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developer IT bevopr burnout

When IT developers are on the edge of a breakdown : Overwork and burnout, why companies fail to protect their talents.

By Nicolas Christidis on October, 12 2021
Burn out as an IT developer, What causes? How to manage?

Burnout is not a new concept to anyone. If you are a student, a parent, a worker, or all three at once, you have probably experienced burnout at some point, or at the very least, heard your peers complain about it. You know the saying, "Running on empty?" Or "I am a walking zombie". This is what burnout feels like. Everything feels like it is happening to you, and you are a mere bystander or observer of your reality.

IT developers are no strangers to burnout. If a

Anything, they are at a high risk of burnout because of the mental requirements of the job they do. Professions like coding require you to find new solutions to new and existing problems constantly. You are frequently under pressure to learn, achieve, start and finish projects in record time. A study found that 83% of web developers suffer from burnout.

What is burnout?

Overwork and burnout

Burnout is a prolonged physical, emotional, psychological, mental strain and exhaustion caused by unchecked stress. Burnout should not be mistaken for stress. With stress, you feel like you are not on top of things. You are behind on your deadlines and have so many incomplete tasks. However, with stress, you see an end in sight. As long as you can make a plan and check tasks off your list, you will be able to relax and take a break.


"Overworking is the black plague of 21st century"
Richie Norton, Author


Now, when it comes to burnout, you might feel like you are in a never-ending loop of stress, exhaustion and disillusionment. It feels like every single task brings you no joy, satisfaction or fulfilment.

How can you identify burnout?

Burnout does not happen at once. Instead, it slowly builds up, and you may or may not realize that you are toeing the line between stress and full-blown burnout.

Burnout manifests in different ways. These can be categorized into physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms. If you think you are experiencing burnout, see which of these symptoms you are experiencing, and read the rest of the article to know what might be causing the burnout and how to deal with it.

Physical symptoms
  • Unending tiredness - This tiredness is different from when you have just finished working from 9 am to 5 pm and had a long commute to and from work. This kind of fatigue does not go away as much as you sleep. If anything, you will wake up even more tired than before you slept.
  • Frequent headaches - These kinds of headaches cannot be fixed by sleep, painkillers or upping your water intake.
  • Muscle pains- Your joints ache, even if you have not engaged in any strenuous activity.
  • Change in appetite - You may realize that you can go a whole day without eating. This is because you do not feel hungry, and even when you do, you cannot bring yourself to eating. You have no interest in nourishment.
  • Unusual sleep patterns - This can go one of two ways, either you will experience insomnia for days on end, or you will sleep excessively.
Emotional symptoms
  • Self-doubt - As a developer, tasks you were usually confident you could achieve seemed complex and foreign. You are constantly questioning your skills and abilities. This is also referred to as imposter syndrome.
  • Helplessness - You constantly feel lost, confused, disillusioned. You may also feel like you may never pull yourself from this feeling or state of mind.
  • Detachment - You do not feel passionate about your work or your profession. It feels like you are a robot programmed to complete tasks without emotion or interest. Your goal is to get to the finish line without any genuine interest in the task at hand.

"I noticed that I had no joy in work and it was affecting my health and productivity. There was not a discussion of burnout at that time but it led me  to quit my job, work locums, and pivot my career."
Aditi Joshi, medical director, Thomas Jefferson University

  • Demotivation - Previously, you may have been one to jump at any opportunity to start a new project or learn a new skill. When experiencing burnout, you have no genuine eagerness to learn.
  • Lack of fulfilment - As a developer, grasping new concepts, finding solutions to problems is part of the appeal of your job. You constantly challenge yourself to reach new milestones, complete big projects or learn new programming languages. When you are burnt out, there is no joy or satisfaction from completing tasks or overcoming challenges.
Behavioural symptoms
  • Avoiding responsibilities - You look for any opportunity to avoid your current responsibilities and do not take any initiative at work. If you were previously eager to take on any additional responsibility, you now shy away from it.
  • Isolation - You may isolate yourself at work and outside work. If you used to join your workmates for your lunch break, you now prefer to spend all your time at your desk.
  • Procrastination - You put off tasks until the last minute because you doubt your ability to finish projects successfully.
  • Substance abuse - You may start turning to drugs to feel better and get a sense of euphoria and excitement that you lack in your personal and professional work.
  • Random outbursts - You may have random outbursts at work. Simple inconveniences or misunderstandings at work may set you off.
  • Calling out of work constantly - You look for any excuse to call out of work. This may go on for days or even weeks.

Causes of burnout :

Monotonous work

Burnout does not only stem from only having an excessive workload. Many factors might contribute to burnout, as you will see below.

1.    Monotonous work

Burnout can stem from doing the same tasks over and over again. Working with the same programming language day in and day out can get boring. While it means you will accomplish tasks in record time, it eventually demotivates and depresses you because you are not mentally challenged or stimulated.

2.    Meaningless tasks

Programmers are curious by nature. They constantly seek out new and challenging tasks. However, they may land a job in a company whose programming needs are simple and mundane. This is not the ideal environment for a programmer, even if they are well paid. The simplicity of the tasks can cause burnout from boredom and a lack of mental stimulation.

3.    Trying to beat deadlines

Clients treat programmers like robots because of their field of work. If you are not in the programming field, you might assume it is easy to work. Unfortunately, clients usually have unrealistic expectations and time limits. For a programmer who works on multiple projects simultaneously, trying to beat several tight deadlines can overwhelm you, leading to burnout.

bevopr LinkedIn survey

A survey by bevopr (published 8/3/2021) shows that stress and mental fatigue is the key point leading to burnout

4.    Lack of recognition

As human beings, we constantly seek external validation. If you work in an environment without a rewards and recognition system, you will lose passion and dedication for your work. If you complete one task and get another one with no feedback or appreciation, you will lose interest and motivation.

5.    Sitting in front of your desk for too long

Programming is solely done on your computer. This means that for the duration of the day, you are staring at your laptop screen coding. At best, you will take a lunch break and then go right back to writing programming languages. Gradually, the stagnancy in your environment can fuel mental exhaustion and burnout.

Furthermore, programming is a mental task, so constantly using your brain and challenging it can trigger a burnout if you do not take breaks.


"′Micro-breaks′ as short as 15-30 seconds, can improve mental acuity by 13%"
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness

6.    Unclear job descriptions

People generally do not understand that the IT industry is divided into different professions. If you are a freelancer, you have encountered clients who want to hire you to provide a range of services not typically under your job description. If you have no clear boundaries, you may get roped into carrying out duties above your paygrade. This can quickly lead to burnout.

7.    Walking the death march

These are projects that have failed even before you start them. A study found that 43% of developers agreed that the cynicism associated with unrealistic projects is one of the leading causes of burnout.

For example, the client has unrealistic expectations, a tight budget, and is short on staff. This can cause the team members to lose morale right from the start. Burnout stems from the team trying as much as possible to breathe life into a dead project. They put in extra hours and resources, but the project is not coming along because of limited resources. This can be depressing for the team because they feel like it is a personal failure.


"Burning out forced me to me around and to think about my own mind and how it works. Coding was something I took for granted, just like walking or seeing. When that ability was suddenly gone, I was left puzzled."

Grigory Yakushev, former Google employee

8.    Perfectionist tendencies

Some people are aiming for perfection in everything they do. At times, you will be a beginner at specific tasks. If you strive for perfection in everything, the pressure to perform can lead to burnout.

In addition, perfectionists always have an issue with relinquishing control. They assume that if they do not carry out a task themselves, it will be done poorly. Consequently, they may take on too many tasks that will drive them to extreme exhaustion.

9.    High achieving personalities

If you are the kind of person who derives satisfaction and fulfilment from only your work, you are prone to burnout. This is because you only feel productive if you are constantly working on multiple projects at once. Too much of anything is detrimental to your well-being. Gradually, you may deplete your energy source.

How to manage burnout ?

Encourage IT developers to make use of their vacation days

Find your new job !

1. Make room for remote work

Programming is one of those professions that can be done anywhere, as long as one has a laptop and a good internet connection. Allow employees to work remotely a few times a week so they can have a change in environment.

2. Allow developers to have flexible schedules

Web development does not need to follow the conventional 9-5. As long as they can meet their deadlines and present deliverables, there is no reason developers should not create a timetable that suits their different commitments. People are productive at other times of the day. Allow them to schedule their work for the most suitable time.

3. Set realistic expectations with clients

As a team manager or freelancer, do not allow clients to give you unreasonable deadlines. Instead, communicate your timelines and how flexible they are. This will save you much stress and additional pressure.

4. Encourage IT developers to make use of their vacation days

Rest can do wonders for the body. Encourage the developers on the team to unplug and recharge their bodies and minds. If you are running a company, make it mandatory to use at least half of your vacation days, so your employees can come back refreshed and ready to take on new tasks.

5. Encourage wellness and hobbies

Programming is mentally tasking. Even when you are not actively working, you are thinking and strategizing. Create a time in your day or week where you can completely unplug from work and do something completely unrelated to web development.

For instance, going to the gym, a dance class, meditation, jogging, painting, or anything that can take your mind off work.

"Results included 35 papers and indicate that physical, social and creative community recreation can contribute to the recovery and social inclusion of individuals with mental health challenges."

According to a canadian study

6. Establish a rewards and recognition system

Rewarding or even just recognizing workers for a job well done shows them that they are appreciated and that their contribution is seen and critical to the firm's success. Also, even the best of programmers occasionally experiences imposter syndrome. Being reminded that they are doing a good job reminds them that they are, in fact, good at their job.

7. Create room for skills development

Developers are always looking for the next programming language they can learn, the next challenging programme they can embark on. If they are working in the same position and never being challenged or offered opportunities to learn new skills, they will lose motivation.

Create a development program to study part-time to learn a new skill and make an even more significant contribution to the team.

8. Create and communicate clear boundaries

As a web developer, your work will always spill over to your time. If you continue letting it encroach on your time, you will burn out in no time.

Sit down, set a time limit for your web development, and communicate it with your superiors, peers, and clients. You might be reluctant to do this because it seems lazy or demanding. And yet, it is quite the contrary. Everyone needs boundaries. Boundaries are essential and show assertiveness. After a particular time, do not allow yourself to deal with any work-related issue. Instead, use this time to rest and recharge.

Burnout is part of being a working professional. However, you can nip it in the bud before it starts affecting your work and personal life.

If, despite our advice, you still feel overwhelmed and are looking for professional help, you can speak to a CHS therapist for free at the following link

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