Professional burnout is a condition that has been written and talked about quite a lot lately. There’s no surprise here – an increasing number of IT employees are facing this problem. In 2020, 76% of respondents in the United States reported that they faced burnout to some extent.
In light of this, Bitcoin Ultimatum’s COO and Ehold’s vice president, Bohdan Prylepa, shares his experience in how to determine the burnout of an IT employee, whether it can be prevented, and also how the issue is solved in Prof-it – his top-rated company in the blockchain industry.
Bohdan, as far as I know, you have founded several IT companies, and each of them has achieved success in their respective field. Have you ever faced the problem of burnout — both personally and among your employees?
In general, burnout at work is a phenomenon that happens to almost everyone during their life, but for the IT sphere, there are some possible nuances.
In other industries, the reasons are usually monotony and routine, in other words, when an employee gets tired of what he does. But for IT specialists, paradoxically, the issue here is that they love their work and that even if it might look the same, it pushes them further all the same. This is why although it might be all similar, the drive is still there regardless.
But in truth, geeks are just people who typically want to sit comfortably with their laptop, code just for fun, or perhaps spend their free time checking memes, watching videos, or playing games. So yes, of course, we have encountered this problem in Profit and we have a successful experience of overcoming it.
What does an IT employee have that contributes to burnout?
An IT specialist is usually not a very sociable person as he pretty much spends most of his days simply looking at a computer screen. He constantly solves complex tasks, and the joy he feels from his work gives him a release of dopamine reinforcement. But time goes by, and addiction begins, just like with drugs — you need to increase the dose, i.e. the complexity of the task must be bigger and bigger. But since it is impossible to increase the complexity indefinitely, this leads to dissatisfaction with oneself, and the body can not stand it which in turn ends up causing a breakdown.
What can а programmer do to avoid reaching a state of burnout?
First of all, it is urgent to get some kind of fulfillment outside of work. Preferably, engage in an activity that can be physical, because then purely physiological stress antagonists will turn on and endorphins will be produced. With this, you’re solving the problem of tolerance to dopamine reinforcement not by “working a little more”, but by switching to another activity, one that is important and real, not just virtual.
Whether it be going out for a walk, hitting the gym, or even hanging with friends in real life, all of this will allow the person to “un-stress” a bit more and simply be more at ease.
Okay, and is it possible to prevent burnout, to somehow ‘guess’ this state in advance?
Well, you see, since IT specialists, as a rule, like their work and prefer it to other pleasures, they, like no one else, need to learn how to switch to another activity in advance, before burnout. Do not talk and do not think about your work outside of working hours, look for alternative tasks, for example, learn something new. Do not overwork. And also, the method of resorting to alcohol, which is popular in the CIS countries, does not work and only worsens the situation, adding more blurriness to one’s head and body intoxication.
What are you doing as a manager to prevent this problem among employees?
Well, here, as a rule, everything is individual. Generally, I can say that if the manager notices several changes in the work of a specialist that does not come back to normal, then the first thing to do is to talk to the employee and understand what exactly the problem is. Most often, developers try to pretend to be fine and just hit you up with a casual: “No, no, everything is alright.” But introverts ARE like this – it’s hard for them to talk about what happens or to open up , although, in the process of communication, you can slowly find out the cause of the problem.
Let’s say the causes of burnout are detected, you now need to help the employee return to normal. What effectively worked here in your experience?
In any work, monotony is boring. If an employee is bored and does not feel motivated, it may be time to allow him to rest or switch to another task. In Japan, if an employee does not work effectively, it is normal practice to move him from one internal project to another – We liked this idea.
We always have several areas in development and in case of burnout, we try to transfer a person to another department or under another management. We also try to bring a sense of novelty to our employees’ work by sending them to workshops, seminars, or offering new tasks — but not in addition to the previous ones or that would end up beating the purpose of it.
Where is the line between when it is worth fighting for an employee, and when it is necessary to let him go?
Sometimes it might be that nothing makes a change. An employee is apathetic to work, does not fulfill duties, breaks deadlines. It is worth evaluating in that scenario that perhaps it’s not about burnout, it’s just that this place of work is not suitable for the employee anymore. In such cases, it might be worth letting him go.
What advice would you give to managers and employees of the IT-sphere in cases they face burnout?
For managers, to communicate with their employees, look for the reasons that led to professional burnout, and develop a plan to help in the current situation.
For employees – listen to yourself. If you begin to notice that the work does not attract you as it did before, look for the reason. If the problem cannot be solved on your own, discuss the situation with the management. My advice to everyone is to communicate more, play sports, look for sources for motivation and inspiration.
If you keep a healthy lifestyle and are open about what bothers you, then burnout is less likely to bother you.