Tech Pro Burnout: Root Causes Go Beyond Overwork

Burnout is a constant problem at many tech firms, especially smaller startups trying to push a product out the door with minimal staff. Many folks assume that excessive workload is the primary cause of burnout—but what if it isn’t? What if tech pros blame other, unexpected factors for their mental and physical exhaustion?

In the new Dice Salary Survey, some 35 percent of tech pros said they were “very burnt out.” Around 36 percent said their burnout stemmed from a lack of recognition, just ahead of the 35 percent who attributed it to workload. In an interesting twist, 28 percent said that unchallenging and monotonous work was the root of their crispy mental state.

To round everything out, 26 percent attributed burnout to poor work-life balance, and 18 percent blamed it on their boss. (The percentages add up to more than 100 percent because respondents were allowed to select more than one answer—so you could have a tech pro citing uninteresting work and a bad boss for their burnout, for example.)

Dice’s findings echo those of other organizations. In mid-2018, for example, Blind conducted an anonymous survey of tech pros, 23 percent of whom said that poor leadership and unclear corporate direction were the top reasons for workplace burnout; another 19 percent blamed it on work overload, barely edging out toxic culture at 18 percent. Lack of career growth came in just behind, at 15 percent.

If you feel like a burnout risk, in other words, the solution isn’t necessarily a new job; it might not even hinge on reducing your core workload. Instead, simple communication can potentially resolve your issues around recognition, office culture, and toxic bosses.

For example, if you feel as if your efforts aren’t recognized, bring that issue up with your boss. If they’re proactive, they’ll likely suggest solutions—maybe something as simple as calling out your work in the next company-wide newsletter. Many tech pros tie “recognition” to material things such as raises and promotions, which is a more complicated conversation with your superiors, but a conversation you can still have nonetheless.

For those who feel like their work-life balance is out-of-whack, start readjusting by getting on a regular schedule of sleep and exercise. Also try to integrate “relaxing rituals” into your routine—depending on your interests, that could mean anything from taking a cooking class to playing video games for an hour or two a night.

One key to establishing work-life balance is also stepping away from the office, both physically and virtually; make a point of not checking your work email for set periods at night. Such “communication vacations” can do you a lot of good. Once you’ve readjusted, you might find you’re not quite as fried as you were before.

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