Managing Burnout in the Tech Industry

Burnout in the tech industry often goes unaddressed. Many overzealous professionals practice a strict adherence to grind culture in order to meet deadlines and fulfill project requirements. 

But it’s never healthy to deprioritize your mental health just to meet corporate goals. And in fact, it can be counterproductive, as work performance usually dwindles due to burnout. 

Not to mention, burnt-out employees are 2.6 times as likely to be looking for new jobs and healthcare costs are much higher in stressful work environments. 

So what’s the solution? Well, identifying burnout is step one. But the best thing to do is prevent burnout from happening in the first place. 

Either way, you’ll find your answers here. Keep reading to learn more about managing burnout in the tech industry. 

What Is Burnout?

American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger coined the term ‘burnout’ in the 1970s

Those in ‘helping’ professions like doctors and nurses were the most easily recognizable victims of burnout at that time. 

Caregivers in general, and service workers altogether, are adeptly familiar with high-stress, high-stakes work environments. 

And they know all too well the feeling of being listless and exhausted. Feeling drained physically, emotionally, and mentally are common symptoms of burnout.

Signs of Burnout

While it’s normal to feel tired after a long day at work, burnout is a little more complex. And it doesn’t go away after a good night’s rest. 

The principal signs of burnout include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Alienation 
  • Reduced performance 

Exhaustion is self-explanatory, and so is reduced performance. You already know what that looks like. 

But alienation is a bit more difficult to describe. This is a particular experience in which employees are increasingly distancing themselves from their work.

You might notice that these colleagues are more cynical than usual and regularly frustrated. 

Managing a remote team makes it hard to notice these signs from afar but that means being on top of things is more important than ever. 

Burnout in the Tech Industry

Workplace stress isn’t limited to any one industry. Tech jobs are notorious for inducing chronic stress among employees. 

The biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley likely host thousands of employees who are burnt out or worn down. 

Note that burnout is not the result of individual fault but rather poor leadership or an unsatisfactory work-life balance. 

For instance, competent project management on software development teams should ensure that developers do their best work.

But when their best isn’t good enough, it’s all too common for toxic workplaces to push their employees too far. 

In fact, 64% of responders in a 2017 Kronos survey cited unreasonable workload and too much overtime work as top factors for workplace burnout

In short, employee burnout is directly correlated with how well you’ve curated your company culture. 

Burnout in the tech industry might look different than the telltale signs you’re used to, so here are some things to pick up on:

Time Crunches 

Time crunches in software development are inevitable. But that doesn’t mean you should watch a colleague be crushed under the sheer weight of the pressure. 

If a fellow team member is working weekends just to get things done, they might be feeling guilty about their productivity. 

This means they’re well on their way to overworking themselves, which is a clear precursor to burnout. 

Unrealistic Expectations

Most tech companies dream big and set their goals sky-high. Goal-setting is fine and all, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

There’s a difference between working hard and working smart. To someone on the verge of burnout, the first may seem like going above and beyond each and every day. 

They may neglect their limits, and perhaps their physical and mental health, just to get the job done as quickly as possible. 

Overblown expectations forget that quality is better than quantity, and someone who is working themselves too hard now will likely be out of commission later. 

Social Isolation

The tech industry is also filled to the brim with high performers who continuously impress, no matter the task. 

On paper, this looks like a desirable quality. 

However, this same person may haven’t gone on a date in years, they’re declining invites to activities and events, and ignoring their friends —  all in favor of their work. 

If the only thing you know about an employee is their work output, then don’t be surprised when they have multiple sick days down the line.


Because whether or not they have a personal life, even robots short circuit. 

How To Prevent Burnout

If you’re looking to hire a team of developers but worry about potential burnout, there are several strategies in place to make sure that there is a standard of care within your business. 

Play Hard

Work hard, play hard is the mantra of pioneering entrepreneurs and corporate moguls alike. The problem is that if working hard is always the first priority, then there’s not much time for play. 

Sometimes, rest is the best thing you can do for yourself, regardless of whatever work you have ahead. 

The same goes for developers and engineers. And if you’re in charge, it’s your responsibility to prioritize rest in your work culture

One way to do this is by providing mandatory time off. You can designate certain days where the whole team should simply not come into work. 

Or otherwise, you can keep track of your employees’ paid time off, and insist that they make the most of it. 

To that same effect, be flexible about what counts as vacation time versus a sick day. Empower your employees to take a mental health day every now and then. 

Employees shouldn’t need a doctor’s note to prove that they simply don’t have the energy to work. It happens. And it’s completely okay. 

Acknowledge Times of Duress

There is such a thing as toxic positivity culture. Nobody likes someone who is upbeat all the time and in denial about the reality of a situation. 

Empathizing with your team when something particularly disheartening takes place shows them that you can be vulnerable. 


In turn, they know vulnerability is acceptable and they don’t always have to put on a happy face. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it especially clear that sometimes acknowledging hardship is just as valuable as overcoming it. 

Listen to Your Team 

Again, sometimes burnout in the tech industry isn’t obvious. And yet, there’s no reason to be clueless about what’s going on in the workplace.

Don’t be afraid to survey your employees and ask them directly what they want or what they’re feeling. 

Culture Amp and 15Five can be useful remote work tools for gauging the collective well-being of your organization. 

Change the Conversation

Rewind. Deadlines are inevitable. But time crunches don’t have to be. 

Once you realize that developers are working 50, 60, 70-hour workweeks to finish a project on time, it’s time to re-evaluate your expectations. 

Burnout in the tech industry often stems from the harmful idea that if someone isn’t working as hard as they possibly can, then they don’t have the passion or work ethic to do the job. 

In reality, it’s on you to think outside the box. Instead of pushing employees to their doom, be creative. 

You can bring in outside talent to help you cross the finish line and/or invest in staff augmentation

Conclusion

When it comes to the tech industry, productivity is generally measured by crunching numbers and nimble fingers on computer keyboards. 

Except, productivity is not the only measure of a great software development team. Wellness is just a good a metric as any other to determine the success of your organization. 

This is why you should be mindful of the emotional welfare of your development team. 

Not only should you be able to identify burnout when it occurs, but you should also prevent it from happening if you can. 

And if things ever do get to be too much, and giving your employees more work would increase the risk of burnout, remember you have other options. 

With companies like Trio, you can hire qualified software professionals to enhance the productivity of the team while keeping their work-life balance intact. 

Trio handles all the administrative duties involved in a typical hiring process. Plus, they make sure the developers you use have the technical expertise to do their job well. 

Interested? Hire Trio developers today!

Cordenne Brewster

Content Writer

About

A tech enthusiast whose ardor is best expressed through the written word.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Go to FAQ Arrow Left

Burnout is the feeling of being drained physically, emotionally, and mentally due to a high-stress, high-stakes work environment.

Burnout in the tech industry may be a consequence of unrealistic expectations and time crunches; burnt out tech professionals tend to be socially isolated.

You can prevent burnout by prioritizing the mental health of your employees. Listen to their concerns, acknowledge stressors, and be lenient about time off.