Technology can be a wonderful thing. It has made our world easier, for the most part, and it has enriched our social lives by making the planet seem smaller and more easily connectable. It has also led to many exciting inventions, everything from consumer goods to business products. Despite all these wondrous things, humans weren’t made for working with computers all the time, every minute. At our core, we are social creatures who need fresh air and exercise, too.
Folks who only use tech gadgets recreationally might see technology as a lifehack or a perk. They don’t have the same exposure or pressure as the tech industry people do because they have the option of unplugging and taking a break if they feel overwhelmed. For those who have to work and play in the tech world, however, there really is no escape. For this reason, it can sometimes cause technological overload, also known as burnout.
What is Burnout?
For years, people threw around this catchy buzzword without really understanding the scope of the severity of people who suffered from it, or which cases even warranted a true diagnosis. However, in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 11th revision of its International Classification of Diseases, they gave an updated description. Instead of being described simply as a state of vital exhaustion, burnout is now being officially classified as a “syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that is not successfully being managed.” This is worth noting because a proper diagnosis is key in any mental health pathology, as it affects everything from societal stigma to obtaining a proper treatment plan.
Studies have shown that the employee absentee rate for those suffering from burnout is increasing and businesses are paying between $125 billion to $190 billion per year in extra healthcare costs. Burnout can cause depression, insomnia, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even untimely death.
How Can We Prevent It?
In an ideal situation, the signs of burnout would be detected before a person suffers a full-blown attack. In order to keep an eye out and know what to look for, employers must be trained to not only watch out for the signs, but also take the appropriate measures to keep things from escalating. One of the most telling signs of burnout include feelings of lethargy. Even though all people in various employment positions have dragged themselves to work on the occasional Monday, this goes beyond your standard garden-variety fatigue. Mental stress and anxiety actually generate energy, which, if left untreated, continue on to affect the body in a physical manner. This is why people who are under a great deal of stress also show physical signs of distress, such as ulcers or headaches.
The technology field is much faster paced than other environments. New gadgets and innovations seem to pop up overnight on an almost daily basis, making formerly phenomenal creations obsolete almost immediately. The need to excel and to always be on the cusp of the next great thing is what drives employees from morning until night. As a boss, it’s important to do everything in your power to help your team navigate these troubled waters.
One thing employers can do is to give people at every level a voice in the decision-making process of any new deployment deadlines. Let the employees be part of the discussion about goals and expectations. Encourage feedback and keep an open-door policy about other things that might be affecting them. One of the largest complaints from developers is how disconnected they feel from management since managers, for the most part, are not programmers. Making an effort to understand a day in the life of your developers can increase your empathy and understanding and make them respect you more as well. Another key factor is making sure your employees use their allotted time off to recharge and unwind. Sometimes, people get so busy they forget to take a break.