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Tech burnout: An ongoing mental health crisis in the industry

Tech burnout: An ongoing mental health crisis in the industry

There’s no denying that tech is a high-stakes industry. As a tech team member, you'll be left behind if you’re not at the forefront of the latest and greatest. The pressure for tech professionals to stay ahead of the curve — and the competition – can lead to tech burnout, a widely known industry issue fueled by the expectation of long hours, relentless pressure, and ever-changing demands. Some studies suggest that as many as 2 out of 5 tech workers may experience burnout. Further, 42% say they might quit their job within the next 6 months.

Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, a sense of detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness. This is so much more than just having a bad day — it’s an occupational phenomenon especially prevalent in the tech industry, where innovation never sleeps, and downtime is rare.

Understanding the potential for tech employee burnout in your workforce is a must. If your people are burned out, it can lead to high turnover, low morale, and decreased productivity, ultimately affecting your bottom line. 

The good news is that addressing the issue of burnout in the tech industry is easy when you understand the causes and use these proven strategies to prevent employee burnout

The root causes of burnout in the tech industry

There are several common causes of tech worker burnout. Taking the time to understand them means it’s easier to make improvements that set your workforce up for success.

High-pressure work environments

In an industry built on finding the next big breakthrough, it’s easy to see how quickly pressure can mount on tech professionals. After all, to be successful, employees must deliver innovation and results at speeds that exacerbate stress levels. According to recent research, more than half (52%) of people who work in tech experience depression or anxiety. 

Long working hours and the culture of overwork

Technology never sleeps. Unfortunately, this norm in tech culture has set a precedent where every tech team member commonly sees long hours as a representation of dedication. The problem, though, is this has created an unsustainable model where a healthy work-life balance for employees takes a backseat, and unreasonably long workdays and workweeks are the norm.

Rapid pace of technological change & continuous learning demands

Staying relevant in the world of tech means having a workforce that’s always up-to-date with constantly evolving advancements. This need for continuous upscaling adds even more pressure for employees, who often struggle to keep up with existing workloads and must also find a way to meet professional development demands.

Remote work challenges & the blurring of work-life boundaries

The shift to remote work over the last few years has been a double-edged sword. While there are definite benefits to offering remote opportunities for employees, the new work structure has blurred the lines of work-life boundaries. Without a clear separation between work and personal life, the potential for disengagement can grow, even among the most dedicated members of your team.

“Poor work-life balance can lead to burnout because it results in chronic stress, fatigue, and an inability to recharge. This can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.” -Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LPC, LMHC

Signs of burnout in tech workers

While burnout can be a silent event, it tends to surface through several signs. Knowing what to look for can help you identify employee burnout early so you can pivot before the impact is too significant.  

These are some of the most common signs of employee burnout:

  • Deteriorating performance and productivity: A noticeable decline in output is a huge tech burnout red flag. A sudden lack of enthusiasm, missed deadlines, or subpar results — especially from those on your team who are typically high achievers — is something to be on the lookout for.
  • Physical exhaustion and chronic fatigue: The tech industry demands intense cognitive engagement that can take a toll on even the most dedicated employees. If your team members seem persistently tired or weary, or if you notice an uptick in illness, it’s a clear sign that something more may be going on.
  • Detachment and cynicism: Negative attitudes can indicate emotional exhaustion, a hallmark of burnout. If your team has started seeming cynical toward work or projects that once fostered passion, it might mean burnout is creeping in. Mental withdrawal can severely impact team dynamics and affect morale.

The ripple effects of burnout in tech

Unfortunately, burnout affects more than just the individual experiencing it. It can ripple through an entire company. 

For example, chronically stressed employees are at higher risk for severe health issues ranging from insomnia to depression. An increase in absenteeism can affect productivity and revenue. 

Additionally, extreme burnout can disrupt team dynamics and project timelines, and in some cases. From an organizational standpoint, the repercussions of increased tech turnover rates can also be costly. If people leave due to high-stress levels, your remaining workforce may start underperforming because they’re stretched too thin.

Impact on individuals

Burnout can go far beyond just personal physical and mental health concerns. It can also stifle professional growth as employees who were once driven by innovation start to struggle with motivation and creativity — which are both essential in an industry that thrives on fresh ideas.

“Burnout can lead to feelings of depression as prolonged stress and exhaustion can negatively impact mental health. It can contribute to symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities.” -Talkspace therapist Bisma Anwar, LPC, LMHC

Organizational consequences

Beyond the individual impact tech burnout can cause, plummeting productivity can start an organization-wide chain reaction. Quality assurance can be difficult to maintain. Customer satisfaction and brand reputation can take a hit. There’s also the financial impact felt by the need to hire and train new employees when people quit or are increasingly absent.

Effect on innovation

Without energetic minds contributing to the process, innovation can suffer. Burned-out employees are less likely to be able to share knowledge or offer valuable contributions to projects, halting progress and costing your company.

Culture and morale

Keeping workplace culture positive and morale up in an environment where burnout is causing apathy or fatigue can be tricky. Enthusiasm is a critical piece of the collaborative problem-solving necessary in the tech industry — staying ahead of the competition can be challenging when it’s lacking.

Industry-wide implications 

The tech industry relies heavily on effectively sharing resources and talent pools. If those resources are dwindling because employees are burning out faster than they can be replenished, it can mean big trouble across the board.

How to prevent & solve burnout in tech

It’s clear that tech is a demanding industry. Long hours and high expectations are more the rule than they are the exception — but we’re finding out this model backfires more often than not. That said, there are several tactics you can implement to combat the issue of burnout head-on. 

Automate

One of the most effective yet straightforward ways to reduce burnout in your company is by automating as much as possible. It’s important to note that automation does not mean replacing people. It’s about strategically using tools and processes to reduce stress and workloads, freeing people up for more complex or creative tasks that machines can’t replicate. In short, automating mundane processes means your talented workforce has more time for innovation.

Train and educate your team

Ongoing education does more than simply help your team stay current with the latest technological advances. It’s a vital way to help people successfully navigate expectations. You can even implement stress management tactics and tips into the mix. Offering tech development and wellness education supports individual employees and organizational growth, which can be invaluable to your company’s success. 

Make sure managers and leadership have a well-being plan

Leadership can prevent — or at least reduce — burnout through a proactive strategy. They should set clear expectations, emphasize the importance of boundaries, and foster workplace environments that prioritize regular breaks, vacations, and personal time off without penalty. 

Use a teamwork mentality

Valuing collaboration over competition is a healthy approach if you’re looking to avoid burnout in the tech industry. Promoting the essential need for teamwork helps build an environment that is resilient to burnout. 

Offer resources and support

Ensuring your employees have support and mental health resources readily accessible demonstrates how committed you are to overall employee well-being. You can also create and promote policies reinforcing the importance of self-care and boundaries as another way to show how much you value your workforce.

Manage burnout with mental health support

Prioritizing employee mental health is an effective way to reduce tech burnout. Taking care of your employees offers many benefits, from improved mental well-being to increased productivity. Offering mental health support, like through access to online therapy for employees, signals that you’re willing to invest in the people who make your company what it is.

 

Talkspace is an online therapy platform that’s been proven effective in studies. In fact, 68% of participants showed significant symptom improvement after just three weeks of treatment. It’s been said that your employees are your most valuable resources. Isn’t it time to give back to them? Contact Talkspace today to combat tech burnout with therapy for tech employees

Sources:

  1. “The State of Burnout in Tech: 2022 Edition.” BurnoutIndex by Yerbo. Accessed January 2, 2024. https://f.hubspotusercontent30.net/hubfs/7677235/The%20State%20of%20Burnout%20in%20Tech%20-%202022%20Edition.pdf.  
  2. BIMA. “The Voices of Our Industry - BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Report 2019,” 2020. https://bima.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/BIMA-Tech-Inclusion-and-Diversity-Report-2019.pdf?ref=theouut.com.  

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