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Manage and Prevent Developer Burnout

Despite the great motivation and drive (or sometimes because of it), developers get burnt out quite often. Let's take a look at the most common triggers and how you can prevent your developers from draining all of their programming energy.
Daniel Zacharias

Erick Cardenas

January 20, 2023
developer burnout

Let’s face the fact: developers are the global talk of the town. They are in high demand, the market doesn’t shy away from giving them sky-high salaries, and outsourcing has made it possible for remote devs to build their careers from anywhere. In a sense, it feels like a dream job.

Yet, this job is also infamous for tight deadlines, constant pressure, and long work hours. 

Despite the great motivation and drive (or sometimes because of it), developers get burnt out quite often. Let’s take a look at the most common triggers and how you can prevent your developers from draining all of their programming energy.

What causes developer burnout

We can’t blame developer burnout on just one action since burnout is the result of a process. Like any other kind of burnout, developer burnout happens when an engineer keeps taking on too much work for too long. 

One part of the problem is that devs don’t take some time to recognize they’ve been stressed out, unmotivated, and burdened by impossible deadlines. The other part of the problem is that their manager or HR don’t notice the situation, or they even contribute to it by creating a burnout-encouraging environment.

How to recognize developer burnout

To prevent developer burnout, you must recognize its first signs. Here’s a brief list of the symptoms that you should watch out for. 

  • Poor response to feedback — it’s true that people have different reactions to good or bad news. However, if you notice your software developer’s been indifferent to either praise or criticism, it’s time you did something about it. 

Developers are usually passionate about coding, analyzing, learning new skills, and developing innovative solutions. It’s simply a part of their job description. A lack of enthusiasm that lasts for a while is definitely a warning sign.

  • Procrastination — all the results are there, but it took the developers longer than usual. If there’s a pattern of completing simple tasks later than usual, that says a lot. Take it as a warning even if developers meet the final deadline for the project.
  • Low work quality — mistakes that constantly appear, even when the task isn’t challenging, usually point out that your developers are overworked.
  • Constant complaints — if the developers are complaining about the workload, feeling exhausted, or maybe even having a poor sleep that could be work-stress-related, it’s just a matter of time before they burn out and don’t even bother explaining themselves.
  • Missing deadlines — the last and final warning for developers and you. If they start missing deadlines, it’s time for them to slow down or take a break. 

It’s important to note that these signs might appear for other reasons. So, If you recognize any of these red flags, act fast and try to understand what’s hiding behind them. You may save your developers and projects on time. 

Steps to prevent developer burnout

You can use a number of techniques and methods to prevent your developers from getting “broken” including the following:

Increase flexibility  

The office is a great place to exchange ideas and feel the uplifting team spirit, but the constant commute can take a toll. After all, one of the reasons why a person decides to become a developer is the possibility of remote work

Developers need a lot of concentration when coding. If the office is hectic, they may be better off working from home, provided they have fewer interruptions in their home office.

Therefore, show some flexibility when it comes to the actual workplace. Same goes for schedules — working flexitime and not sticking to strict 9-to-5 hours can do wonders for productivity.

Encourage regular physical activity

Computer back has become a standard term for defining the posterior cervical dorsal syndrome. That’s right. This is precisely how common back issues are among the development workforce. Sitting for long hours, especially with bad posture, leads to strained muscles, headaches, impaired diaphragm function, and many other potential disorders.

Constant physical pain or discomfort definitely speeds up the burnout process, so you must do something about it. Organize pilates or yoga classes before or after work hours. Arrange discounts for gym memberships, or pay for them. Work on health and wellness programs with your HR to remind your developers to take better care of their health.

Establish “Normal” deadlines

In short, these are deadlines that are the opposite of “insane deadlines.” 

Admittedly, some projects require extra work, and it’s hardly a surprise when a company accepts a very tight deadline just to stay ahead of the competition. On the other hand, too many deadlines like that one, and you’ll be left with a team unable to provide quality work. 

Therefore, always try to set realistic deadlines. Think about the real world, not the perfect world where no one ever gets sick or distracted.

Show appreciation and recognition

A happy developer is a productive developer. Providing regular positive feedback on their achievements makes a developer feel valued and appreciated. Moreover, they feel safer and more secure about their position. If the manager openly recognizes their qualities, developers can feel more at ease and concentrate better. 

Good communication is crucial for preventing burnout.  

Support personal time off

The company or the project won’t fall apart if a dev takes a week off. 

Managers usually focus on work, deadlines, upcoming projects, current issues, etc. Yet, they should also encourage developers to use their PTOs. Taking vacations is just as important as working. Time off helps us unwind and return to work well-rested and able to create fresh new ideas.

By following these pieces of advice, you can completely avoid developer burnout. Just remember to permanently implement the above methods in your work, as burnout is a result of a process, not a one-time mishap.

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