Developer burnout: 3 ways to avoid it on your IT team

Burnout is a common problem in development teams. Here are three strategies to prevent it
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Software development is continuous and constantly changing. As a result, modern developers may feel “always on,” with little downtime to recharge. A study from Haystack found that 83 percent of software developers suffer from workplace burnout.

It’s no secret that the pandemic increased feelings of burnout, but other variables exacerbate these feelings as well. The top reasons developers cited in the study for burnout included high workload (47 percent), inefficient processes (31 percent), and unclear goals or targets (29 percent).

Developer experience (DevEx) refers to the overall interactions and feelings that a developer experiences when working toward a goal. It can play a critical role in curating positive experiences for both developers and end users. A frictionless developer experience that uncomplicates processes and helps prevent developer burnout is vital.

[ Also read Burnout: 3 steps to prevent it on your team. ]

How work is structured in a remote environment is a significant factor in developing a positive work culture that enables companies to retain and attract high-value employees. Autonomy and a degree of authority over time and location can help restore a feeling of control.

3 tips to prevent developer burnout

Here are three solutions to help prevent burnout on your developer team:

1. Automate simple processes

Automation is a key part of every industry today, from advanced AI and machine learning to simply using software to complete tasks more efficiently.

Developers have become integral to all types of work in organizations. When managing a team of developers, help prevent burnout by suggesting the most efficient and motivating ways to manage their task lists.

Developers should have quick, structured processes to complete tasks. For instance, utilizing tools and technologies to simplify complex work are some best practices for removing repetitive work and making it faster and easier to ship code. Long, laborious processes bog developers down and may delay or prevent the satisfaction of shipping something out.

Keep a pulse on your developers through surveys and 1:1 meetings, and actively pursue other ways to gather information about how the team feels about their workload and any processes they’d like to automate.

Automation also gives developers more bandwidth. By automating simple administrative tasks and access to rich communications data, and reprising stagnant processes, you can give your developers more time to innovate rather than getting caught up in basic, time-consuming tasks.

2. Build an output-focused culture

To build an output-focused culture, start by setting clear goals. Once these goals are in place, give your developers full use of all available tools and the autonomy to manage their processes to achieve them.

A flexible work schedule can enable an output-focused culture that limits stress in the modern world and increases productivity. Most developer jobs don’t require workers to be in an office all the time, so why not give your team flexibility?

Developers don't necessarily get more done by sitting in a chair longer.

Employees value being able to set their schedules. Having control over their time and location enables feelings of agency and autonomy. Keep in mind that knowledge and thought-based work does not necessarily align with eight hours of output: Developers don’t necessarily get more done by sitting in a chair longer.

3. Prevent long-term stress that leads to burnout

While overworking is not always the problem, it contributes to burnout. As a leader, it’s essential to lead by example and show that it’s OK to take time off to recharge.

In line with the output-focused mindset mentioned above, the industry is trending away from a strict 9-to-5 schedule. According to the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, 43 percent of respondents said that flexible working hours helped them be more productive.

Developers should be able to put their personal needs on the same page as their work. Demonstrating this as a leader sets a precedent that helps your team find a balance in their own lives.

Preventing burnout keeps your team physically and mentally healthy and ultimately improves productivity. That productivity leads to greater innovation and helps the company grow as your team focuses on building positive experiences for end users.

[ Learn how CIOs are speeding toward goals while preventing employee burnout in this report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]

Christine Spang is the co-founder and CTO of Nylas, a communications API provider. She leads Nylas’ technical strategy and delivery of cutting-edge products that allow hundreds of thousands of developers to build omnichannel communications, workflow automation, and frictionless digital experiences.