After the covid pandemic, some words are floating around me very often, like “stress,” “burnout,” “career changer” etc. Some of these words caught my attention, and I started researching to know the hidden truth behind the glorious software development industry. In 2022, a survey came from deutschland.de about the most demanding job sector of Germany, and software developers are in the number one position. Developers play a role in the IT sector which is more challenging than people think. They are the master of technology, the most creative-minded, and very often they are subject to hardly achievable targets within a short time. These expectations often create immense mental stress, and as a result, “Burnout” can happen.
I have worked in the software development sector for six months and that was enough for me to quit the track. I've seen the burnout first-hand and also talked with some developers who have recently changed their careers just because of that.
“Oh! You're struggling with burnout? Y'all should eat healthier/do yoga!”
Most common but sadly top less effective advice developers used to get when they expressed their burnout to other teammates.
So, what is this? Why is our most demandable sector suffering from this? What if someone near you is suffering from burnout and you didn’t even figure it out? Let’s try to find out all the answers together.
What is Burnout
Burnout has been viewed as a mental health issue caused by chronically adverse working conditions. It means emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced personal accomplishment. According to many psychologists, they are finding it hard to differentiate burnout from depression.
Chaotic release schedules and deployment setbacks are surprisingly prevalent across the software development industry. After the pandemic, this situation is getting worse day by day. Companies hiring fewer developers than they need because either to cut down their expenses or cannot find the exact person whom they are searching. This issues leads to pressuring them to ship code faster and provide the promised product to customers with less helping hand or time. As a result, developers often face delays, deployment pains, and organisational fear and mistrust that disrupt their team’s flow. This type of organisational hurdle leads to chronic frustration — and ultimately developer burnout.
While checking for some data on burnout during the pandemic, I got some shocking numbers from a report of Haystack analytics, who partnered with a research agency ‘Survation.’ According to that report, 83% of Software Engineers reported feelings of burnout, with only 17% reporting no burnout. 55%, a majority, reported “great” or “moderate” levels of burnout.
The top reason reported for pandemic-related burnout was increased workload, with 40% of Software Engineers reporting burnout providing this as a reason. This ranked above any personal reasons for experiencing burnout. These numbers are shocking, and can you imagine how hard it must be for them to live with this stress and still try to function!
Oh! I forgot to give you an idea of the different types of burnout. There are three different types of burnout, which are:
Overload is when most people continue to work at a tremendous pace in pursuit of success, financial security, or recognition.
Not only does heavy workload lead to burnout, but underwork/ less challenged work might also lead to that. An employee needs to feel engaged and interested in the assigned work to get satisfaction. Without this, they start feeling bored and saturated and ultimately lose interest in employment.
It’s hard to stay engaged when you feel that nothing you do makes a difference or that you are less heard than your whole team. If an employee feels like he/she/they are overdoing without any recognition, or even worse, if he/she/they thinks that he/she/they is one of the less essential team members, it ignites the fire of burnout.
Why are developers at risk of burnout?
I was talking to one of my LinkedIn friends, Patil. Recently she changed her career track and started from scratch again. Patil was a developer of a renowned company in Germany and recently quit her job. When I asked her what the reason for changing careers was, she replied:
“Initially, I enjoyed coding because it needs more analytical and logical thinking, but after certain projects, I have started feeling saturated, repetitive, and bored. My mind started getting tired and exhausted. Sometimes with a change in project or work method, my mind reverses back with excitement but soon again goes back to the same as it was before.”
She had experienced hard feelings from her work; she just wasn’t sure whether it should be labelled as burnout or not. Another friend of mine has been working at a Tech Giant and a scapegoat for burnout. Still, he gets nightmares of getting questioned by the manager for not fixing bugs that he wasn’t even responsible for fixing.
This is how Burnout happens. It's not the programming tool or framework which burns you out. Most of the time, it is happening because you are stuck on the same issue under stress or continue wasting hours fixing broken code or sometimes failed attempts of trying many different things for one single solution or simply the leader was enough to make life hell of a developer which is already doing a stressful job. The stress of uncertainty of the result destroyed developers' logical faculties and psychological flexibility. Apart from this, the expectation of working even when they are ill or, on the other hand, not giving enough space to get a break also causes a mental breakdown or, had to seek professional help from.
Directions to deal with burnout
Right now, you must be thinking, “it’s a lot to stress in the software industry,” or if you are working in this industry and lucky enough to overcome or, at best, didn’t be affected by burnout, congratulations to you!
Knowing how to deal with this is always good. As a result, if somebody from your know suffers from Burnout, you will learn how to spread your hand for help.
Let me ask you a simple but interesting question:
“do you know how you can deal with this / did you make a plan in your mind to get rid of this?”
The answer depends entirely on the burnout's height and the recovery's quality. I’m not going to tell you to get enough sleep, exercise, or a healthy lifestyle. These are the most generic answers, and I intend to give you some directions which are spoken less as answers.
Software development is primarily technical work, and people are often promoted based on technical abilities rather than leadership abilities - which usually brings down a lot of adverse outcomes. Tell me, Are you feeling lonely or depressed? Is your manager/team lead stressing you out? Do you allocate at least half an hour per day for your hobbies or other relaxing activities or get off your phone to interact with actual human beings? Can you stop thinking about work when you are not working or on your holidays? The developer's life can be lonely. You’re often heads-down with headphones to cancel noises and trying to build the game-changing product for hours.
You can keep the answer to yourself; no need to tell me right now, but the truth is if you have a yes for any of my above questions, then this must be where you have to focus on and give efforts to overcome the stress.
Also, try to join some meetups. Nowadays, many tech companies and recruiters are organising coder meetups and coding conferences to connect developers worldwide and help them raise their voices about their problems.
Now we live in a tech world, everything we need, well, not everything, but most of the things we want, we can have within a couple of clicks. A couple of startups started working with mental health in a digital version and are seriously focusing a lot on burnout and other work-related stress. My last suggestion is to seek help from them; if you don’t like to pay a visit to a psychologist, approach them. They are easily accessible and help to soothe your mind according to your convenient time.
If any manager, team lead, or even better, CEOs are reading this article, try to feel the stress, and you can do something from your place as well to reduce the chances of being a burnout victim. What can you do? Perhaps giving flexible scheduling, clearly defining team hierarchy and responsibilities, allowing remote work, or simply breaking a big project into smaller portions to make it more achievable are some of the excellent jobs you can do for your employee and help them to make the team instead of “just colleagues.”
Happy & satisfied people are more productive and perform at a higher level, and a considerable percentage are likely to stay with the company as it grows. The primary purpose of this article is to make people more aware of mental health and their life. If you have symptoms like this, try focusing on yourself first. I know many people can do everything at once, but in the long run, it will definitely affect your regular life. Accept your failures, and do that project or work that makes you feel better about yourself and worth your goal without losing yourself. Keep a thing in your mind:
“You are not an ice cream who can make everyone happy”.