By Mike Julian – Technical Consultant

Burnout is something most people in the tech industry are intimately familiar with, but it’s a topic not often discussed publicly. Many people I speak to about it even share a sense of guilt over feeling burned out. “If my coworkers are able to handle their work fine, then I must be doing something wrong”, they say. Managers are often in the same boat when it comes to burnt-out employees: “They just can’t handle our pace.”

I believe both perspectives have a misunderstanding of what burnout is and how to handle it, something I hope to clear up for both.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state resulting from prolonged stress. There’s no single cause of burnout, but rather, burnout has many contributing factors. Contrary to common beliefs, long hours is not a clear indicator of impending burnout (though it *may* contribute).

How do I know if I’m/my staff are, or at risk, of burnout?

Spotting the symptoms early is crucial. Some common symptoms:

  • Has your sleep quality become worse than it used to be?
  • Have you stopped enjoying your hobbies, or ceased doing them altogether?
  • Are you often irritable and upset, either with coworkers or friends/family?
  • Do you no longer enjoy your work?
  • Has your productivity at work decreased for no apparent reason?

What can I do about it?

As someone experiencing burnout, it is important to find the contributing factors of burnout:

  • Are they internal: Are you choosing to work more, instead of enjoying your hobbies?
  • Are they external: Is your work environment causing you stress? Do you dislike the work you’re doing?

Once you’ve found the factors contributing to burnout, you can more effectively take measures to combat it, whether it’s working fewer hours in order to enjoy hobbies, taking a vacation, or moving on to a new role or job.

As a manager, spotting burnout in your employees is just as important: burnt-out employees are less productive, unhappy, and far more likely to leave the company. Checking in with your employees on how they’re feeling is vital to spotting burnout early. Be sure to really listen, because your people may not say it directly, but instead may use phrases like, “I’m bored” (which, over time, will lead to burnout).

The most important thing about burnout

The absolute most important thing about burnout is that it’s extremely common. Many, many people experience burnout at some point in their career or know someone who has. The tech industry is notorious for long hours, frenetic environments, and last-minute fire-fighting, all of which contribute to employee burnout. We, the industry, need to talk about burnout more openly and acknowledging that there is no shame or guilt in it. Once we’re having more open and honest conversations about it, we all can start to more effectively combat it.