Remote work and burnout: 7 ways to avoid it in your IT team

What is "burnout"?

"Burnout" while working in IT What is "burnout"?

Burnout has suffered the fate of depression — when you talk about it, most often you get a devaluation and advice to get yourself together. It’s even more difficult when you have remote work in the US, especially in IT – because isn’t it a dream job? Not to go to the office every day, code on the couch and get rough money. In fact, burnout is becoming almost a professional disease of remote specialists.

The absence of a border between home and work, a lack of live contact, often a time difference. This is what remote work in the digital industry really looks like. And it becomes the main source of stress in a person’s life. It is not surprising that later all desire for her work disappears. Yes, the problem of burnout is underestimated. The good news is that it can be prevented.


Employee burnout: what do the statistics say? Analytics

Statistical data unequivocally prove the acuteness and prevalence of the problem. For example, Microsoft surveyed people aged 18-25 working in various digital industries — 41% of respondents plan to quit due to too high a level of stress at work. Another study surveyed only those who work remotely — about 70% of them noted symptoms of burnout.

According to Deloitte, 77% of surveyed Americans have experienced chronic fatigue at work. Ukraine was not an exception to this trend — a survey by the grc.ua portal showed that 64% of participants experience burnout, among which 22% cited their professional activities as the cause.

What does burnout look like?

Symptoms and causes of burnout What does burnout look like?

In addition to specific numbers, statistics show an important thing: burnout can occur in office workers as well as in remote work on the Internet. Why? It’s just that most of its reasons do not relate to any specific profession at all and are found in all industries without exception:

  • professional uncertainty — there are no clear criteria for evaluating work, lack of understanding of the scope of responsibility, systematic overload outside of official duties;
  • problems in the team — toxic behavior, burnout of management and key team members (there is an effect of “contagion” from others), conflict of values (a person does something with which he internally disagrees), unethical corporate culture (when an atmosphere of competition is deliberately formed);
  • dissatisfaction with the results — lack of high-quality and timely feedback, lack of recognition;
  • skill reasons — inability to plan, set priorities, organize the work process and articulate one’s needs in a timely manner.

And this is what burnout looks like:

  • cognitive impairment — it is difficult for a person to learn something new, master a new program, technology;
  • there is no energy and initiative — mechanical work exclusively within the framework of requirements, without new solutions, creative ideas;
  • negative attitude towards the results of one’s own work;
  • complicated communication — constant delays in answers, being late for meetings;
  • systematic violation of deadlines;
  • difficulties with concentration;
  • lack of endurance, slow recovery;
  • irritability;
  • sleep problems;
  • negative associations, cynical statements about work or colleagues;
  • unmotivated anxiety about work — when a person does everything right, but is constantly unsure of the result.

Of course, burnout is a two-way street. If it happened, it will not disappear without the desire and work of a specific person. However, there are tools that will help, if not completely overcome it, then definitely reduce the severity and increase the team’s efficiency in IT work.


Ways to avoid burnout Burnout

These are simple actions that do not require anything extraordinary. At the same time, they are effective and work for everyone.

Introduce a culture of virtual coffee breaks

Lack of emotional support is also cited as one of the causes of burnout. This is more relevant for remote work, and not only (this is why openspace is not such a bad story). Man remains alone with his victories and defeats. And if you don’t have the skills and tools to live with them, it’s stressful. Of course, it is “treated” by a personal psychologist. But within the framework of the IT team, the solution can be virtual coffee breaks as part of the corporate culture. Legalize them to improve team relations and reduce stress (because talking about a problem situation with someone is already part of living it).

Offer flexible work hours

Remote work without experience is often the cause of problems with deadlines. When a person starts working at home, he has to reckon with his family. If the schedules do not coincide, there are small children (and they generally have unique and unpredictable needs) or sick relatives, we get additional reasons for stress. However, there is a way to bypass it. If the specifics of the employee’s work do not require control of working hours, make the work schedule flexible: give the opportunity to leave the house, agree on specific time intervals for discussions, and focus on the fact/quality of completion of tasks, not on the time of their completion.

Learn and teach to switch attention

“Switching” from state to state is not a superpower, but a skill. It can be formed independently and taught to the team. For example, make it a rule to leave your phone and laptop at your workplace. Do not put your phone on the table when you go to lunch. Despite the fact that we live in a digital world, part of our brain has remained “ritual”. Therefore, various “threshold rituals” that divide time between work and rest work well.

Example: at the end of the working day, everyone has to send a short video of how they close their laptop or work program to the general chat.

You can also introduce a mandatory five-minute team call at the end of the day, where not a word about work, but everyone reports on their plans for the evening or weekend.

Give thanks and praise!

Do you think the team is only motivated by getting money on time? Nothing like! According to statistics, more than 70% of employees feel happier at work when their managers thank them. And 80% of this number also work with more enthusiasm. This can be an easier task than it seems: add 1-2 sentences to the feedback about what you personally liked; write about gratitude when the team did something on their own initiative without waiting for instructions.

Focus on results

All people have their own comfortable work speed and most productive time. Someone works quickly, but needs a longer time to rest. Others work slowly, methodically, and do not need additional recovery time. The working framework cannot be abandoned under any circumstances. But, if appropriate, it is better to tie them not to time, but to tasks or projects. This echoes the point about flexible schedules. But also the cause of burnout is a person’s inability to see progress. This is typical for long-term and large projects. Your task is to illustrate it. In any form – at least with a sign with points that you will cross out as you complete it.

Get feedback from employees

In general, it is difficult to imagine work in IT without feedback. However, it is often formalized, undervalued and sabotaged by the employees themselves. Because there is still a living stereotype that those who are willing to complain are the first to be fired. However, there is a chasm between constructive criticism and constant dissatisfaction. Therefore, encourage employees to provide meaningful and ongoing feedback. And to add efficiency and convenience to the process, suggest the frequency and form (questionnaire, test, etc.) yourself.


What else can be done? Conclusion

First of all, don’t demonize rest. Especially by your example: go on vacation along with the team, do not hesitate to take days off if necessary. Using the example of sports, explain that a break is an integral part of any work.

It is also important not to let employees fall into the state of a cog on which nothing depends: involve them in the discussion of decisions, make some exclusively collegially by majority vote to increase self-esteem and confidence.

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