Tech leaders must address employee burnout – or else

Tech leaders must address employee burnout – or else
November 15, 2023  |  BY

When we hear about the state of the economy, the stories generally focus on growth, employment numbers, and abstract terms like Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But behind the statistics are the real-world ramifications for employees that are difficult to measure but which affect the economy to a great degree. And near the top of that list is worker burnout.

Despite popular perception, the technology sector is not immune to burnout – a condition that creates exhausted workers, which in turn leads to high levels of attrition rates and decreased productivity. In fact, due to the recent pandemic, massive layoffs, and the competitive importance of technology for every organization, IT pros are burning out at surprisingly increasing rates.

CIOs and CTOs aren’t as aware of this issue as they need to be. According to a recent survey, nearly 45% of full-time IT pros say they suffer from “unmanageable workloads, insufficient support, and unrealistic deadlines.” Another survey of IT pros shows the primary factors for burnout to be heavy workloads (57%), insufficient managerial support (32%), and insufficient job resources (31%).

By definition, burnout manifests over time. To begin, typically employees simply feel exhausted from unrealistic workloads. The fatigue that sets in makes it impossible for them to legitimately rest and generate fresh energy for the following busy day. Thus the vicious cycle of low mood, stress, and in many cases cardiovascular problems. The mental and physical strife can ultimately lead to lack of motivation, decreased productivity, and even doubt about their skills and expertise.

Then, according to a report from 2022, companies can end up with cynical workers who are distant with their colleagues; it’s not exactly a recipe for a high-performing technology department.

Leaders must begin to address the underlying causes of burnout. If not, the vital IT functions for which they’re responsible – and the success of the entire organization – might be in peril. Sixty-two percent of tech pros are “physically and emotionally drained.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that 42% of workers experiencing burnout ponder the idea of leaving their jobs within six months. And 43% claim they don’t have enough time to study for certifications, which impacts skill acquisition (and which can slow down the progress of new company-wide initiatives).

Burnout doesn’t only affect present-day productivity and accomplishment. Burned out workers have the potential to write negative company reviews, which can hurt recruiting efforts of essential tech talent. In an environment where IT pros can essentially choose where they work, your organization needs every possible advantage over the competition. A generous salary, amazing benefits, and career prestige are no longer enough to lure high-skilled talent; they demand to work for companies that understand the concept of work/life balance.

If you’re a CIO or CTO, worker burnout – and the factors that cause it in the first place – may seem impossible to resolve. After all, you’re tasked with leading strategic projects that affect every aspect of the organization. There’s simply no time to take a step back and shift the culture; there’s no way you can slow down when competitive advantage is a daily battle.

Yet you can extinguish the inferno of employee burnout when you address the root causes of the fire. For one, look at your organization’s remote work policy. Working from home became a new standard during and shortly after the pandemic, but now many organizations want people back in the office. However, only 8% of IT workers will be happy being in the office all week. There’s a clear line in the sand between what management wants and what technical professionals prefer. And it’s a power struggle that the former won’t win: Over 75% of IT workers say they will consider looking for a new employer if they don’t have a remote work option.

This can’t be overstated. Remote work is now one of an employee’s most important criteria when seeking a role – or remaining at their current role. For 63% of IT professionals, the ability to work from home ranks ahead of paid parental leave (20%), paid time off for volunteering (19%), company-paid meals and snacks (21%), and employee discounts (29%).

In addition to evaluating your remote work policy, look at other proactive measure that can stop the spread of burnout and improve the employee experience. Mentorship, more opportunities for advancement, increased attention to work/life balance, and basic awareness of overworked employees can alleviate the issues that cause exhaustion and lack of motivation. Locate where you can decrease stress and heighten enthusiasm.

To be sure, burnout isn’t something you can eliminate by merely implementing new procedures. Like with any negative situation in an organization, true change requires a cultural shift, and that’s something that can only occur over time. Consistency is the key to success.

Create a plan and stick to it, and eventually you’ll realize the tangible benefits: increased retention, more wins in recruitment, higher productivity and efficiency, and better results with major initiatives. As you know, technology isn’t your most important asset – your employees are. Treat them as such.