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Burnout: Practical Tips from an IT- specialist on How to Spot and Prevent

July 22, 2020

If you work hard but don’t get enough rest, you’ll feel tired, and lose interest in project tasks and motivation. Sometimes they are just temporary difficulties, and you just need to take a vacation or several additional days-off. Still, if you have all the symptoms, it stands for burnout. We decided to prevent the burnout syndrome and tell you about ISsoft’s specialist’s experience in coping with it.

The burnout syndrome is a widely spread mental illness in the 21st century. It is caused by the excess of stress over the positive moments of everyday life. We’ve brought the subject up because it may lead to severe consequences in the long term. Burnout and chronic stress cause memory and attention problems, prefrontal cortex depletion, psychosomatic illnesses, and others.

If you think you’ve lost your work productivity though making more efforts than earlier, feel emotionally exhausted, and can’t find strengths for job tasks, you experience burnout syndrome. Besides, people with burnout tend to change jobs, don’t get on well with colleagues and relatives, are late, even if they try to be on time, make many professional mistakes, and don’t believe in themselves.

You can read about it on the Internet, but we’d like to share some practical experience and conclusions with you. We had an interview with Vladimir Yurkevich, ISsoft’s Head of Frontend/Web Department. Vladimir has 14 years of experience in software development and has been working for our company for eight years.

– I am never bored and always have something to do, so I never understood what burnout was. Still, now I see that I passed along some black stripes of a zebra-striped life. I didn’t go to specialists for the diagnosis, but I was going through a difficult time in my life when I realized that I had to change something. I felt like my life wasn’t full enough. Among the most warning signs of burnout are decreased satisfaction, the feeling of walking around in a vicious circle, and unwillingness to change anything. I defined three main reasons for my anxiety:

  • ‘’It’s too difficult.’’

When your ‘’visible enemy’’ is difficulties, you need to overcome, get rid of them, or just have a rest and cope with them with renewed vigor.

  • ‘’It’s too easy.’’

This reason is more common for IT specialists. Burnout is not due to unbearable burdens or serious problems, but due to comfort and lack of real stress. People adapt to their environment, including the level of stress. If you continuously avoid responsibility and complex tasks, even the most straightforward task will seem scary quickly. You won’t want to take it up, and you’ll procrastinate it.

  • Poor physical health

This reason is not obvious and is very common for office workers. Briefly, the absence of physical exercises harms your body. For example, the lack of strength exercises can cause the overexertion of the cervical section’s muscles, which prevents the free circulation of blood in the brain, strongly affecting the mood and overall health. Have you experienced a heavy head in the evening when you don’t want to think about anything? In addition to the lack of fresh air, this is most often due to overexertion of the neck muscles.

A healthy diet and vitamins are also of great importance. At the same time, it’s crucial to understand that you may not worry about anything when you are 20-25 years old. Still if you are already 35 years old, spending 15 years in front of a computer, physical health is vital to maintain mental activity.

💡 Besides, you could exhaust the pleasure limits of the tasks you do. It is essential to understand that the less fundamental your source of pleasure, such as sweets, alcohol, etc., the easier it’s to exhaust it. I highly recommend reading books about how hormones work in our bodies for those who want to understand the topic.

What helped you overcome the emotional burnout?

– I have a few strategies at hand. I can redirect my thoughts and relax, increase the level of responsibility, take care of my health, or get busy, but in a very different area.Here are a few life hacks:

  • The passion for listening to music has helped to realize that even an engineering mind can enjoy the beautiful. What surprised me is that it can enable intellectual activity. Therefore, I highly recommend creativity, especially in the role of the creator.
  • The passion for Kyokushin karate helped to cope with a difficult period in life. When you feel sad and frustrated. just fight with a 100 kg sparring partner, and you will quickly set priorities and appreciate life at its true value.
  • Working at ISsoft was a serious step forward, away from a too comfortable place. I still remember Rob Duff asking, “Do you want more responsibilities?”.
  • A passion for the triathlon helped a lot both physically and mentally. Why be bad at one kind of sport if you can be bad at three at once!
  • Physical work has always brought much more pleasure than, for example, training in a gym. I use every opportunity to build something with my father: a bathhouse, a house, or anything else. It is nice to see the result made by my own hands. It is incredible how much knowledge you can get in other fields.
  • One of my latest hobbies is DIY. As they say, “I am an accomplished man, and I urgently need this bright radio-controlled helicopter! Any craftsmanship in the real world, like coding for controllers, watches, etc., is delightful. The result is immediately visible, and it allows something to buzz and move, which is always a little lacking for software-only developers.

– How to prevent emotional burnout?

– The Internet is full of books and articles on the subject. Some of them aren’t bad; many of them are just harmful. But in my opinion, the most important thing is that rest, hobbies, decisions or leaving aside shouldn’t be an escape from the problem that caused the burnout; otherwise, you will only hurt yourself and go along the black line.

💡 Coffee. It’s a magic product for a modern office worker. You need to realize one important fact – like any stimulator, coffee does not give you energy; it only suppresses your state of fatigue. Treat it as a credit in the bank: you can easily take it, but you still must give it back with interest.

– You have been managing the Frontend/Web department with many employees for five years now. Do you notice when they get burned out?

– When you manage a team or project and see that the team is on edge because of client pressure or circumstances, it’s essential to outline the end of the situation. Under no circumstances you shouldn’t take the pressure endless, without the opportunity to rest and work on tasks in a relaxed way. At the same time, I also try to avoid the team dealing with easy tasks for a long time. Otherwise, when there’s a difficult challenge, it will be perceived not as an exciting opportunity for growth, but as an impossible task (with a negative attitude towards it). Besides, your team needs to understand the reasons and nature of complexities. Thoughtless encouragement works, but not for long.

As a department manager, I try not to assign the same guys who are always ready for challenges on projects with severe conditions repeatedly. It is easy to take advantage of the trust and throw them to the wolves. It’s much harder to fight against their depressed state and unwillingness to pull the project on their shoulders once again.

As a company, we try not to encourage extended unreasonable overtime as it is very easy to get into the trap of burnout. A short-term gain in performance or money may be worth it, but it can hurt a lot more and turn away from pleasant work for months.

About the Interviewee

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Vladimir is Head of Frontend/Web Department at ISsoft.He has 15 years in the IT industry. In his free time, he likes doing triathlon, finished and Ironman, and took part Athens Marathon, Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon and Bosphorus Cross Continental Swim.

 

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