How to Avoid Burnout as a Developer
Professional burnout is a common problem today, and with all the fancy perks some tech companies try to provide to their employees, this industry is not an exception. Almost 60% of 11.487 tech workers who responded to research in an anonymous workplace community “Blind“ claimed they were dealing with burnout at the time, even those working for some of the well-known tech giants, such as Oracle, Cisco, Apple, etc.
This serious but often overlooked health condition can lead to some severe health problems, including depression, substance abuse, and coronary heart disease. Additionally, a sense of disillusionment which is one of the most prominent symptoms of burnout takes its toll on your workplace productivity but doesn’t end there – it bleeds into your personal life as well, and ruins its quality and your general wellbeing.
Causes of Burnout
While work overload is usually the factor most commonly associated with burnout, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Many other factors are in the play as well, leading to burnout, such as:
- lack of recognition,
- lack of autonomy,
- poor leadership and unclear goals,
- toxic organizational culture,
- inequity in the workplace,
- conflicting values.
And while dealing with these issues should be among the top HR goals in every tech company, there are several things you might try as well, and avoid falling into the trap of burnout.
Get Some Me Time
Developers tend to get so carried away with their projects and tight deadlines that they find it hard to let go and take a vacation or a couple of days off, even when they are allowed to.
Unfortunately, most of them do end up missing work, but only after they’ve developed severe burnout symptoms so that they have to take sick days.
Giving yourself some me time to rest and recover, and doing it regularly before you’ve reached your limits, is essential for avoiding burnout and its unpleasant consequences. And, needless to say, this doesn’t mean using your vacation days only, but your weekends too, as well as setting a strict limit to your daily working schedule.
Developers should set those limits even when they are having a fresh start in the company when their main goals are usually to deliver and impress – you may be able to work endless shifts for a while, but before you know it, there will be a drop in the quality of your performance.
One of the perks which often comes with the job of a developer is an opportunity to work remotely or have a flexible work schedule. Commuting for an hour can make you feel like a wreck, even if you think you’ve got used to it. Fixed working hours might be justified in industries which deal with clients or customers, but for developers, who need to be able to perfectly concentrate in order to do their job properly, this kind of working schedule can bring more harm than good. And even more so, bearing in mind that there are different tools which allow you not to work from the office.
Even if it is not a common practice in the company you are working for, try negotiating such conditions for yourself and your fellow developers. Being able to work from home or another place of your choice, even if it’s only a day or two a week, or at least having flexible working hours, isn’t too much to ask from your company, as long as you’re delivering on time and getting the job done.
Communicate Your Concern
You can try to take control of your situation at work, address the conditions which are leading to stress and burnout with your managers, and try to find solutions to these issues.
It can be that your workload or unreasonable deadlines are stressing you out, but the lack of clearly set goals or and recognition of your efforts can be equally frustrating. Sometimes it’s all about conflicting values between you and your company. Clearly, you can’t solve such issues on your own, except by quitting your job, which is not always a solution.
The only choice you have, if you don’t want these problems to erupt and renders you exhausted, unproductive, and cynical is to discuss them with those who are in charge of making necessary changes.
Add Some Variety
Being stuck with the same coding project for a prolonged time in order to achieve your company’s goals, without adding some sort of variety in your work is will send you on the burnout path. Developers need creative and fresh projects to keep their motivation and a sense of achievement high. Experimenting and searching for new solutions is at the core of this job, so make sure that you don’t get stuck in a rut.
Ideally, your manager will be aware of this fact and provide you with some new projects every once in a while and give you some food for thought. But, if the management fails to recognize the importance of this, try adding some variety on your own, and find a side project to practice your creativity, or learn a new coding language to beat the boredom and be able to progress.
Make Yourself Your Priority
While some of the ways of avoiding potential burnout may demand certain arrangements with your management or other persons involved, you can significantly reduce the risk of this professional hazard by making self-care your priority. And this starts with the very basics such as eating healthy and staying hydrated, having a good night’s sleep, as well as physical activity.
Taking a brisk walk during your break, or practicing some basic stress-management techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing during your regular working hours may be a great way to relax and replenish your energy levels when you feel overwhelmed.
You’ll find that mastering some time-management techniques an important part of your self-care too, as you will learn to set priorities and overcome procrastination, which will prove beneficial both in your professional and your personal life.
Avoiding burnout demands a conscious and steady effort, but it’s still much easier than getting out of it. Try focusing on your own needs and communicating your issues directly with your superiors in order to create a positive and stimulating work environment.