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Tips to Avoid Burnout for Engineers

Billy Pisanout Noy shares some insights on how to avoid burnout as an engineer.

Avoid Burnout

If you’re alive, than the chances are you’ve experienced burnout. In a world where technology moves faster than we can adapt, engineers, in particular – due to their saturation in an industrious industry – experience this often.

But before we dive into how to remedy this problem, we need to first identify what burnout is exactly.

Burnout can look like

  • A lack of hope
  • A feeling of helplessness
  • A lack of motivation
  • A pervading sense of depression

Sure, everybody experiences these things from time to time. But if you’re finding these feelings constantly hovering over you like a rain cloud in a Saturday morning cartoon, then you may want to conduct a deeper evaluation of what’s going on.

Dangers of Burnout

Everybody gets stressed at work, but burnout is something deeper, it’s something more pervading and more deep — and, if left unchecked, it could yield near catastrophic results. Burnout is not only frustrating to the one experiencing it but also to the people (coworkers) working with that person. Burnout at work can lead to colleagues performing their job in a substandard manner, resulting in putting extra loads of work on the people around them. In severe cases, burnout can result in a demotion and even a job loss due to the constant flow of substandard work.

How Work Can Contribute

  1. Overworking yourself can cause burnout. In a society that seems to find our true identity in our work, a workaholic can often be praised for his off-balance attitude.
  2. Lack of recognition. Believe it or not, a feeling of underappreciated at work is the one psychologists credit as the top factor that can lead to burnout.
  3. Unreasonable expectations. A good environment challenges but also affirms. A work environment that only expects and overloads is one that I refer to as a “burnout mill.”
  4. Boredom. Think back to the elementary school days – remember that kid who was always acting up, perhaps it was even you? Well, a lot of times that kid was bored. Contrary to the belief of some, that child is fully competent and willing to apply himself to the work at hand, the problem is that the work is too easy. Same goes for adults in the workplace, if there’s nothing to challenge us than it’s likely we will become bored.

How to Avoid It

  1. Take a break. Working hard is great, but everybody needs a break from time to time. You’d be surprised at what a week off can do for your productivity and mental well-being. Even an extended weekend or a staycation can prove wonders in helping you prevent burnout.
  2. Get Creative. Engineering can be a very analytical career. And for some people out there that may start to take a toll on them. If you are starting to experience burnout (or even if you’re just trying to be proactive), pick up a musical instrument, dance, paint, fix cars, or make some furniture. The possibilities are endless, just get out and have some fun.
  3. Exercise. This one is huge. The mental benefits of exercise are inarguable and, while it’s not a fix all to all maladies or problems, if you’re not exercising than you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance. Remember when you were a child and you would just go outside and run around? Do that now! Get out and run, jog, walk, ride a bike, lift weights – whatever you do just get that body moving!
  4. Community Service. Giving back can make us feel great. It is true, people often feel better after giving than receiving. If you’re feeling down, the solution may be to get outside of yourself and give back to your local community.
  5. Find a new job. Finally, if you’re constantly experiencing burnout at the workplace, it may not be related to your time outside of work and it may be time for you to find a new job. Change, while difficult, can also be a wonderful thing. Take some time and evaluate your current position, perhaps you’ve outgrown it? If so, start getting some applications out and look for a new place to put some roots down.

Remember, all of the things listed above are not just for people who are at their wits end. Prevention is better than cure, and if you can start implementing some of these things before a full-on burnout comes, than you will be all the better for it.

Burnout in all work environments is serious, but for engineers and people whose work is centered around designing and building projects that will often touch the lives of countless people, it’s especially important to be aware of and proactive in preventing it.

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