I’m willing to bet that almost all of us have experienced stress, frustration, or fatigue at some point in our careers. Maybe you get an occasional case of the Mondays or a big project has you more on edge than usual. These feelings are common responses to difficult situations and challenges at work and beyond. So how can you tell when these normal workplace reactions build up into something more serious?
The Mayo-Clinic defines job burnout as a special type of work-related stress, a state where physical and emotional exhaustion causes a loss of personal identity and a reduced sense of accomplishment. While burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, it can have a huge effect on your physical and mental health. Unfortunately, in the fast-paced, competitive tech industry, burnout is especially common. A 2018 survey of tech workers by the anonymous work conditions review app Blind found that as many as 57% of tech workers feel burnt out on the job.
When you’re in a routine of working overtime and rushing to complete deadlines, it can be difficult to see the warnings. Here are a few signs that you might be headed for burnout, and what you can do about it.
I’m not talking about that post-lunch energy slump or the heavy eyes that come after a bad night’s sleep. When you’re heading towards burnout, consistent energy loss can make it difficult to complete projects or concentrate on assignments, and if you aren’t careful, this exhaustion can quickly turn into trouble. Consider, for example, a survey by Kronos which cited three major factors in workplace burnout. Two of these, unreasonable workloads and too much overtime, lead directly to overwork and exhaustion.
Solution: While you might not be able to control the deadlines of your latest tech project, you can still prevent burnout and exhaustion by taking time off work and finding ways to truly disconnect. It’s easy for tech work to follow you home and occupy your headspace even when you’re not on the clock. In order to separate yourself from work, plan some fun activities with friends or make time for a favorite hobby to restore your creativity and rebuild your motivation. And commit to sleep whenever possible. No amount of coffee will provide you the same clarity and focus as a good night’s rest.
Maybe you have a micromanaging supervisor or a colleague that seems to undermine your every effort. Or perhaps there have been significant changes at your company that negatively impacted your work or role. Under these conditions, it’s no surprise that workers can become disappointed with their job. Whatever the specific case, the problem likely relates to a common root cause: a dysfunctional workplace.
Solution: If this sounds like your job, you might want to begin by raising these issues with your team leader or director. The way an organization responds to employee concerns and feedback is often a telling sign about where their real priorities lie. You can also work with your staffing firm to address workplace challenges that are impacting your success in a role. At IDR, our Engagement Management Program is designed to support our consultants and give them the tools needed to flourish throughout their assignment. If you’re still feeling frustrated, consider talking to a therapist online or in-person. They can help you identify the underlying causes of your disillusionment and provide suggestions for how to manage workplace stress.
There is nothing more frustrating than receiving inconsistent or incomplete information about a project you’re working on. If you aren’t sure about the degree of autonomy you have on an assignment or what your co-workers or clients are expecting from you, it can be hard to be successful at work. Additionally, your inability to control things like your schedule, assignments, and workload, can cause added stress, increasing your risk for burnout.
Solution: One solution that can help with these workplace challenges is to focus on areas you do have control over. Instead of wasting time waiting on a colleague to finish their part of a project, use the downtime as an opportunity to learn a new skill or study something that interests you. Not only will this get your mind off a frustrating project, it can help you develop the skills you need to improve your job opportunities or transition to a new role entirely. Here at IDR, we offer a training program that allows our consultants to pursue additional certifications or attend conferences to support their career growth.
You don’t have to be experiencing all these burnout warning signs to suffer serious consequences, and you can take steps on your own to prevent the physical and mental problems that burnout can create. For example, consider getting involved in new activities or sports outside of work and make sure you set aside time for them. When you’re working on a tight deadline, it can feel like the project is taking over your life. By setting aside time to focus on other things, you can develop a better work-life balance and come to work more energized and engaged.
You should also talk to your employer and express your concerns and frustrations. Companies that really care about their employee’s growth and success will be willing to listen and make improvements. For example, tech companies with the lowest rates of burnout, like Netflix, are more likely to offer balanced hours, fair compensation, and a supportive work environment – conditions that all reduce the risk of burnout. At IDR, we focus on establishing long-term relationships with our consultants and we support them through constant communication before, during and after an assignment.
If your employer doesn’t acknowledge the problem or create an environment where you feel appreciated, it’s probably time to consider new opportunities. The cost of burnout on your health, work performance, career, emotional well-being and relationships is just too great.