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Burnout in Software Engineering and how to Deal with it.

Favour Chukwuemeka
Sep 03, 2021
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Burnout in Software Engineering and how to Deal with it.

Programming and figuring out a solution to a bug can be exhausting.

Firstly burnout occurs when a software developer is mentally and physically exhausted with the very idea of coding and most times want nothing to do with it, it can sometimes lead to the individual making a career change.

Developer burnout can kill both projects and companies so how do you combat it as an organisation and what signs should you be looking for in your developers that may point to them being burnt out? Let’s talk about it.

The vast majority (83%) of software developers are suffering from burnout at work, according to a new survey. The study, carried out by Haystack Analytics, found that the top reasons cited for burnout included high workloads (47%), inefficient processes (31%), and unclear goals and targets (29%).

Signs of Burnout:

If  there is a dull atmosphere and people are just doing their tasks and jobs without joy and passion and performance start slipping, then there is a need to re-evaluate what’s the root cause and most often it’s due to burnout.

When you as an individual aren’t pleasant to be around and you are irritable, and go through nasty mood swings.

Feeling isolated, feeling like whatever you do will not be enough, feeling like you can’t keep up or that you are not good enough.

Feeling tired all the time, fatigued mentally and physically, not feeling up for any task.

Being told that your effort is not good enough constantly and being pressured to meet unfair deadlines.

Causes of Burnout:

One of the causes of burnout among junior to mid level developers is running into bugs and tasks that they can’t figure out solutions to and being scared to ask for help so as not to feel incompetent. So they keep struggling along, barely able to keep up which eventually leads to burnout.

Sitting on a desk for 8+ hours straight coding and working on a task 5 days a week also leads to burnout and so many tasks and responsibilities push developers to work for longer than the normal working hours and it affects the physical health of devs.

Another issue of burnout that developers face is mental health issues. Programming is a highly stressful and intensive job. Working on debugging and solving a task requires a lot of critical thinking and sometimes your mind is pushed to its limit for hours on end every day for weeks on end and this leads to mental fatigue, at some point your brain just shuts down and refuses to process anything related to code. 

Lack of exercise and healthy eating habits. Have you heard of those work offices of engineers where it’s literally junk lying around everywhere, people drinking soda, eating junk and writing code? Those kind of practices lead to burnout exponentially quickly and should be discouraged.

How to avoid developer Burnout as an Organisation

Discourage coding outside working hours. Most companies encourage developers to continue working on their tasks after stipulated working hours and this is not a good thing, after a dev has put in his shift working on for a day, his or her brain needs some rest from anything related to code so healthy lifestyle outside of coding should be encouraged

Lunch breaks should be adhered to, so that developers can take a break from programming and refresh their mental state.

Encourage junior developers to always seek out help from the senior devs whenever they get stuck without any fear of being ridiculed, encourage a healthy working environment between junior devs and senior devs.

Compensate for sacrifice. Sometimes, a tight deadline can require personal sacrifices from your team or your employees. You should always make sure to properly compensate for this every time. Money for overtime doesn’t hurt, but it’s not all about money. You should make sure people get rest and provide them with the ability to work remotely, to make this period less draining.

Encourage healthy eating lifestyles in the office. Discourage the consumption of junk within office hours and create exercising incentive for devs.

Managers should  praise devs when they achieve results worthy of praise. It helps a lot with their mental health. Everyone desires to be told that they have done a good job once in a while and it goes a long way to help.

How to avoid developer Burnout as an Individual

Always keep things fresh and try out new things. If you work with the same technology, things become monotonous and boring, dedicate a portion of your time to learning new technologies and working on your projects, try out new stacks, it keeps things fresh and improves your mental well being.

Don’t just code, go on vacations and take breaks from coding. Take a break from coding every few months, visit and hangout with family and friends. Go to conferences and meetups, read books etc.

Get a hobby for unwinding down. This is a very important point, have a hobby that you can use to unwind at the end of the day like reading, playing games, watching anime or movies etc, it helps relieve your stress at the end of each day.

Eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Exercise at least 2 to 3 times a week, eat healthy foods( vegies, nuts and fruits) and always get enough sleep, don’t let a bug or a deadline deny you of your sleep on a regular basis.

What if you are already Burned out?

Take a break. Use your time off, forget about anything code and bugs and give yourself at least a week or two of relaxation. Find a new hobby and just relax your mind.

Learn to say no. Learn to say no when you are assigned multiple tasks. It’s good to focus on one task and concentrate on it, rather than having multiple tasks and getting lost in them.

Start slow when you return from your break, don’t jump back into the habits that led you down this part in the first place.

In conclusion software engineering is an environment where people are susceptible to get burned out due to the multiple factors listed above and the damage it causes can sometimes be irreversible, so it’s advisable that as organisation you take care of your devs in a way to avoid them getting to that point and as an individual you always put your physical and mental well being first.

  1. Thank you brother. very spot on. As a software developer I am actually experiencing this now. I think I will take a leave and enjoy myself a little. I will share this with my friends too

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