Modern life isn’t always easy and millions of people experience workplace stress. When this goes on and on without relief, it can lead to burnout. Not only can burnout take a terrible toll on employees, it can also badly impact businesses. It’s worth thinking about the damage that workplace stress can do to your IT-focused employees. Here’s a brief introduction to what burnout is and how it can be prevented.
A simple definition of burnout is that it’s a type of psychological exhaustion that is triggered by workplace conditions. No two people react in exactly the same way to stress at work and the symptoms vary from individual to individual. Sarah may become depressed and keep calling in sick. Jack may become easily frustrated and less committed to his responsibilities. Tom may feel alienated in his role. Lisa may be distracted, leading to mistakes that she never used to make.
These could all be ways of responding to burnout. A Gallup survey in 2018 revealed that almost a quarter of the employees polled had experienced burnout. Things haven’t become any easier for people in the years that have followed.
Different factors can lead to employee burnout. It’s often related to a workload that is just too much for someone, but an unrealistic work burden is far from being the only trigger. An employee who feels unfairly treated in the office, or whose role is not clearly defined, or whose responsibilities shift unpredictably, can be vulnerable to developing burnout. People may also feel that they’re unable to achieve what they would like to achieve because of lack of support or too little time. That can make people anxious, because it makes them feel like a failure.
A global survey carried out between January and September 2021 by Yerbo, a mental wellbeing platform, discovered that IT professionals have been experiencing unusually high levels of burnout. The research, entitled ‘The State of Burnout in Tech’ (published in 2022), gathered 32,644 survey answers from IT professionals in thirty-three countries. You might want to check out the analysis for yourself, but we’ve summarized some of the key points for you.
The research includes a ‘Burnout Index’, which lists four of the symptoms that sufferers frequently reported.
– Many IT professionals suffering from burnout reported a sense of exhaustion. 62% felt physical and emotionally drained at the end of the working day. 56% reported being unable to relax after work.
– 51% of responders reported a sense of ‘self-inefficacy’. This can turn into chronic procrastination, as well as ‘imposter syndrome’. These people felt like under-achievers, while 33% felt that they were not doing their job efficiently.
– Feeling alienated from colleagues and cynical about their work led to 43% of those surveyed feeling disengaged. 27% reported a lack of sense of purpose.
– Depersonalization, a lack of sense of self and emotional shutdown, was highlighted by 26% of those surveyed, who reported fears of being harsh towards their work colleagues. 22% raised the problem of losing sympathy with other members of their team.
The overall finding of the research was that 42.1% of the IT professionals surveyed – almost half – were at risk of burning out.
The good news is that there are various things you can do to address burnout at work, whether the staff are in IT-roles or not.
– Eliminating stress is essential. If people’s workload is made just a little bit less burdensome and they feel appreciated, this can make a big difference. One way to do this is to define objectives and roles clearly. Make sure that people are properly trained for those roles. Also ensure that staff have adequate time off. These simple steps can go a long way towards stress reduction that can escalate into full-blown burnout.
– Trusting your IT team, and giving them some autonomy is helpful. Most people are self-motivated and don’t need you or anybody else breathing down their neck. Hovering over people doesn’t enhance motivation – in fact, it can do the opposite. Allowing people to self-manage, and allowing some flexibility is a more productive strategy. Most employees will flourish and grow when given some autonomy, and their pay should reward them for using their own initiative.
– Make sure support is always available. If you want a burnt-out team, then overload them with responsibilities, make them work extra hours and don’t give them the time to keep up with their certifications. Of course you don’t want this! It’s a recipe for workplace stress and business disaster.
– There are ways to provide 24/7 support for your IT team. At Quikteks, we can help by taking on some of the workload if it’s too burdensome and is creating stress. Why not let them do what they do best, while outsourcing whatever is left over? For a single monthly fee, we can manage a variety of tasks, so your staff have time to devote themselves to providing value to your business. Call us today at (973) 882-4644 to find out more about our flexible options.