How to spot burnout in IT and engineering jobs (and what to do about it)

Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by working conditions. It’s a kind of chronic stress – and those with IT and engineering jobs are no more immune to it than any others.

In surveys made just after the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 1 in 3 UK employees reported experiencing feelings of burnout at work. Since then, even more say they can spot at least some signs of a potential burnout in their near future.

So, how do we start to spot signs of burnout within ourselves and in the teams we manage?

Here are things to watch out for and, perhaps more importantly, what to do about burnout when you do actually start experiencing it or noticing it in your team:

What is job burnout?

Burnout is defined by the World Health Organisation as an occupational syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

Though we often casually say we’re “feeling stressed”, actual stress is an incredibly serious condition. When we’re stressed from a physiological standpoint, our nervous system is in a heightened state (or “fight or flight mode”) in order to accomplish all the things we need to do.

If we are unable to recover to a stress-free condition – on a daily basis, research has shown – then our ability to work starts to be impacted.

After a while, we start to either become disengaged or increasingly exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. Eventually, job burnout is the result.

Burnout is not just an individual issue. It’s also a major problem for employers. IT and engineering companies with teams suffering burnout will start to see reduced productivity, more time being taken off sick, and more cases of long-term illness among their staff.

What causes burnout?

Burnout can have a wide range of causes. These are often unique to the job – and they can also be unique to the individual. What one person finds incredibly stressful may be quite manageable for someone else, and vice versa.

However, some of the most common causes of burnout are generally agreed to be:

*Long hours or a bad work-life balance

*Unmanageable workloads or unreasonable time pressure

*Highly stressful working environments

*Lack of control over your own work or lack of clarity about what you’re supposed to do

*Unfair treatment or lack of support from colleagues or management

Any of these can be exacerbated by the presence of any other. In addition, demands from our personal lives, such as being a carer or having physical health problems, can make workplace stress and burnout even more difficult to handle.

How to spot burnout – signs and symptoms

There are some key warning signs of stress and burnout that you should always watch out for:

*You are often tired or lack energy to do the things you used to

*You notice your productivity is down or you find it more difficult to accomplish tasks

*You may be eating too much or drinking more alcohol

*You may start to experience physical symptoms of stress like headaches, insomnia, or gastrointestinal issues

*You may start feeling very cynical or feeling a need to criticise those around you

How to prevent burnout

There are several ways you can address burnout and help keep yourself and any team you may manage happy, healthy, and working hard:

*Pay attention to your stress (and have your team measure theirs) – self-monitoring is vital to stress management. If you are in a leadership position, teaching your team how to monitor and manage their stress should be a priority.

*Understand what self-care means to you (and your team members) – everyone experiences stress differently and has “self-care” techniques that work for them. Educate yourself and your team about the importance of this, especially the need to get exercise.

*Offer (or listen to and act on) feedback – are there any reasonable adjustments your employer might make to make your work less stressful? If you are a leader, offer support and adjustments where you can and actively invite feedback.

Working out how to spot burnout in IT and engineering jobs and figuring out what to do about it when you do is a major challenge in the modern workplace.

This is just a shallow dive into what is a deep and difficult topic. The best strategy for most is to learn more about how to deal with burnout, how to notice the signs, and to take action rather than suffer in silence.

Another potential solution is to find a new, less stressful job in engineering or IT.

If that sounds like something you need, let’s talk. Ernest Gordon is a specialist engineering recruitment company. Our proven, open, honest, and transparent approach matches you with roles suited to your career goals.

Get in touch with us today to set up a cost and commitment-free chat with one of our friendly and helpful experts.