Are you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted from work?
Burnout is a common experience among developers, and it can have serious consequences on your health and personal life. But don't worry, there are ways to prevent and overcome burnout. As an expert technical writer and web developer, I have gathered valuable insights into the 7 phases of burnout and effective strategies to avoid it. In this article, I will share with you the causes of burnout, its phases, and practical tips for individuals and managers to prevent it from happening. So, let's dive in and learn how to take care of your well-being while staying productive and motivated.
What is Burnout?
Burn + out = burnout. It's a slow process to ruin our health with too much stress and workload.
This happens when you visualize life as in the left column of the following image.
With this image, you can easily visualize how workaholic life can be dangerous and we should give time to ourselves and our family too rather than working the whole day and getting burnouts.
In ICD-11 burn-out is defined as follows:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."
Burnouts are part of developers' life. Sometimes we become highly productive and sometimes we forget to take care of our health.
Reasons for getting burnout
Now there can be many reasons of getting burnout. Too much stress and being a workaholic is not the only way to make them our best friends. Rather there are other ways too which we have discussed in the following:
We often overschedule things for 2 reasons. One is you're lazy and you've started working just 3 hours before the deadline. Second is that you're running behind your income status(rich/poor) and you think that you aren't happy with what you have.
In the second case, you might be having the dream of living a lavish lifestyle and you're just working too hard without taking breaks to become rich in a faster mode. In this way, you're just ruining your health.
More Social Media:
Ping, ting, ting, ping, ping, ping and pings...
You might be thinking that I'm crazy lol 😂😂. But no, I just wanna remind you about the huge number of notifications you get in a day when you have multiple social media accounts. After that, you can't resist yourself you look up at your phone and check out if someone needs your help. Then you start helping that person and after that, you keep on scrolling through other features of that application or you might switch over to some applications to check in with other people in your network.
I call it Hero syndrome. It shows that you're constantly available on your socials just like me. This increases the amount of distraction while you're working.
DND mode comes to the rescue. Truly speaking, I'm getting them right now and I need to turn DND mode on XD.
Rushing behind something:
Now, this can be anything. This can be name, fame, dream of being rich or viral on social media. Multitasking is one of the results of this reason.
Also, there might be cases in which you've forgotten your files where you kept or your computer password. Hell, this would be the worst thing happening to you and at this moment you might be getting stressed out to recall them or you might be getting goosebumps to ask your boss for it.
Experts say that it takes 2yrs on average to recover from burnout. It's caused by repetitive stress for several years from different project pressures and a lack of work-life balance lifestyle.
You might be hearing from a lot of people that "work-life balance" is a myth. But the truth is if you can implement it in your life, then you never know how beautiful, happier and healthy life you'll be leading in your career.
Japan’s karoshi culture
The word "Karoshi" means death for overworking. It's a Japanese term that indicates sudden death due to being a workaholic. We all know that stress can lead to heart attacks, high blood pressure and many other severe and critical health issues leading to death.
Some people even commit suicide for fear of losing jobs as they're unable to take the high workload. This is ridiculous and shouldn't be happening. The relation here is simple. Burnouts even lead to depression and depression leads to suicide. If such cases, happen then you should leave that job and find another one which suits you.
We're all immortal creatures and we have to die someday. But don't you wanna live longer with your close people for whom you're working? I think yes. In fact, for me, I really wanna live longer with my family and friends. For that health must be our top priority.
This was something that I came across while researching before writing this blog. For reference, you may check out the following resources:
Phases of Burnout
Burnout cycles generally have 7 phases. We've discussed 8 of them(1 bonus) as below.
Honeymoon phase/Super productive phase: At this phase, you're highly productive at work. You wanna be the hero at your company and you're just ready to take up everything you can do apart from the task assigned to you.
Onset of stress: At this phase, you've taken up all your work including the work of your colleagues or you might have been given too much work to be done which you agreed to be completed within a short time. Now you're thinking that how will you manage to get all the work done within the deadline that you told your manager. Most people make timetables to divide tasks and complete them within the deadline. Some of them put on their superhero jacket and start working with a lot of overthinking in their minds.
Neglecting yourself just to get the job done: As time passes, you get more pressure. With workload and the heroic nature of social media platforms, you start neglecting yourself.
You might stop drinking water properly or you might start inhaling cold coffee which was kept on your table in the hot form an hour ago. I often do this kind of thing, so I'm pretty aware of this 😅.
This way you'll start neglecting yourself and you'll forget your hobbies, health and hygiene and everything.
Do you look cool this way? I don't think so. It's looking like you're pretty occupied with a lot of tasks and you're just aiming to get it done ASAP.
Interpersonal problems: There is a huge chance to have interpersonal problems at home and work at this point. This will happen because of canceling parties, hangout plans or some kind of chill meetings in the office. At home, this will also happen as you'd not be able to give time to your family and close ones. You'd miss vacations that you promise to go with them. You'd tell them repeatedly that you have a lot of work and reschedule events and trips every month a couple of times without even attending. In the end, this might lead to depression due to which you might start shouting at your colleagues or family members even if they haven't told you anything bad.
Reduce performance and cognitive problems: This is the phase of burnout when you feel tired and distracted from your mobile notification and you start scrolling through Tinder or YouTube Shorts feed. You're in search of entertainment and you need people around to talk and feel good.
Your mind might be telling you, "I know I have work but I don't know how to do that". LOL. Just kidding. 😂 But this happens as you start becoming lazy.
Can't get excited about working anymore: You feel low and bored at this point and start realizing that you have lost all interest in completing those tasks that you had at the first phase when you just took it all on your shoulders.
Some people feel like dancing and proud of the things that they've done by this time.
Physical symptoms: Here comes the real pressure when you come out of your dream world and realize that you have 1 or 2 days left or a few hours left to submit all your tasks. You start again being productive even though you don't have any interest and then you neglect everything around yourself just to focus on work.
At this point, real health problems slowly start developing inside your body. You get severe back pain and headache as the starting symptom of burnout. Problems like digestive issues, heart problems and real depression start grasping your body and mind.
Total burnout: Now, you're totally burnt out. You feel completely demotivated and depressed. Here comes Japan's Karoshi culture to take place. Some people even commit suicide and some feel like quitting their jobs.
Note: This doesn't happen for a single project or a single task. Multitasking is the main cause for developers who get burnouts quickly. Some people also get them while working on lined-up projects one after the other without taking breaks.
One should avoid them by following the tips that have been discussed later in this blog.
Open Source and Burnouts
Open Source is a pretty cool thing and I love contributing to Open Source projects. Frankly speaking, all are my projects are open-sourced. But there's a twist here. Too much open source contribution every day might also lead to burnout as in this case you're working a lot and committing them one by one on your git repository. One can easily visualize your workload and your chances of getting burnouts just by having a look at the green squares on your GitHub profile. Developers like me who love making open-source contributions every day might have their contribution graph full of light green squares.
This is my contribution graph. You might visualize that I had burnout on some days(mostly in October).
How to avoid burnout?
The following tips will help you to avoid burnout and lead a healthy and happy life.
Speak up and get clarity on your work from your senior developer or manager.
Set boundaries and goals or rather timetables to follow the divide-n-rule method to divide your task into routines and get them done before the deadline while taking breaks.
Take control of your notifications. Turn on DND mode on your phone while working to keep yourself away from distractions. You can be a hero in your network which is fine but you may schedule a particular time of your day for that work maybe an hour or 30 minutes.
Cultivate a rich non-work life by finding something outside of your passion. Get a hobby like singing, dancing, storytelling, writing, etc., and make it a habit to practice for a few mins or an hour every day. You'll realize that life is getting better.
Keep your work and home life separate so that you can maintain a proper work-life balance and also give some time to your family and friends. For inspiration, you may watch Season 3 of Stranger Things.
Get enough sleep for at least 7-8 hours a day. Most people think that 6 hours of sleep is quite enough but research tells that this will lead to burnout for sure.
Read books and spend time with younger ones especially babies or little children if possible. They have a pure heart and soul and they can eventually take away all your stress magically.
Exercise daily and practice meditation every morning.
Go for vacations; take breaks. Also, encourage other people to take their own vacation time and help them avoid critical situations like burnout or depression.
Have regular one-to-one meetings with your manager or seniors if you have any doubts regarding your work. Try to learn from them and actively listen while they're delivering something before you.
Recognize both big and small wins of your life. Enjoy every little thing happening in your life. it can be helping someone or it can be getting promoted in your career. It can be cooking something new or gifting your family members something beautiful.
Note that burnout not only affects you but it also affects people around you.
This is a great quote that should be kept in mind always. Thanks to Tapas Adhikary Sir for putting it up.
TL;DR: Burnout is a common experience among developers that can have serious consequences on their health and personal life. It is caused by repetitive stress and a lack of work-life balance. The burnout cycle has 7 phases, and it takes an average of 2 years to recover from it. Common reasons for burnout include overscheduling, excessive use of social media, and rushing behind something. Open source contributions and Japan's karoshi culture can also contribute to burnout. To avoid burnout, individuals and managers can implement practical strategies such as setting boundaries, cultivating a rich non-work life, and getting enough sleep. Remember, burnout not only affects you but also the people around you, so it's important to prioritize your well-being and take care of yourself.
Hope this helps you. Thank you for reading, and let's connect!