If you’ve noticed your IT or development team has been burnt out lately, you will not be alone. A growing number of IT professionals are experiencing work-related mental disorders, and declining mental wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown that developers have a considerably higher chance of experiencing burnout compared to colleagues who perform mechanical tasks! Common symptoms include anxiety, exhaustion and fatigue, and lack of motivation. This presents a challenge for tech companies, as deteriorating mental health threatens, first and foremost, the individual’s wellbeing, but also the company’s productivity and output. So how, as a leader, should you address this? Let’s take a look…
Addressing the issues within IT careers
IT and development are particularly pressurised careers, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only inflated this. Working from home – and being relied upon to ensure IT procedures are in place for others to work from home – has raised stress levels. The pandemic also caused a shift in attitudes and companies are now investing heavily in technology in order to streamline user experiences and remain competitive. Whilst this may sound like great news, pair it with an IT talent shortage and it has only added monumental pressure for those already working in the field.
How to prioritise your development teams’ mental health
Of course, the best way of addressing mental health disorders in the workplace is to speak directly to those affected. Leaders and HR personnel must look at the underlying factors contributing to the adverse mental wellbeing and look to form solutions and adjust protocols accordingly.
As well as this, leaders must look to make development teams’ mental health a priority and take preventative measures too. There are actions that can be taken in order to alleviate the burdens on IT teams, demonstrate that you value them for the critical company asset that they are, and importantly, to avoid burnout. Here’s how:
Break down the silos
Through better collaborative practices, you can identify areas where others can step in. The stark reality of an IT career is that the work can be thankless. Through no fault of their own – after all, these people have their own careers – few colleagues fully understand or grasp exactly what it is that development teams do.
As a leader, you must look to take steps to improve colleagues' understanding of the IT team’s work. This does not have to be costly or difficult. In fact, it can be as simple as a ‘lunchtime learning’ session where a developer delivers a short presentation to their peers on what it is they do. Beyond this, breaking down internal silos may mean shifting roles, restructuring teams, or even physically shuffling the office layout in order to improve collaboration. Free from silos, fellow employees can plan a supporting role, and the knock-on effects for developers’ mental wellbeing can be vast!
Improve the conditions
Another hard truth is that IT workers will often stay late in order to solve a problem, and are regularly relied on for ‘fixes’ outside of work hours too! Whilst this is - on occasion - unavoidable and the nature of the job, it does not mean extra hours and efforts should go unnoticed or unrewarded. Improve working conditions through recognition, offering time in lieu, and by defining expectations and boundaries, and you look to prevent burnout amongst workers.
A further top way to improve working conditions for the benefit of your team’s mental health is by shortening their work week. As we strive to achieve a better work – life balance, many employees are looking to work fewer hours, often compacting their hours into a 4-day work week. It’s something we have written about over on our sister site, on our sister site, PRINCE2. Overall, studies have shown that working less can prevent burnout with no adverse effects on productivity!
Invest in support
As we’ve addressed, there is a real IT talent shortage right now. So, in a world where reinforcements may not be arriving anytime soon and the workload is piling up, how can IT leaders get the support they need to help prevent their existing teams from burning out? For starters, companies must get competitive. They must reflect on what they have to offer new recruits - the option of working a 4-day week could be an enticing perk!
Beyond this, they must think outside the box. Could automation technology be a viable solution? Perhaps investing in new tools and software could lessen your team's workload? Or maybe you could look to employing freelancers or contract staff for the course of a project to lessen the pressure. Any investment in support for your IT staff is sure to reduce stress, benefit their mental wellbeing, and improve rates of retention too.