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Tech burnout: The dark side of working in technology

30 Jan 2019

Anneka Burrett, head of digital marketing at Bright HR, discusses how employers and employees can avoid falling victim to burnout.

Working in tech seems to be the dream. Cool offices, cooler co-workers, that feeling of being on the bleeding edge – and the pay can be quite nice, too.

But there’s a catch: burnout. That feeling of lethargy, cynicism and dread on a Monday morning. Close to 60pc of workers in the tech sector, when surveyed, reported currently feeling burnt out. Studies also show that women across all sectors are more likely to feel it.

It’s an issue everywhere, of course. Everyone feels pressure to perform, to outdo themselves. Yet tech is different because it is fast-moving, and expectations are high. Work is often critical and deadlines impossibly tight. Nothing seems to get any easier, and tasks are piled upon tasks piled upon tasks.

It doesn’t matter how much you love your job, or how strong and committed you are. Everyone has their breaking point. When that point is reached, that’s when burnout strikes.

Burnout can cause sleeplessness, depression and anxiety that completely disrupts your life. It can have drastic physical effects, too. The chronic stress leading to burnout can contribute to the development of prolonged fatigue, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even premature death.

It is deadly serious and when those at the top pressure you to work 130-hour weeks, you can begin to understand why that 60pc of workers mentioned earlier are worried.

How can we combat burnout?

There is, sadly, no easy fix for burnout. But you can take steps to try to prevent burnout before it takes hold. Looking after your mental health, or that of your employees’, is essential.

Even something as simple as making sure employees know they can take time off (time that they’re entitled to) can reduce the stress they feel and hopefully stem the tide of pressure that leads to burning out.

If you find that staff are working deep into time outside their standard working hours, ask yourself why they’re doing it. Encourage them to speak openly with you or their line managers so you can solve the problem.

Are they worried about what will happen to their backlog of work if they take time off to relax? Do they not trust colleagues to complete their work to an acceptable standard? If so, see if you can share the workload out equally with others or think about hiring more people.

For the sake of your business’s bottom line and your people’s health and wellbeing, make sure your staff feel able to take full advantage of minimum rest periods. If possible, maybe it’s time you thought about stopping employees carrying on working once the day is done, starting with calls and emails.

Making sure you’re on top of workplace mental health – your own, and that of those around you – can help to reduce burnout and its effects. More than four working days per person per year were reported lost in 2016 due to sickness or injury. By creating positive mental wellbeing in your workplace, you can reduce this, and get back to doing what you do best: changing the world, one bit of tech at a time.

By Anneka Burrett

Anneka Burrett is head of digital experience at BrightHR, a leading HR software company. Burrett is responsible for generating leads through paid and earned digital channels, as well as through strategic digital marketing campaigns.

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