The Disregarded Reality of Burnout Crisis in the Tech Industry by@kaiiyer

The Disregarded Reality of Burnout Crisis in the Tech Industry

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Kai Iyer

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After careful evaluations of interests, preferences, and qualifications majority of the youth settle down for a career that is available at that point rather than taking time to explore other possibilities given the peer pressure and circumstances then. Once they get into the industry they need time to adjust and get accustomed to the new environment, but the industry isn’t kind enough to nurture you like your kindergarten teacher. The tech industry exerts an enormous amount of pressure to wake kids up from their pipe dream and show them the struggle of hell. This process is a mere contrivance for mass-producing multipurpose tools called employee driven-by salary. Thrown into an endless abyss of uncertainty the buds start to wither and end up in the garbage dump. Who is to blame, the education system which failed to prepare students for this, the industry that expects excellence from the get-go, or the ignorant society?

The output of this bloated curriculum is a confused individual who has become part of the status quo logging in and out on time, paying taxes, weekend drinking, and running away from the reality which is haunting your consciousness in your sleep. Functioning like an assembly of machines following prescribed instructions and retiring in the early 40s has become a norm. What are the core issues and how can we solve this for the next generation? How to survive the industry pressure and revolutionize the toxic work culture will be the focus of this blog.

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
― Cecil Beaton

Everyone who joins the industry wants to do their best and make strong first impressions. In the initial days, there’s this subconscious drive to prove your worth, grab attention, and excel which motivates an individual to put in extra effort for the first recognition in the career. This is where the scrabble starts and ends up in unfriendly competition among peers. Late realization of the point that everyone’s got their own pace of doing things and giving up mid-way because the goal seems unachievable induces self-doubt and overthinking. Comparing productivity and the idea that an individual who doesn’t put extra effort isn’t sincere enough grows into burnout.

What is a burnout crisis?

The World Health Organization defines burnout as an occupational phenomenon that comes as a result of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. In a fast-paced competitive environment, this is common. Everyone might have noticed or experienced burnout at some point in their career but have not taken it seriously or paid enough attention.

A survey conducted by Blind shows that 57.16% suffer from workplace burnout. Some companies had more burnout than others in the survey, but when the best companies have a nearly 40% burnt-out workforce the issue is pressing and needs to be addressed before it’s too late.

What might be the reasons?

Tech professions induce chronic stress and unhealthy habits among employees. Let’s jot down some key reasons and try to find workable solutions.

Unfair Compensation

Pay or compensation discrimination occurs when employees performing similar work do not receive similar pay. The situation may occur due to various factors like educational qualifications, place of work, and so on. But when this discrimination happens for unjustifiable reasons like sex, race, or work experience, it ends up in employment termination. An annual Pay Equity Audit is one way to figure out the pay parity in an organization.

Deadlines and Over-timing

Deadlines are inevitable, but time crunches don’t have to be. Employees are more likely to succumb to burnout when faced with unreasonable time restraints. Tight deadlines will put pressure on employees and force them to overtime, thus inducing a feeling of guilt about productivity and making it easy to overthink, which is a clear precursor of burnout. An enduring and sufficient time off to catch a breath and relax will help combat burnout.

Toxic Workplace Culture

Employees who feel unsupported by their peers and leads are more likely to experience burnout. Office gossip and internal politics run rampant leading to unwanted cliques, friction, and a culture of distrust. Leads criticizing publicly, siloed teams, and working without recognition adds stress resulting in lower productivity, and high turnover. Enforcing flexible work hours, fun events, and addressing gossips spot on will help reduce negativity and help maintain a fresh mindset.

Unrealistic Expectations

Setting unrealistic goals without consulting the team invites unwanted pressure and attrition. Such situations will force employees to neglect their comfort and mental health to get the job done at the earliest. Hyped-up expectations forget that quality is better than quantity, and someone who is working themselves too hard now will likely be out of commission later.

Social Isolation

Every team in the industry has high performers who continuously impress, no matter the task. On paper, this looks like a desirable quality however, the same person may haven’t gone on a date in years. Declining invites to events and social gatherings, ignoring friends and family, all in favor of their work. Immutable social isolation and seclusion inside four walls seem good until it turns into multiple sick days down the line. Once the work-life balance falls out of place, it’ll be too much of a task to bring it back to track.

The point to be noted here is that burnout is not the result of individual fault but toxic work culture and unsatisfactory work-life balance. Avoiding burnout is not a one-time job or something managers can fix with a fun event or paid vacation. In order to address the issue, management needs to acknowledge that the problem exists. Nurturing a healthy work environment cannot be done in a day, but the efforts to make it happen should start from day one.

Emphasize collaboration instead of competition, a learning system, fair reward system, operational transparency, and notably, a regular conversation with employees to understand their circumstances better to support them in possible ways can help create a better work environment.

What can employees do to tackle burnout?

Let’s break it down into 10 points that can also be used as a to-do list.

  1. Leave work at the workplace
    Minimize checking emails, meeting minutes, and having work-related conversations outside working hours and focus on social life.
  2. Take breaks
    Staring too much at the screen or sitting in a chair for long hours will take a toll on health, so regular breaks are crucial in maintaining the efficiency for 8 hours.
  3. No messing with food timings
    The tendency to finish the assignment before going for food won’t help in the long run. A timely diet and control over the alcohol and coffee intake add points to a healthy life.
  4. It’s okay to have bad days
    Feeling top of the game and down in the dumps are part of working life. There’s no shame in having a bad day at work. Learn from the mistakes and improve on a daily basis.
  5. Listen more and talk less
    Everyone wants their opinions to be heard, but who’s listening if everyone’s shouting out loud. Reading the room and knowing when to speak is a rare and undervalued quality.
  6. Collaboration and Constructive Criticism
    Collaboration among different people will gather diverse ideas and new perspectives. Point out improvements and welcome constructive criticism as a scope for improvement rather than being offended.
  7. Talk to peers and leads
    New ideas, personal circumstances, and concerns are steered better with multiple brains. Overthinking and creating scenarios in your head will only complicate things. Keep things simple.
  8. Vacation is not for work.
    Take some time off work with friends and family to re-evaluate priorities in life. Avoid work-related talks and enjoy quality time without worrying about projects, clients, and deadlines.
  9. Find time for hobbies and social life
    Set aside time for hobbies and adjust the schedule to balance work and hobbies. Having things to focus on other than work is the key to a long and happy life.
  10. Solo trip once a year
    Traveling solo helps realize things that are important in life. I would recommend a spot, less crowded, away from the city(hills, forests, peaks) and not a tourist attraction. Spending time with nature is the best remedy to burnout.

The drive to get out of your comfort zone to explore the world needs to be incorporated because no matter the path you choose, life goes on. The purpose of life isn’t limited to a 9–5 job and retiring in the early 40s but to live a peaceful life that satisfies you every single day. Dare yourself to do something outside your daily routine and find things that make you jump out of bed. Make space for new things and concern yourself with curiosity. Accept your flaws and appreciate the little things in life, be grateful for the things you have, and keep moving forward.

This article was first published here.

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