Stress can often be a part of any workplace. We all have stressful days and stressful projects, but at what point does ‘stress’ turn into burnout? And why is the tech industry, where it is commonplace for it to be a fast-paced and competitive environment, known for its burnout culture? 

The difference between stress and burnout 

The terms ‘stress’ and ‘burnout’ are sometimes used interchangeably. They exist on the same spectrum, but there are some key differences. At a granular level, stress is temporary and often tied to a particular event, project or deadline. When we are stressed, our mental, physical or emotional reserves are pushed past our comfort level.  

Burnout is a cycle of negative emotions, paralysis and withdrawal. It is the body’s response to putting too much effort into something without taking in what you require to restore yourself. It is mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that leads to diminished interest in performing tasks.

How does the Tech industry compare? 

2020 hit tech teams hard and our workforce is feeling more stress than before the pandemic. Workplace Chat App Blind has found that 68% of tech workers feel more burned out than they did when they worked at an office full time. While working remotely has alleviated some daily stressors like commuting, the added stress of long hours, less work-life balance, and video-chat fatigue have added to the fatigue of our employees. 

With many companies priding themselves on their remote working policies, is the tech industry assisting or hindering the mindset that our people are no longer working from home, just living at work? 

Some of the signs you are experiencing burnout 

Sleep 

Do you get 8 hours of sleep and still feel tired when you wake up? Is work keeping you up at night, meaning you never feel rested? 

Sickness 

You get sick a lot. Prolonged stress can tax your immune system, meaning you will get sick more often and your recovery takes longer.  

Motivation 

Burnout wears you down, and the physical and mental exhaustion can mean you may have trouble pushing yourself to complete tasks and assignments.  

Performance 

When your motivation is lacking, you are less productive and you make mistakes. You may also find it difficult to maintain positive relationships with your colleagues, romantic partner and friends.  

What can we be doing to reduce stress in the workplace (and what we can improve on)? 

Recognition and Praise

Giving individuals and teams regular recognition and praise is a great way for organisations to show that you do truly value what they bring to your company. This recognition can come in the form of peer to peer tools, regular company wide announcements and industry wide award nominations. While this may seem trivial to some, we know recognition and praise can decrease stress levels and provide further connection to the organisation.  

Resource Accordingly 

There is only so much you add to someone plate when it is already overflowing. Extra work and longer hours increase the chances of employee burnout. Hiring proactively and analysing team requirements will help teams tackle the big projects effectively and help avoid your current team from feeling overwhelmed.  

Benefits and Rewards  

Benefits, such as EAP services, distributed/flexible work environments and regular engagement initiatives help alleviate stress and prevent burnout. These are all great to offer, but do your teams know how to access them? Ensure the information surrounding your benefits and rewards and easy to find, your leaders know how to provide the information and quite simply, your workplace culture aligns with your teams accessing them.  

Workplace Culture 

Building a sense of community takes time and is critical to building a positive workplace culture. Community and culture go hand in hand when trying to combat burnout in the tech industry. Without a sense of community, burnout can filter through teams uncontrollably. People who are connected and engaged with their work and their workplace, are also better able to cope with the challenges they encounter, and thus are more likely to recover from stress and burnout.  

By addressing employee stress and burnout, companies can improve on a financial, operational, and even human level. And as we move further into 2021, here is our chance to listen to our teams and find a way to help them.