Over the past year, like so many professionals across industries, technologists have tried to figure out how to maintain an optimal work-life balance while working remotely. The pressure on work-life balance can likely be at least partially attributed to the unique nature of the COVID-19 pandemic; with schools closed, technologists have often needed to juggle at-home schooling, childcare, and other family concerns along with their workplace responsibilities. That struggle seems to have translated into increased levels of burnout among technologists, particularly those aged 18-34.
According to the 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report, 36 percent of technologists said they were really burned out in the second quarter of 2021, up from 32 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. Over the same period, those reporting they weren’t all that burned out declined from 38 percent to 31 percent.
Not all groups are experiencing burnout in quite the same way. For example, technologists 55 and older reported significantly lower levels of burnout than those between the ages of 18 and 34. Fewer technologists in the 55+ group also reported an increase in workload during the pandemic, especially compared to their 18-34-year-old colleagues (35 percent vs. 47 percent). These technologists may not have young children to manage in addition to their workload, and they’re less likely to need the in-person mentoring and collaboration that technologists between the ages of 18 and 34 desire so fervently.
Get Your Copy Of The Dice 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report
While many technologists have experienced burnout, roughly three-quarters also said that their work-life balance is either the same (43 percent) or better (33 percent) than it was before COVID-19. Perhaps that’s a reflection of how well (for better or worse) technologists have incorporated some of the more stressful elements of the pandemic into their daily workflow. “It’s easier for me to take breaks and step away from work when I am feeling overwhelmed,” said one respondent. “I don’t have to deal with annoying officemates which means my overall mood is better. No commuting and worrying about getting out the door on time equals less stress.”
Other respondents also focused on the benefits of the lack of commute (including time and cost savings), as well as flexible schedules. “It cuts out the commute and allows me to have reasonable time with my children before and after school,” another mentioned. “I work longer hours some days, but it’s worth it for those days I can be with my family.”
But 24 percent of technologists felt their work-life balance is worse than pre-pandemic, due to increased demands, workforce shortages, and no set boundaries between home and work: “Because there is nowhere to go, there is nothing to punctuate the workday, no reason to stop. The demands keep coming and I keep working.”
Top Reasons for Burnout
When queried by Dice, technologists have cited workload, hours worked, lack of recognition for work, and lack of challenges/monotony as their top reasons for burnout. For organizations everywhere, burnout and work-life balance continue to be critical issues that management needs to address as comprehensively as possible. One of the challenges in both cases is that work-life balance and burnout can look fundamentally different depending on the individual; what works in one case may be completely ineffective in another. In addition, organizations can and should do a certain amount to put programs and parameters in place, but work-life balance and burnout can also be heavily dependent on the styles and philosophies of department heads and managers.
What could the solution look like? At the highest level, giving technologists the ability to create their own schedules can help them achieve a “successful” work-life balance based on their own definition, which in turn reduces the likelihood of reaching burnout. A hybrid work week provides younger technologists with the opportunity to engage with co-workers at the office, while those who prefer working remotely can adjust their schedules for uninterrupted periods of “deep work.” Organizations would also be well-served to work with department heads and managers to ensure that they are creating and sustaining cultures of flexibility and openness with their teams.
Companies must also pay close attention to technologists’ workloads, as team members who feel burned out and unsupported will begin looking for other jobs. Given technologists’ complaints of “schedule creep” and working long hours, leaders must also manage by example, and make it clear that everyone on the team is entitled to “off hours” without contact or meetings. Addressing these issues requires quite a bit of time and attention, but can result in well-rested employees and, ultimately, increased retention rates.