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How relocating could rescue you from burnout in the world of tech

4 Dec 2019

Jefferson Frank’s Kevin Frater says shaking up your work location can have a positive impact on your stress levels.

Impressive salaries, an ever-increasing pool of jobs to choose from, and the chance to be at the cutting edge of innovation – there are a lot of reasons why a career in the tech sector is so appealing.

It’s a candidate’s market right now, with new roles being created faster than the talent pool can churn out professionals to fill them. Jobseekers with the right skills are in a comfortable position when it comes to leveraging a great job offer, with multiple companies having to compete to land the best talent in many talent-scarce and niche tech sectors.

So, given all this promise and opportunity, why does tech have the highest turnover rate of any industry?

Long hours and high pressure

It’s thought that burnout could account for anywhere between 20pc and 50pc of annual workforce turnover, and tech workers suffer from the condition at staggeringly high rates.

According to research from social app Blind, three in five tech workers are burnt out. The tech industry has a long-held reputation for long hours and late-night overtime, with IT staff often expected to burn the candle at both ends to meet deadlines and complete projects.

But lengthy hours aren’t the only thing pushing tech workers towards burnout. The above-mentioned survey also found that poor leadership, high workloads and toxic cultures all rank high on the list of reasons why tech workers feel like they’re running on empty.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to the burnout problem – it’ll take an industry-wide shift to give rise to a less arduous and gruelling approach to work in the tech sector. That said, there are ways you can minimise your risk of burning out in the future.

Location, location, location

They say a change of scenery is useful for dealing with stress, and if you’re hitting a wall in your job, seeking out pastures new makes a lot of sense. Sometimes, breaking the burnout cycle means removing yourself from your current setting and enjoying a cultural adjustment.

Given that moving is often cited as one of the most stressful things you can go through, the notion that relocating for work might actually help reduce stress and stave off the threat of burning out might seem counter-intuitive.

The bustling, grind-obsessed environments that have often been magnets for tech jobs don’t do much to relieve feelings of being stressed. Many city dwellers feel unable to truly switch off and escape, even when they’ve left the office. A study by Amsterdam’s Arkin Institute for Mental Health found that those living in urban locations are 21pc more likely to have anxiety disorder and are 39pc more likely to experience mood disorders.

Moving to a location that’s less of a concrete jungle can be a tremendous balm for burnt-out brains – studies have found that engaging with green spaces can help improve our emotional wellbeing. According to research by the University of Michigan, just 20 minutes a day spent amid nature can significantly drop stress hormones.

‘Working from an environment that you control, cutting down on commuting and being the boss of your own schedule can have a massive effect on how engaged you feel with your job’

For the majority of people, packing up their life to work remotely from a tropical paradise isn’t viable. But while the tech industry may have started life in the world’s big cities, digital innovation has spread out from major urban hubs in recent years, and breaking away from overwhelming metropolitan living is now a legitimate option for techies.

Moving in pursuit of better living is something that the tech workforce is increasingly open to. In our recent survey of cloud tech professionals, 61pc of respondents said they would consider relocating to another city or country for work. More than one in five cited the desire for a lifestyle change as their top reason for wanting to move.

The good news is that there are more and more options open to tech professionals with itchy feet. Digital transformation is creating IT jobs across countries, drawing professionals away from the often expensive crush of cities like London. If a quieter location or a more reasonable commute sounds tempting, you can rest assured that you don’t have to forego opportunities for the sake of avoiding burnout.

Recent analysis found that more than 2m people work in the UK’s digital sector, and in five UK cities more than one in 10 people work in tech. Perhaps surprisingly, none of these cities are London – the growth of the country’s tech industry has led to places like Oxford, Cambridge, Reading, Belfast and Newcastle becoming vibrant hubs of opportunity for IT professionals.

Businesses are adding new tech roles to their teams all the time, and big tech names are branching out of capital cities, attracted by lower overheads. In fact, job growth in the UK tech sector has been strongest in Manchester, Belfast, Birmingham, Reading and Leeds.

And it’s not just the UK that’s offering alternatives to burnout-baiting work environments. Demand for tech professionals is skyrocketing around the globe. If you’re in a position to up sticks and see more of the world, then a major change of scenery can go a long way towards mitigating feelings of fatigue.

Want to take life at a more relaxed pace? Relocating to somewhere like the Netherlands, Denmark or New Zealand – all of which boast lower than average working hours and greater overall satisfaction – can have a transformative effect on your mindset.

Restoring your work-life balance

As exciting as a fresh start can be, you don’t have to go too far to reap the benefits of changing your working environment. Even shaking up your routine by working from home, or a spot outside of your usual office space, can make a positive impact on stress levels.

As businesses slowly adopt new approaches to getting things done, such as remote and flexible working, more and more tech workers are being given the option to cut down their face time at the office.

Working from an environment that you control, cutting down on commuting and being the boss of your own schedule can have a massive effect on how engaged you feel with your job, and can give you the wiggle room you need to nip burnout in the bud when it starts to rear its ugly head. Plus, just being somewhere different can spark new ideas and stop you from falling into a monotonous routine that can lead to feeling disengaged.

An increasing number of companies are seeing the benefits that offering flexible working can have on the health of their workforce. Dropbox leaves its employees to choose when they work and offers unlimited paid time off. Dell is also getting on board the flexible working train, after agreeing to move half of its staff to flexible schedules by next year.

In a fast-paced, bleeding-edge industry such as tech, it can feel like stress is never too far away, no matter what you do. But changing the scenery every now and again – whether that’s removing yourself from your usual workspace or moving to a new place that better facilitates a healthy work-life balance – can go a long way towards keeping your head above water, and making sure you continue to thrive in this exciting sector.

By Kevin Frater

Kevin Frater is a director at AWS recruitment firm Jefferson Frank. Frater joined the company in 2011 and leads Jefferson Frank’s Berlin office, playing a crucial role in driving business operations across the German market.

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