There’s a lot to love about a career in tech. The work is challenging. It is never routine. And, it is always in demand. It provides great pay and lots of job security. Best of all, tech employees get to make a real difference in the world. Tech advancements make our world better, safer, more convenient, and more entertaining than ever before. Your IT employees’ work has an immediate and tangible impact.

However, there’s a flip side. It’s rigorous, relentless work. The hours are grueling. The demands are seemingly ceaseless. It’s perhaps little wonder, then, that the industry is facing an impending crisis of employee burnout and attrition. This article examines the problem of burnout in the tech industry and describes strategies employers can use to curb it.

What Is Burnout and Why Does It Matter?

No matter how much your employees may love their job, every career has its stressors. After all, when a person is dedicated to their work and takes pride in its outcomes, they must inevitably invest a good deal of themselves. Their time, focus, talents, and energy are all concentrated on this endeavor.

And that, inevitably, is a drain. It takes a physical, mental, and emotional toll. When your employees aren’t proactive in replenishing the internal reserves that hard work pulls from, they are setting the stage for burnout.

The challenge, though, is that burnout is not always easily diagnosed or immediately recognizable. It can manifest in a myriad of ways. Burnt-out employees may lose focus. They may become depressed, anxious, or irritable. They may also face frequent illnesses, from chronic headaches to digestive disorders to hypertension to chronic infections. The end result is often both the deterioration of job performance and an increased likelihood of employee turnover.

Why Tech Workers Are at Particular Risk

All workers are at risk of burnout, but those who work in the tech industry are especially vulnerable. It’s not difficult to understand why. The extremely rapid pace at which the industry moves and the often high-stakes of tech projects can easily leave tech workers feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

IT professionals are frequently asked to meet seemingly impossible project deadlines, adhere to tight budgets, and continuously draw on and develop highly advanced technical skills that few outside of the industry can fathom. As such, tech workers may grapple with the fear of failure, cognizant that failing to live up to the stringent demands of the work, the industry, and the project may lead to costly delays, millions of dollars of revenue losses, and even design flaws that can put the health and safety of end users at risk.

Over time, such stressors can have a profoundly negative impact on tech employees, undermining their productivity and overall well-being. After all, there is a strong link between mental and physical health.

What Employers Can Do

As pervasive as burnout can be in the tech industry, there are things employers can do to protect their workers. The key is to be alert and proactive.

For example, though it may seem counterintuitive, offering your employees ample opportunities for paid time off and “mental health days” is a critical step in preventing burnout and boosting your business’s efficiency and productivity over the long term. In addition, offering perks such as discounted gym memberships and gift certificates for spa treatments, chiropractic care, massage therapy, and other self-care practices will support employees in managing stress and disconnecting from work during their off hours.

Nevertheless, there is only so much that a commitment to rest, relaxation, and self-care can do. Your employees aren’t going to take advantage of these perks if they’re laboring under an unmanageable workload.

Thus, preventing burnout among your tech workers doesn’t end with the individual employees. You also have to be operationally strategic. This includes ensuring that you staff your business effectively and build teams large enough to distribute work obligations fairly and judiciously.

It also means not placing unreasonable demands on your team. Excessively tight budgets and accelerated timelines are tantamount to demanding the impossible, particularly for the most advanced projects. To be sure, high standards and rigorous expectations may well be motivational and aspirational. However, relentlessly lofty demands — especially when uncoupled from tangible support — only lead to demoralization and, ultimately, burnout.

The Takeaway

Burnout is a threat to employees in any industry. However, tech workers are especially at risk. The fast pace and extremely high performance standards that characterize tech work mean that IT professionals often have precious little time left to attend to their physical, mental, or emotional well-being.

The good news, however, is that there are things employers can do to help protect their workers from burnout. This includes offering ample opportunities for time off, access to self-care resources, and the cultivation of a business model that supports a healthy work-life balance for all employees.

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