed off a lot of people, and still does, but the company does NOT get to impinge on my free time. Period.) As for working hours themselves, I stop at 40. And no, it doesn't have a huge negative impact on my career.

Activity is huge, too. Ideally, find something that'll stretch your mind or your body (or maybe both), and hit it. Working out staves off burnout like crazy and reduces stress levels.

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krlz profile image
krlz

In my experience, recognizing the signs of burnout is critical to addressing it. For me, it was a lack of motivation and feeling emotionally drained, which led to a decrease in my work quality. I knew I needed to take a break and prioritize my mental health.

To address burnout, I found that setting clear boundaries was essential. This included taking breaks during the workday, avoiding working on weekends, and delegating tasks to colleagues when possible. I also made sure to prioritize self-care, such as exercising regularly and spending time with family and friends.

It's important to note that seeking support is also crucial in managing burnout. I've found it helpful to talk to colleagues or mentors who have experienced similar challenges and sought the guidance of a mental health professional.

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valeriavg profile image
Valeria

I had and sometimes it’s much more than just long hours or pressure. As I see it, stress and anxiety spikes from lack of safety. If we don’t feel safe to share our thoughts, ideas, fears and experiences we are prone to defend ourselves, except our bodies don’t really differentiate between a grizzly coming after us or a deadline approaching.

I am a firm believer that we ourselves are responsible for our thoughts, feelings and actions, but it’s much easier to control those in a safe environment.

For me a good rule of thumb is to watch out for being cynical, mean or defensive. When burnout cases physical ailments it’s already far too settled and requires a long recovery, but an early stage can be averted with support and compassion and addressing the issues causing stress in the first place.

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rachelfazio profile image
Rachel Fazio

For me a good rule of thumb is to watch out for being cynical, mean or defensive.

This is super real! I have definitely noticed in myself and others our inkling to be defensive in direct relation to our bodies trying to tell ourselves something about our need to create a boundary or get help with something, but not feeling able to do that. YES.

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wizdomtek profile image
Christopher Glikpo ⭐

Here are some ways to prevent tech industry burnout:

Encourage work-life balance: Employers should promote a healthy work-life balance by setting clear expectations for working hours, discouraging overworking, and encouraging employees to take regular breaks and time off when needed. It's important for employees to have time to relax, recharge, and engage in activities outside of work.

Foster a supportive work culture: Employers should create a supportive work culture where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns or seeking help when needed. This includes promoting open communication, providing resources for mental health support, and recognizing and addressing any signs of burnout among employees.

Set realistic expectations: Employers should set realistic expectations for workloads and deadlines, and avoid overloading employees with excessive work. It's important to ensure that employees have the necessary resources and support to complete their tasks without feeling overwhelmed.

Provide opportunities for skill development: Providing opportunities for skill development, training, and growth can help employees feel motivated and engaged. This can include offering workshops, training programs, or opportunities for professional advancement, which can help employees stay motivated and prevent burnout.

Promote flexibility: Offering flexibility in work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible working hours, can help employees manage their work and personal responsibilities more effectively. This can reduce stress and prevent burnout by providing employees with the flexibility they need to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Encourage regular breaks: Encouraging regular breaks throughout the workday, such as short walks or moments of relaxation, can help employees recharge and prevent burnout. Employers can also consider implementing policies that limit after-hours work or discourage checking work-related emails or messages during non-work hours.

Foster a positive and inclusive work environment: Creating a positive and inclusive work environment that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion can help employees feel valued and supported. This can contribute to their overall well-being and prevent burnout by reducing stress and promoting a sense of belonging.

Lead by example: Employers and leaders should lead by example by modeling healthy work habits and managing their own workload effectively. This includes avoiding overworking, taking regular breaks, and prioritizing self-care, which can encourage employees to do the same.

In conclusion, preventing tech industry burnout requires a multi-faceted approach that includes promoting work-life balance, fostering a supportive work culture, setting realistic expectations, providing opportunities for skill development, promoting flexibility, encouraging regular breaks, fostering a positive and inclusive work environment, and leading by example. Employers, employees, and leaders should work collaboratively to create a healthy work environment that prioritizes employee well-being and prevents burnout.

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toddpress profile image
Todd Pressley

chat-gtp, is that you? (;

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Mental health and working culture discussion is very important and still often neglected or replaced by putting up some buzzwords and leaving it to the employees and freelancers trying to solve problems they don't have the power to change the root cause.

Hopefully if we, the older generations, having succeeded to become respected "Senior Developers" or maybe even public speakers, influencers, creators, start speaking up more honestly about our problems and issues, it can help to lift the taboo around not fitting into the modern workplace culture.

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ingosteinke profile image
Ingo Steinke

Let's work less: spend less hours staring at a monitor or interacting with a machine, but maybe even more important: spend less time working on useless features, collaborating with toxic people, trying to keep a "positive mindset" and "work-life-balance" etc. instead of challenging the purpose and impact of what we do.

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almostconverge profile image
Peter Ellis

During the first months of the pandemic, as I switched from mostly office-based work to full-time home office, I had an acute episode of burnout. All basically because I hadn't set up my boundaries correctly, or if I'm perfectly honest, at all.

All my working life I had been used to switching off as soon as I physically left the office, I was really good at it. But what that meant was that when that ritual was no longer there, there was nothing to replace it.

What I ended up doing was, first I talked to my boss, told them honestly what the problem is, where I am. Luckily both he and the company in general were brilliant about it: I got to take a week off sick, I did also talk to my doctor who prescribed some medication (which to be fair helped but for obvious reasons I wouldn't recommend it), and we were also lucky that we had enough space in our home (just about) for me to set up a separate working area that was just for work. Thus I could re-create that separation between sitting at the computer for work, and sitting at a different computer for non-work.

I can count myself very lucky because what I experienced was not a result of years and years of steadily increasing stress but more like a very abrupt change that at first I didn't realise I had to adapt to. So in the end it was an easy fix, and re-balancing things fixed most of it. I'm also much more on the lookout for signs now.

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theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring

I have experienced burnout.

Leading up to the pandemic, I was a high performing machine that was burning the candle on both ends. The lockdowns destroyed the balance I had established to run at that rate and by the summer of 2020 I found myself drafting a resignation letter to distance myself the stress that was compounding.

I ended up not resigning as I was offered a leadership position, which elevated me out of the Individual Contributor responsibilities that were dragging me down so much.

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andrewbrown profile image
Andrew Brown 🇨🇦

When Commader Kira in Star Trek Deep Space Nine is burned out, she works through it but at the cost of her co-workers so Dr Bashir orders her to take a vacation so she goes on a vacation to Riza.

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szeredaiakos profile image
szeredaiakos

As a software engineer i was always looking for ways of making my life easy. Sometimes spending entire weekends automating a 2 hour task which i knew it will reoccur.

I was not having much success in the beginning but got better at it.

It eventually lead me towards architecture, design patterns, devops and other meta branches of our industry.

Nowadays i am in a position where i can get away with 2h of work every day while staying ahead of my peers who often put in 12h occasionally... well, mostly, i still fuckup from time to time and i voice the fuckup regularly.

Now i have taken the initiative to share my culture to the rest of them. That is the only source of frustration i have. But i am slowly arming myself. I read and write alot. My shortcomings in precise articulation and expression are the only things in my way.

List:

  • automate
  • reduce cognitive load
  • reduce future cognitive load
  • gather metrics and test
  • share and help
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polterguy profile image
Thomas Hansen

If work is fun and inspiring it's not possible to experience burn out ...