I remember when I was in college a few years ago, this was a question everyone was asking. People who were studying Computer Science were always scared of this happening. Although it’s ironic because knowing the above, they were still brave enough to get into Computer Science in the first place! Okay, on a serious note, this is a highly debated topic and the IT industry is labeled to be notorious for employee burnout.
The harsh reality
Honestly speaking, I have developer friends who earn pretty good salary packages, even those working at a junior level. However, just two in five of them are actually satisfied with their jobs. They seem to be heading towards burnout quite quickly, too quickly in fact. I would understand if you told me that a middle aged person, having certain health conditions et al, working in a tech company, was nearing burnout. Here I see people in their early 20’s struggling to keep up, wishing for the weekend to come!
Facts and figures
Last month, a workspace app called Blind surveyed over 11K (11,487 to be precise) employees in the tech industry and the responses weren’t surprising! At least for me. The question posed to them was pretty simple: Are you currently suffering from job burnout?
Oh yeah, that’s a whopping 6,566 employees! Here’s some more shocking stats:
When narrowed down to 30 companies, 25 of them had an employee burnout rate of 50% or higher. Only 5 companies had an employee burnout rate below 50%. Moreover, 16 out of the 30 companies had an employee burnout rate that was higher than the survey average of 57.16%. While Netflix had the least number of employees facing burnout, companies like Credit Karma, Twitch and Nvidia recorded the highest.
I thought I’d analyse a bit and understand what some of the most common reasons causing burnout in the tech industry, could be. So here they are:
#1 Unreasonable workload
Now I know this is true for a fact! I’ve been working closely with developers and architects for close to 5 years now and I’m aware of how unreasonable projects can get. Especially their timelines. Customer expectation is something really hard to meet in the IT sector, mainly because the customer usually doesn’t know much about tech. Still, deadlines are set extremely tight, like a noose around developers’ necks, not giving them any space to maneuver whatsoever. Naturally, this will come down hard on them and they will surely experience burnout at some time, if not already.
#2 Unreasonable managers
In our recent Skill-Up survey, more than 60% of the respondents felt they knew more about tech, than what their managers did. More than 40% claimed that the biggest organisational barriers to their organisation’s (theirs as well) goals was their manager’s lack of tech knowledge. As with almost everyone, developers expect managers to be like a mentor, able to guide them into taking the right decisions and making the right choices. Rather, with the lack of knowledge, managers are unable to relate to their team members, ultimately coming across as unreasonable to them. On the other side of town, IT Management has been rated as one of the top 20 most stressful jobs in the world, by careeraddict!
#3 Rapidly changing tech
The tech landscape is one that changes ever so fast, and developers tend to get caught up in the hustle to stay relevant. I honestly feel the quote, “Time and tide wait for none” needs to be appended to “Time, tide and tech wait for none”! The competition is so high that if they don’t keep up, they’re probably history in a couple of years or so. I remember in the beginning of 2016, there was a huge hype about Data Science and AI – there was a predicted shortage of a million data scientists by 2018. Thousands of engineers all around the world started diving into their pockets to fund their Data Science Masters Degrees. All this can put a serious strain on their health and they ultimately meet burnout.
#4 Disproportionate compensation
Tonnes of software developers feel they’re underpaid, obviously leading them to lose interest in their work. Ever wonder why developers jump companies so many times in their careers? Now this stagnation is happening while on the other hand, work responsibilities are rising. There’s a huge imbalance that’s throwing employees off track. Chris Bolte, CEO of Paysa, says that companies recruit employees at competitive rates. But once they’re on board, the companies don’t tend to pay much more than the standard yearly increase. This is obviously a bummer and a huge demotivation for the employees.
#5 Organisation culture
The culture prevailing in tech organisations has a lot to do with how fast employees reach burnout. No employee wants to feel they’re tools or perhaps cogs in a wheel. They want to feel a sense of empowerment, that they’re making an impact and they have a say in the decisions that drive results. Without a culture of continuous learning and opportunities for professional and personal growth, employees are likely to be driven to burnout pretty quickly, either causing them to leave the organisation or worse still, lose confidence in themselves.
#6 Work life imbalance
This is a very tricky thing, especially if you’re out working long hours and you’re mostly unhappy at work. Moreover, developers usually tend to take their work home so that they can complete projects on time, and that messes up everything. When there’s no proper work life balance, you’re most probably going to run into a health problem, which will lead you to burnout, eventually.
#7 Peer pressure
This happens a lot, not just in the IT industry, but it’s more common here owing to the immense competition and the fast pace of the industry itself. Developers will obviously want to put in more efforts than they can, simply because their team members are doing it already.
This can go two ways: One where their efforts still go unnoticed, and secondly, although they’re noticed, they’ve lost on their health and other important aspects of life. By the time they think of actually doing something innovative and productive, they’ve crashed and burned.If you ask me, burnout is a part and parcel of every industry and it majorly depends on mindset. The mindset of employees as well as the employer. Developers should try avoiding long work hours as far as possible, while trying to take their minds off work by picking up a nice hobby and exploring more ways to enrich their lives.
On the other side of the equation, employers and managers should do better at understanding their team’s limitations or problems, while also maintaining an unbiased approach towards the whole team. They should realize that a motivated and balanced team is great for their balance sheet in the long run. They must be serious enough to include employee morale and nurturing a great working environment as one of management’s key performance indicators.
If the IT industry must rise as a phoenix from the ashes, it will take more than a handful of people or organizations changing their ways. Change begins from within every individual and at the top for every organization.