header image of child suffering burnout from studying

Written by:
Iain Brook

How to spot the signs of developer burnout before it’s too late

You might remember a blog post we wrote last year about developer burnout. The top line was that 83% of software engineers were suffering from some degree of burnout, and Covid was chiefly to blame.

However, as we move into 2022 and there’s talk about having to ‘live with the virus’, more needs to be done to prevent developers from reaching burnout. Because let’s be brutally honest, if they do reach that point, there’s a good chance they’ll be looking for a route out.

Obviously, this will need to be balanced with expansion plans. Every company is looking to grow this year and are depending on their employees to make that happen.

Stress ‘epidemic’

The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive show that the UK is seeing something of a stress epidemic at the moment.

In the last two years, there were an estimated 822,000 workers affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety. This represents 2,480 per 100,000 workers. When stress is accounting for 50% of all work-related ill health, employers can’t afford to ignore the issue.

Working from home full time isn’t doing anyone any favours. The blurring of work and home makes many remote workers feel the need to be ‘always on’, leading to long hours.

Also, when people are working from home, they become responsible for their own motivation – and have to make decisions without any of the usual collaboration – causing them to feel overwhelmed or apathetic.

Listening to staff

With workers away from the office, it can be tricky to spot the signs of burnout. Open and honest conversations, at regular intervals, are key – whether employees are on site or WFH – to understand how employees are feeling.

Look out for those signs of burnout, which include:

  • Feelings of exhaustion and fatigue
  • Periods of low motivation and productivity
  • Negative or cynical emotions about the work

Developers might not spell out these signs explicitly but may allude to certain behaviours such as procrastination and difficulty meeting deadlines.

Burnout can lead to irritability, poor sleep and physical symptoms like headaches or digestive problems. It’s unhealthy for the employee and unproductive for the business

Acting on the signs

If the signs point towards burnout, you need to have some practical solutions to call on. In the short term, perhaps the developer would benefit from some flexibility in their work hours or some time off?

Then it’s about implementing some longer-term solutions – which might require a change to processes or company culture – that won’t only put the business in a better place with its current staff, but make it a more appealing proposition to candidates.


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