Are we Hurtling Towards Burnout in Tech?

Burnout is a much talked about topic in tech.

I have personally seen the long hours that people working in tech put in to deliver their products.

But why?

Why do people working in tech feel the need to work themselves so hard?

Why is burnout becoming such an issue in tech?

And how do you prevent burnout?

The high stakes environment and ability to work at all hours is pushing people to their limits.

The speed of development is encouraging people to work ever longer hours to deliver.

But before we go into why burnout is such an issue, let’s take a step back.

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What is burnout?

Burnout is defined as a physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

The impact of burnout is a state of chronic stress causing a breakdown of a person’s ability to keep going.

Some of the symptoms can include:

  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired concentration and attention
  • Lowered immune system
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
burnout in tech

Why is burnout such an issue in tech?

According to a study, study ~40% of workers companies are suffering from burnout.

This ranges from over 70% at Credit Karma to 39% at Netflix. At Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Uber and Facebook had just over 50% of employees answer yes to the question “Are you currently suffering from job burnout?”

Not looking good, is it?

An anonymous survey conducted by the organization Blind identified the following 5 reasons as the top contributors to burnout in tech..

  1. Poor leadership and unclear direction – 22.9%
  2. Work overload – 19.4%
  3. Toxic culture – 17.5%
  4. Lack of control over career and ownership – 15.4%
  5. Insufficient reward – 12.4%
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A study of some of the potential causes of burnout in high tech companies in Taiwan also identified the culture of job rotation as another cause.

The study saw that instead of rotating, becoming specialized reduced burnout and stress.

So if we know that burnout is an issue in tech and some of the causes, how do you prevent burnout?

How do you prevent burnout?

There are some ways you can help prevent burnout.

According to Mind Tools, to help manage stress and prevent burnout you can follow these tips:

  • Work in a role that gives you purpose – if you enjoy your job and feel fulfilled by it you are much less likely to suffer burnout.
  • Stop doing unnecessary work in your job – not everything you are doing is likely adding value. Take a look at everything you’re doing and stop doing the stuff that isn’t adding value.
  • Be generous and give to others – another way you can feel fulfilled and prevent burnout is by giving to others. From my own experience, I have found volunteering to be hugely beneficial to my mental health and stress levels.
  • Start to actively manage your time – if you feel in control of your time you can reduce stress and prevent burnout
  • Get more exercise – this one will help you in so many ways. Exercising releases endorphins and reduces stress. Also, it’s just generally a good thing to do for your health.
  • Learn how to manage stress – this is the most challenging one to do. Try out different strategies, understand what triggers your anxiety and look to reduce those triggers wherever you can.

There are other ways you can improve your mental wellbeing and prevent burnout. This article on lifelong learning shows how to use learning to prevent stress and overwhelm.

how to prevent burnout

Some personal advice on preventing burnout

I hope that you never suffer burnout.

Try to remember it’s only a job. Even though having a job and an income is an essential part of life, it is not the only thing.

A friend of mine at work, when everything was going wrong, once told me, don’t worry about it, just report the weather.

It struck me as a great piece of advice.

Don’t get too stressed or worried, do your best and just report what’s happening.

I hope the tips shared here help you prevent burnout.

Enjoy being present in your life and if you don’t want to work all hours of the day, just don’t!

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7 Comments

  1. 18th January 2019 / 2:28 pm

    I know there are several aspects for the workers to say that. But how come, a known green-company like Google still can “injure” their workers?
    So is the problem come from internal / external?

    • Claire Elizabeth
      Author
      18th January 2019 / 2:31 pm

      I think it’s probably a combination of both. Big tech companies there is so much pressure to perform and everyone wants to succeed which can be a problem. Also even if the overall company vision is clear and aligned, it doesn’t mean it’s like that in every team. What do you think?

      • 20th January 2019 / 5:48 am

        I can agree with that, but I think with certain group building programs like vacationing and other fun activities to do as a team, the stress level surely can be reduced and probably the “burnout” can be reduced as well.

        • Claire Elizabeth
          Author
          20th January 2019 / 9:05 am

          Absolutely 😊

  2. John Bates
    20th January 2019 / 2:30 pm

    I think there are a large number of factors that play in any role in any organisation.

    As technology advances and the possibilities of how technology can provide greater services and benefit society comes with the risk that other businesses are working towards the same goal. Any project is then automatically put under pressure to either be trail blazers or playing catch up.

    This coupled with the financial market of each country leads to an expectation from senior execs that project teams can deliver more with less finances available. The potential risk of burnout compounds exponentially.

    Depending on the company you work for, there could be regulatory pressures too.

    I work for a bank and have had several roles ranging from QA to Solutions Architect and seen pressure to deliver from within and outside the organisation.

    The important thing that keep in mind in any environment is that you need to protect yourself and build up a level of resilience. Things like exercise that you mention in this blog really help.

    But any career in any industry will also have pressure and lead employees towards burnout. As an employee it’s down to you as an individual to manage your well being and it’s important to try and strike a work life balance.

  3. Cameron
    22nd January 2019 / 9:51 am

    Burnout is a tough thing to go through, however a lot of the time it is not solely the employer who is to blame.

    I work in tech recruitment and I suffer from burnout a lot!! Tight deadlines, managers that are unwilling to change, clients who waste my time, colleagues who are pricks, the list is endless. But I have found that a positive attitude goes a long way.

    I’m not a positive person by any means and my closest friends and family will agree with the statement wholeheartedly, however I have found that when I am happy (or at least acting happy) good things happen.

    I get my positive mindset from daily meditation and exercise, its sounds super cliche but it works well for me.

    • Claire Elizabeth
      Author
      22nd January 2019 / 11:02 am

      Sounds like changing your mindset is really helping – something we can all learn from

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