Burnout is a real thing for software developers. It’s no joke sitting at your computer, staring at lines and lines of code and always being one of the last to leave the office. Considered an industry-wide disease, it’s characterized by mental fatigue (as programming can be exhausting on the brain) and loss of the initial drive that you started out with. The symptoms of burnout are listed below:
- You no longer love what you’re doing at work, in fact now you hate it. 👺
- You feel tremendous pressure to meet deadlines. 👨💻
- You take way longer to finish a simple task. ⏳
- You feel physically sick sometimes, the sensations seem to be amplified and you just feel oversaturated from work. 😵
Do these symptoms sound familiar to you? Fret not, because many have experienced it before, and you’re definitely not alone. We asked 5 software developers to share what’s the hardest part about their job, and how they avoid burnout. They’re here:
By the way – this doesn’t just apply to developers, it goes out to all of you stressed workaholics too!
The top 4 tips are summarized here:
1. Escape your desk
You don’t have to just constantly sit behind your computer, and our developers say that getting away from your desk and talking with other like-minded people works wonders. Joel-David Wong, developer at Poowf Labs, says, “I feel that the most tiring part is the need for constant compulsory learning. To stay relevant in the tech industry, we are expected to learn new frameworks, methodologies and languages.”
And Leslie Ho, a software developer at JTC Corporation, has this to say: “I usually manage this by being proactive in the technological scene, I enjoy attending developer conferences… I also get pumped easily when I am introduced to new technologies that have the potential to open new possibilities and experiences yet explored.”
More importantly, it allows you to step back and validate your career choices. Leslie says, “Speaking to these people helps to re-evaluate your career choices as I am pretty sure at some point in time you would ask yourself questions like “Why am I doing this?” or “Is this what I truly want?” To answer these questions, learn to talk to professionals in your field.”
Hustle, Rest Repeat Chase your hobbies
Don’t work the whole day! It’s so important that you make time for yourself and your interests outside of work. A major cause of burnout is non-stop work. Shh – don’t tell anyone but you can’t just hustle, rest and repeat. “Work never ends. There is always more to improve, more to integrate, more to build and more to test,” Amos Choo, co-founder and developer at Novocall says.
If work never ends, then learn to let go a little. “Work on different tasks – for me, programming is a hobby as much as it’s a day job. After work hours, I still like to code, but it’s refreshing to think about something else, this takes my mind away from the problems that surface during work,” says Wong Yong Jie, our very own tech lead at Glints.
Exercising is another underrated activity. “It’s always good to set aside some time to exercise. Even doing some stretching during mid-day would work. The key idea is to get out of your chair and move around more. It also promotes healthy digestion especially if you are leading a sedentary lifestyle and trust me it helps A LOT,” says Leslie.
No matter what, it’s important to keep the distinction between work and your personal life. Woo Chia Wei, developer at JLT Interactive, says, “Keep yourself motivated by setting clear boundaries between your hobbies and career, understand what your role and responsibility is in the workplace.”
3. Pace your work
“You can’t treat your job like a hackathon, work must be consistent,” Yong Jie says.
“Although it’s tempting to rush a feature till the wee hours, it can have a domino effect on subsequent days. Software engineering requires a lot of thinking and mental capacity, if you don’t have enough sleep, you won’t have the clarity of thought to proceed.”
Pacing their work is something that all developers want to do but find it difficult to achieve. But that’s one major factor that leads to burnout. Work and personal life must be treated as separate and if you can, try not to let those two intersect. Worse still, don’t stay up all night cracking your head over work.
“Sleep on software development issues instead of staying up all night cracking your brain over it. Oftentimes I have the urge to solve all my coding problems before I call it a night, but sometimes the best way is to sleep over it and reset my perspective to better tackle the problem the next day,” says Amos.
Chia Wei uses the Pomodoro technique to properly pace himself at work. “It suggests breaking down the task into work-rest intervals – the recommended timing is 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of rest. This method can improve productivity and also help to recover from burst sessions.”
4. Get some R&R
Of all the answers we got, sleep seems to be the number 1 priority for developers. “Never belittle the power of sleep! It is the leading cause of stress at work. You often hear people saying “Sleep is for the weak” – I find this statement to be completely bullshit,” says Leslie. “Developers who don’t get proper sleep tend to make more mistakes in their code (be it syntax error or semantic error) – simply because they cannot concentrate.”
Joel also faces this problem rather frequently. “So, I understand how important rest is. I have been trying to get 8 hours of sleep a day, and those pesky mental blocks seem to appear less frequently.”
“I am not saying that you should doze off during work, but when it is time to sleep, please sleep. It certainly would not help when you are caught nodding off during a meeting and yawing at your desk!” Leslie says.
So as Leslie said, if your eyelids are drooping at work, it’s high time you took a good look at your sleeping habits. Go on, treat yourself to that 8-hour slumber!
You probably spend more time at your job than you do at home, and you won’t want to hate it for sure. Burnout is something you can definitely prevent. But if you still feel like death personified when you wake up in the morning for work, perhaps it’s time to take another look at your career path. You could take a sabbatical, or your workplace just isn’t for you. Then, consider working for another company, or maybe it’s time for a career switch.