SEPTEMBER 2, 2023
10 min read
Let’s talk about “burnout” in the world of IT. It’s more than a trendy word—it’s a real issue that can harm employees’ work and well-being. If you’re a manager or leader, getting a handle on burnout is vital. Here, I’ll discuss some tips to help create a happier, healthier team.
Imagine this: Lisa was a standout employee when she joined your team. She was reliable, great at talking to others, overflowing with creative ideas, and always had solid plans. Lately, though, things have changed. Lisa seems irritated with her co-workers; her mental health and physical health are unstable, and she’s struggling to find the energy for projects and tasks and is taking more days off or sick leave.
Could Lisa be caught in the grip of burnout? If so, you might ask yourself: What led to this point? And what can you do as her manager/team leader? Learning about burnout, understanding its signs, and knowing how to manage burnout prevention are crucial. This helps create a positive work environment and keeps your best team members on board.
With a career spanning over five years in the field of HR, I’ve been entrusted with establishing HR frameworks from scratch in companies with over 200 employees. My background, encompassing an economics degree and an ICF coaching certificate, provides me with knowledge on bridging the gap between business needs and employee aspirations. As we delve into burnout research, prevention and treatment, be sure that my expertise is at your disposal.
What Is Workplace Burnout?
We all experience stress at work occasionally, but there’s a significant difference between feeling tired after a busy period and consistently lacking the energy to stay productive.
The last scenario often points to employee burnout. This phenomenon appears when someone faces lengthy periods of chronic stress, resulting in emotional and physical exhaustion, a negative attitude, and decreased job performance.
Picture this as the fading of motivation and enthusiasm. In simpler terms, it’s when an employee becomes disconnected from the company’s goals and struggles to achieve desired outcomes.
Take a look at the statistics:
Employee burnout has become so severe that even the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized it in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). This admission placed job burnout as an official occupational phenomenon that requires medical attention. In multiple countries worldwide, individuals experience this condition to such an extent that it leads them to seek hospitalization for intensive treatment, because they can’t manage stress and job demands by themselves.
In the modern landscape, the average employee dedicates about 47 hours per week to work, nearly a whole day more than the traditional 40-hour workweek. This situation is exacerbated by a worrisome 18% of full-time workers investing over 60 hours every week.
Research conducted by Glassdoor uncovered that 66% of employees continue to work even during their vacations. Furthermore, the standard U.S. employee only utilized 54% of their vacation time or paid leave the previous year.
Buffer, a company, surveyed remote workers to understand their challenges, demonstrating that 22% struggle with disengaging from work once their official hours are over.
Our fast-paced lives and the ever-present digital environment have boosted the problem of employee stress and burnout. The omnipresence of technology creates an unbreakable link between employees and their laptops or smartphones, leading to constant disruptions.
Why Do You Need to Worry About Employee Burnout?
Burnout isn’t merely an inconvenience – it’s a problem that can seriously affect your company’s overall success. Poor employee engagement and well-being doesn’t just stay within its boundaries; it trickles down and impacts your organization’s productivity, staff turnover, absenteeism rates, and medical expenses (arising from avoidable health issues). Companies might allocate about 20% of their entire payroll to cover burnout-driven voluntary employee turnover costs.
Looking at the bigger picture, job burnout has lasting effects on individual employees. They tend to take more sick days, doubt their abilities, and actively search for new job opportunities. Succeeding employees contribute to a successful workplace. But when workers grapple with challenges, sad feelings, or burnout, your organization’s well-being takes a hit.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Burnout?
The WHO points out work-related burnout symptoms, which include the following:
- A person feels exhausted.
- A person is mentally distant from their job, dealing with negativity, or developing cynicism about it.
- A person experiences a decline in their professional performance.
Spotting burnout at work is crucial for managers. Here’s what to look for to reduce burnout:
- Physical and Mental Exhaustion. Employees who seem drained and distant, showing negative feelings or doubt about their jobs, might burn out and don’t know how to manage stress.
- Lower Work Performance. Burnout can lead to trouble focusing, lack of imagination, and missing deadlines. You might notice more errors, poor code/task performance quality, and projects taking longer than usual.
- Increased Absences. Burnout can make employees take more sick days, even when they’re not ill. They might just need a break from overwhelming tasks.
- Strained Relationships. If coworkers are conflicting more than usual, it could be a sign of burnout-induced stress.
- Dwindling Morale. Overworked employees tend to display negativity, impatience, and cynicism. This negative attitude can spread across the team.
Being alert to these burnout symptoms allows you as a manager to address and prevent burnout promptly, reduce stress, and foster a healthier work atmosphere.
What Causes Burnout?
Among the 30 companies and 10,000 people analyzed, 25 show a burnout rate of 50% or higher among their employees. Notable percentages of employees experiencing burnout include 60% at Lyft, 59.5% at Amazon, 58% at Airbnb, and 57% at Apple.
The prevalence of burnout in top-tier companies signals a potentially serious issue within the tech industry.
Here are five key factors tightly related to employee burnout:
- Fairness at Work. Employees who believe they’re treated unfairly tend to have high burnout. This unfairness spans various work issues, from bias and mistreatment to inconsistent compensation or policies. Trust in your employees forms the foundation for a meaningful workplace, while unfairness corrodes relationships and resilience.
- Workload Management. Overwhelming workloads correlate with frequent burnout as well. Even high-performers can shift from optimism to desperation when faced with unmanageable goals. Working hours matter – burnout risk surges at over 50 hours a week, peaking further at 60 hours. Yet, the nature of workload issues more – engagement and job flexibility improve well-being while punishing tasks induce suffocation.
- Clear Communication. Managers providing clear information and role expectations foster effective work. Uncertainty produces frustration and exhaustion. Regular discussions on responsibilities, goals, and priorities help, while unclear expectations lead to frustration.
- Manager Support. Supportive managers act as protectors against workplace burnout. They listen, provide encouragement, and aid employee development. Neglectful or dismissive managers foster isolation and defensiveness.
- Time Pressure. Unrealistic deadlines create a chain reaction of missed goals. Different individuals handle time pressure differently. While a good fit for a role enhances efficiency, repeatedly assigning tasks outside one’s expertise fuels inefficiency and stress.
How to Prevent Burnout: Practical Strategies
One primary approach to help employees overcome burnout is to encourage discussions between managers and workers about reducing stress and burnout-related factors that matter most to them. Yet, to prevent burnout you need a collective effort.
Leaders, managers, teams, systems, and work environments contribute to burnout in particular ways. Hence, organizations must focus on some essential steps you can take to address workplace burnout effectively.
- Prioritize Wellbeing in Your Organizational Culture. Your company’s culture shapes how employees interact and experience their work. By making employee wellbeing a fundamental aspect of your culture and providing resources for healthier living (for example, free psychological sessions), employees are more likely to take better care of themselves.
Conversely, burnout can persist when wellbeing is treated as an HR-led initiative rather than a fundamental cultural norm. If the workplace promotes excessive work hours or a top-down management style, the risk of burnout escalates.
- Implement Smart Work Strategies. During increased workload, adopting strategies that work smarter, not harder, can be very beneficial. Utilizing AI-powered tools like GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT can greatly enhance productivity.
Streamlining tasks and automating collaboration processes can ease the burden while maintaining effectiveness without leading to exhaustion.
- Strengthen Team Bonds. Fostering a cohesive team dynamic is crucial. Organizing team-building activities such as games, discussions, and off-site retreats can bolster team interaction and improve the work environment. These activities improve team relationships, increase productivity, and a more positive atmosphere, where it’s also easier to see the employees burnout symptoms.
- Promote Fair Compensation. Ensure your payment structure is competitive, equitable, and aligned with industry norms for each employee’s role and experience. Employees can estimate their pay against industry standards in various ways. Burnout can follow if they find a gap and it’s not resolved.
People desire to work among colleagues they admire and enjoy and where they are respected and appreciated. While fitting into the culture poses challenges, fostering a sense of belonging in your business can be achieved by appreciating the time, work, and resources a person provides for the company by paying a competitive salary.
- Consider Remote Workers. To overcome the burden of excessive demands on programming, design, meetings, and other tasks that employees perform, consider augmenting your team with remote workers. Consider options such as outsourcing and outstaffing models. At DashDevs, we offer these services to our clients and have received positive feedback on how this approach significantly improves performance and effectively helps prevent employee exhaustion. This way you can alleviate the workload on your in-house team, thereby reducing the risk of burnout and enhancing the likelihood of successful project outcomes.
- Encourage Inclusive Flexibility. Burnout can affect those who feel like outsiders in their workplace. Flexibility should be universal. Many organizations are enhancing parental policies by offering flexible entry and exit times or adaptable working hours.
You might notice that some people aren’t turning on their cameras during meetings. Don’t rush them; they might have health or family problems. Sometimes, it’s best to be patient and talk to them one-on-one if you’re unsure about their condition. Businesses should remember that flexibility should encompass all team members.
- Promote Work-Life Balance. Educate your team on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Encourage breaks, timely vacations, and effective workload management. Everyone needs to see that they matter and people around them want to care for them. Supporting employees in managing their work-life balance enhances their wellbeing and contributes to sustained productivity.
- Extend Support to Managers. If you are a company leader, recognize that managers aren’t immune to burnout either. They navigate complex responsibilities, managing employees while meeting higher-level demands. Thus, it is crucial to provide clear role expectations, assist leaders in stress management, and ensure they are adequately supported.
How We Prevent Burnout at DashDevs?
At DashDevs, we go the extra mile to actively implement the strategies I’ve shared earlier to support our employees. Our commitment extends beyond the workplace, encompassing comprehensive measures to tackle burnout head-on.
Prevention is Key: We prioritize preventing burnout right from the start. Our company adheres to six fundamental rules aimed at countering burnout effectively:
- Safety First. We emphasize the importance of prioritizing personal safety above all else. Burnout has no place here!
- Mindful Monitoring. Our employees are encouraged to recognize their mental state using a color-coded system (green/yellow/red) to determine their well-being zone.
- Embrace Love and Meaning. We believe that love and a sense of purpose protect against burnout. We encourage our team to find meaning in their roles.
- Resourceful Replenishment. Regularly refueling energy and facilitating recovery is vital. We provide resources to ensure our employees stay recharged.
- Striking Balance. We align workloads with capabilities, competencies, and the demands of other aspects of life. Balance is critical to sustained well-being.
- Team Unity. Being part of a supportive team and a community with shared responsibilities is crucial. Mutual support and responsibility are the cornerstones of our approach.
Cultivating Positive Emotions: We equip our team with simple yet effective techniques to foster positivity:
- Practicing Kindness: Kindness towards oneself and others, alongside self-compassion.
- Embracing Gratitude: Cultivating gratitude through regular practices.
- Positive Diary: Documenting positive events to enhance mindfulness.
- Resource Memories: Reflecting on past joyful moments to boost resilience.
- Living in the Moment: Encouraging contentment in the present.
- Harnessing Resources: Tapping into individual strengths.
- Nurturing Positive Influences: Drawing inspiration from stories, songs, and phrases that resonate.
- Building a Safe Space: Surrounding ourselves with those who share our values.
These seemingly simple strategies are pivotal in aiding individuals at the initial stages of burnout. By integrating these practices, we not only prevent burnout but also help people navigate and overcome challenging emotional states.
When new team members join DashDevs, they’re welcomed into an environment where their well-being is paramount. We provide unwavering support within and beyond the workplace, ensuring they know they’re valued and cared for.
Many employees find working in software development to be a great experience. The superb offices, fun colleagues, and flexibility make it appealing. However, there’s a problem: burnout.
Even though burnout is severe in the tech industry, you can manage it as a professional and responsible leader. Сreate a positive workplace, and explain what each person is responsible for, and you will have satisfied employees who do better work. Contact us for additional details about enhancing your team’s workload management and the advantages we bring to your company.