Will Olivier and ten days off help to cope with burnout? / Hebrew

Will Olivier and ten days off help to cope with burnout? / Hebrew

Now, before the New Year, the problem of burnout is felt most strongly – December is traditionally a time of burning deadlines and fatigue accumulated over the year, and many people look at the holidays as an opportunity to reboot and deal with the burnout that has been accumulating for a year.

But does it really work that way? I decided to structure my knowledge into an article to understand and share how I track burnout in a team and deal with it myself.

What is burnout and its causes in IT

Let’s first define the concept. Burnout is a loss of efficiency as a result of emotional and, therefore, physical exhaustion. Signs of burnout at work are indifference to responsibilities, to what is happening in the company, negativity towards colleagues, feelings of inability and dissatisfaction with work.

According to research, representatives of helping professions burn out more often: medical workers, teachers and employees of social services. IT specialists are not included in this list, but you and I know that it is in vain, especially if you work in Russia. Managers in IT projects, I think, can compete for the first places in the burnout competition.

Burnout is dangerous because it often causes job changes, so it is important for the manager to monitor the emotional state of the team in order not to lose employees.

In order to correctly recognize burnout and understand how to deal with it, it is worth starting with its causes. For IT in the format we work in (distributed team, remote, mostly online communications) I would identify six main ones:

  1. Too difficult tasksin. This is often the case with Juns when there is no proper support from management or a mentor and the task is difficult. And when solving a problem, a person leans against the wall.

  2. Simple tasks. The opposite of the previous point, when you don’t learn anything new and perform simple tasks with a predictable result. This cause of burnout is specific to the senior level.

  3. Not your place. Burnout happens when a person clearly realizes that he is not doing the work, not what his soul is passionate about. But at the same time, he cannot leave the IT field because of attractive conditions.

  4. Spatial trap. Remote work forms the habit of responding to tasks and thinking about work everywhere and always. This breaks the work-life balance, erases the boundaries between work and life. And the living space actually turns into an office.

  5. A feeling of loneliness. Long-distance communication can cause feelings of loneliness. There is a feeling of lack of team, lack of communication. This is especially acutely felt by those who, before switching to a remote format, worked in an office and communicated with colleagues every day.

  6. Hyper responsibility. Excessively serious attitude to work is a cause of burnout characteristic of team leaders. When an employee moves to the executive level, he has more responsibility. On the one hand, it is useful for the project and the company. But for the employee himself, excessive responsibility is dangerous if he does not know how to dose it. At the initial stage of a career, hyperresponsibility is an advantage: such employees grow faster and move up the career ladder. But over time, it makes us forget about our responsibility to ourselves: worries, constant stress, neglect of sleep, nutrition and health.

How to detect burnout in an employee in time

Hyper-responsibility is the most insidious cause of startup burnout. Because actually for the team, for the development of the project, this is a very important and necessary feature of the employee. And such a pattern of behavior can probably be caught only in the process of work. And we in the team try to track the rest of the listed reasons at one-on-one meetings. In my opinion, this is one of the most effective methods of preventing burnout.

Emotionally, I don’t have a rigid schedule, structure, or protocol for one-on-one meetings. We talk about different things every time. One common question: “How was your last stretch of work?” Sometimes we just talk about life if I see that a person needs it, and sometimes we only discuss work processes. The main thing is to see the condition of the employee, to immerse himself in his life. In my practice, there was a case when, after such a conversation, I immediately sent an employee on vacation, because it was clear that he was on the verge of burnout. It turned out to be effective. There was also a story when an employee got tired of long tasks. After the conversation, I realized that I could just lose the person, so the tasks were distributed internally in such a way that the employee began to complete weekly projects. The quality of work has increased significantly. When it is possible to take into account the wishes of employees, everyone wins – the company, the project, the manager and, of course, the employee himself.

First aid for burnout

So, we figured out what it is and how to detect it, and now we will answer the main question – what to do about it?

The easiest emergency option that immediately comes to mind is a complete shutdown vacation. But if you look at the list of causes of burnout that I collected above, it becomes clear that a vacation will not help if a person returns after it to the same tasks that do not suit him. And it is worth noting that some serious conditions require professional help. For example, coping with hyperresponsibility will be helped by a psychologist who can help you understand its causes.

And what can be done on your own, if burnout is not yet critical, to prevent it:

  1. Reduce importance. At the moment, the question can help: “What is the worst thing that will happen if…” This question can help you get out of a state of stress. After all, burnout is often directly related to stress. And in people with hyperresponsibility, stress increases many times. For example: “What is the worst that can happen if the task goes into release late?” This happened in our practice. And every time the feelings about this issue are unreasonably strong. Yes, there may be disgruntled partners or someone from the internal team, but it is unlikely that something global will happen. And if you ask yourself this question for a moment, the stress level may decrease. The cause of stress is almost always not in the problem, but in relation to it.

  2. Maintain the notorious work-life balance. You need to monitor rest, and sometimes force yourself and employees to rest. Most likely, some managers may be unhappy when employees finish things on time or take an unplanned vacation, but in the long run, everyone will benefit from this.

  3. Exercise. Physical activity helps to produce norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin – chemicals that are responsible for a good mood and cheerfulness. Burnout is unexpressed stress. Movement and sports help to express it.

  4. Art. It can be music, drawing, playing in an amateur theater, and even artistic metalworking — creative processes heal from experiences and help relieve accumulated stress.

  5. The ability to say “No”. People with hyperresponsibility have a habit of taking a lot on themselves, even if they no longer have the energy or time for the task. As a result, deadlines are disrupted, management is dissatisfied, and all this is a cause for concern. If you refuse a task in time, then the deadlines will be met, and the manager will be satisfied, and the nervous system will be in order.

I myself belong to people with hyperresponsibility and a serious tendency to burn out. Rethinking the significance of events, swimming, and playing the drums help keep yourself in shape. These hobbies have been with me for a long time and have always switched the focus of attention well. If you do not constantly monitor your emotional state, ignore obvious signals, you can burn out completely in a year. Coming to your senses and regaining interest in work will not help, and the long-awaited New Year’s vacation is only a short break in the same tasks, which you will have to return to in January.

But olivier and tangerines are what you need.

Keep yourselves!

Maxim Bystrov

CTO of SaaS platform TYMY

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