Burnout in tech is real. See how you can prevent it
Burnout in tech is real. See how you can prevent it
The workplace is supposed to be an environment that empowers people to do their best, creative and meaningful work. And it is in the responsibility of each employer to provide that if they want to build a healthy sustainable organization.
Cătălin Briciu
4 min. read
Burnout in tech is real. See how you can prevent it

People in tech are faced with a 'burnout crisis' due to chronic work stress and exhaustion. This has been happening for the past years due to the overwhelming information of the digital era that overheats our minds’ processing capabilities. And the pandemic has only made the matter worse, acting as a catalyst for increasing digital fatigue and lack of human connection. 





What is burnout?


From time to time, all employees feel some stress at work.


There is, however, a difference between being tired after sprinting and lacking the energy to be consistently productive. The last one is a common symptom of employee burnout. 


In 2019, burnout was officially characterized by the World Health Organization as an “occupational phenomenon” resulting from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”


Employee burnout is a serious matter. WHO included it in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), and recognizes it as an “official occupational phenomenon that requires medical care”. 



How do you recognize burnout?


According to the WHO, there are three defining dimensions that characterise burnout:



  1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job;
  3. reduced professional efficacy.



Freudenberger and Gail North, the scientists who originally identified burnout as a condition, outlined 12 stages of work-burnout:



  1. The compulsion to prove oneself
  2. Working harder
  3. Neglecting personal needs
  4. Displacement of conflict
  5. Revision of values (work to the exclusion of all else)
  6. Denial of emerging problems
  7. Withdrawal (typically accompanied by self-medicating)
  8. Odd behavioral changes
  9. Depersonalization (unable to connect with others or one’s own needs)
  10. Inner emptiness
  11. Depression
  12. Burnout syndrome


Just like in the case of other conditions, the faster you manage to catch the symptoms and begin treating them right away, the better. Burnout is not an overnight phenomenon. 


It remains true that employers can influence events on their teams.



As Harvard Business Review noted in 2018, "burnout is about your workplace, not your people."





Tech and burnout


Burnout affects workers in all industries, but some seem to have higher rates of burnout than others.


Forbes found medicine, law, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to be the top three fields prone to burnout. It seems that cognitive-intensive jobs are the ones that are hit hardest by this.


Specifically for tech workers, Yerbo has just published the latest State of Burnout in Tech Report.




It is estimated that 62 % of tech professionals feel physically and emotionally drained and 56% of IT professionals cannot switch off once they finish their workday.


In a survey of more than 36.200 tech workers, 2 in 5 employees say they want to quit due to chronic work-life balance problems, according to the same study by Yerbo. 


Source: BurnoutIndex by Yerbo


These results are a wake-up call for employers to act now, rethink their culture, policies, and start supporting talents in finding the way to integrate work with personal life.


You can find out your personal burnout risk with a free, science-based assessment. 




How employers can help


It remains true that employers can influence events on their teams. As Harvard Business Review noted in 2018, "burnout is about your workplace, not your people."


Thus, it is essential to pay attention to how:



  1. People are being treated fair within the organization at all levels.
  2. The workload for each individual is managed based on their role and objectives.
  3. Roles and responsibilities are being defined in order to provide clarity.
  4. Decisions are being communicated in order to provide motivational support.
  5. Deadlines are set taking into consideration the real urgency behind them.


If an employee is experiencing burnout, we have to stop and ask ourselves why. As a leader you need to ask yourself the following questions:



  • What is affecting my people’s wellbeing and performance?
  • How can I make it easier for them to work here every day?
  • What can my organization do more to make them thrive?


The workplace is supposed to be an environment that empowers people to do their best, creative and meaningful work. And it is in the responsibility of each employer to provide that if they want to build a healthy sustainable organization. 




Things that do not work 




  1. Taking a week’s holiday or sick leave to sleep the feeling of tiredness off. Burnout is not simply tiredness or exhaustion, it is a state of depletion. Therefore, you will need to work harder to replenish your energy, rebuild your energetic reserves and increase your resilience to stressful situations than you would by simply lying on a sunlounger by the pool during a week-long vacation.
  2. Workplace wellness programs are helpful in providing a quick solution for how you feel, but they do not produce fundamental changes in how you see the world. According to a 2019 clinical trial in the US, no significant differences were seen after 18 months in self-reported health and behaviors, clinical markers of health, health care spending, absenteeism, tenure, or job performance.
  3. Leaving your career. You can’t ‘hack’ burnout. Burnout is caused by certain behaviors and beliefs that we follow and subscribe to. A belief such as 'I'm not good enough' or 'I'll never get far enough ahead'. Quitting your job might be an answer, but it’s not the answer. 





Here’s the catch


Productivity is not the only way you can measure a great tech team. Computing power and nimble finger movements on a computer keyboard are usually used as a measure of productivity in the tech industry.  


As an organization, your team’s wellbeing is just as important as any other metric for measuring success. For this reason, you should be mindful of the emotional welfare of your development team. 


In addition to recognizing burnout, you should also prevent it from occurring. And if your employees do get overworked and providing them with more assignments would increase their risk of burnout, remember you have other choices.


The ultimate goal is to increase both wellbeing and productivity, providing both employees and employers with meaningful, creative work.



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