What to Know About Tech Industry Burnout

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By Charlotte Cornbrooks

Published on August 24, 2021

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You've probably heard about burnout sometime since the COVID-19 pandemic started, probably in the context of healthcare workers. But burnout at work is a common problem shared by professionals in multiple industries, including the tech industry.

Any job offers pros and cons. In all fields, some companies provide better work experiences than others. Professional satisfaction depends on how well your career and job fit your lifestyle, interests, and skills.

While burnout among tech workers may be common, it's definitely avoidable. This article will explore the signs of burnout in tech and give you tips to reduce your chance of burnout.

What Is Burnout?

The term burnout was coined in the 1970s to describe the experiences of doctors and nurses working in a high-stress, high-stakes environment. Since then, burnout has become more applicable to workers in a variety of fields.

The three indicators of burnout are exhaustion, alienation from work-related activities, and reduced performance. People experiencing burnout at work might feel drained physically, emotionally, and mentally. They're likely to be cynical about work-related tasks and miss deadlines or leave tasks incomplete.

Burnout in Tech

While burnout can affect workers in all industries, some fields seem to have higher rates of professional burnout than others.

Forbes found medicine, law, and STEM to be the top three fields for burnout. Pinpointing the exact reasons for this is difficult, but stress, long hours, and the intensity of the work seem to play a factor in all three fields.

Articles dating back several years talk about the high rates of burnout, depression, and anxiety in the tech industry. While burnout, depression, and anxiety aren't all the same, they are often discussed in similar ways.

Strategies to Reduce or Avoid Burnout

The best way to avoid burnout in tech? Don't let it start in the first place! The easiest way to prevent burnout is to set clear expectations with your employer from the start.

  1. Interview Your Interviewer

    During your hiring process, make sure to ask thorough and specific questions about workplace culture. For example, where do most people take their lunch? What time do most people typically start and end their days? Are there company events or happy hours? Where did you go on your last vacation?

    When you ask these types of questions, people have to give specific answers rather than general answers, such as "It's a relaxed work environment," or "We're flexible about time off."

  2. Talk to Your Supervisor

    Whether you're starting out in the field or you've been working in tech for several years, having regular, frank discussions about stress with your supervisor is a good idea. While some may worry this is a sign of weakness, it actually demonstrates maturity, self-awareness, and a desire to do your best work.

    If you're starting to feel burned out at work, try to understand what specific factors may be causing it and some ideas on how to help ease the burnout. For example, if you've taken on additional responsibilities in the wake of another employee leaving, talk to your supervisor about redistributing the workload.

    While it's important to voice your concerns, be realistic about what can be changed. Remember, it costs your employer more to hire and onboard a new person than it does to retain your talent!

  3. Negotiate

    When starting a new job, you'll find many articles about negotiating salary, but it's important to look at the whole offer.

    Research whether your paid time off is one category or separates sick days and vacation days. Will the time off be enough for your needs? Look up information about company holidays, too. In the interview, ask about the company culture around taking time off, taking an unexpected sick day, and taking lunch breaks.

    If you're currently in a tech job and experiencing burnout, let your supervisor know what kind of breaks throughout the day you will need to be productive, and block the time off in your calendar. Plan your vacation time on a quarterly basis.

    Even if you don't have plans for a big vacation, you can find ways to take time for yourself, like taking half-day Fridays for a couple months to enjoy longer weekends. There is no prize for letting your vacation time accumulate to massive proportions or, worse, letting it expire on December 31.

  4. Set Physical Boundaries

    Whether you work at home or in an office, it's important to set physical boundaries between your job and the rest of your life.

    There are some simple things that you can do to set expectations around your time and energy: Set an out-of-office email when you are gone for a day, the weekend, or vacation. If possible, remove your work email and work messaging platforms from your phone or turn off notifications for them during non-work hours.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tech Industry Burnout

true What is burnout in technology?

Burnout at work affects professionals in multiple industries, including tech. One sign of burnout is emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. Another is demotivation, which can manifest as incomplete or subpar work and missed deadlines.

true What job has the highest burnout rate?

Three fields with significant burnout among employees include medicine, law, and STEM. In the medical field, emergency responders are more likely to experience burnout. In STEM, the lack of structural support for some employees — particularly those who belong to historically excluded populations — appears to be a significant factor.

true Is working in tech depressing?

It's hard to give a definitive answer to this question because so many factors affect depression. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a correlation between working in tech and depression. That said, it's hard to find conclusive evidence that proves that depression is a direct result of a tech job.

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