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Burnout: The Price of Passion


Developer burnout is real and it’s more common than you might think.

We are all aware of imposter syndrome and the ever-present “I have no idea what I’m doing” voice that plagues new and experienced developers alike, but burning out can be a little more insidious. While you might have heard stories of overworked and unhappy employees being worked into an early retirement, what we don’t prepare for is how much more likely you are to burn out when you are enjoying your work…

That’s right, even when you finally find that project you have been waiting for, that once in a lifetime dream job, you still have to know when enough is enough when to shut your laptop and take a break.

Just ask the animators of one of your favorite childhood films about toys that come to life…they were so excited to build their vision, many of them were overworked, burned out, developed physical and mental stress related disorders that almost bought the whole show crashing down.

Let’s take a step back and take a look at what developer burnout is.

What is burnout?

In short, it is a mental and physical collapse of a developer caused by stress or overworking. Unlike a bad day, which can happen fairly often, burnout can last for weeks at a time and steal a developer’s passion for coding altogether.

The world health organization officially recognizes the workplace phenomenon and defines it as:

Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

Simple right? If you work too much you’ll eventually break down..well, not exactly. Everyone suffers from and responds to stress differently and the cause of a burnout can differ from person to person. Some developers might indeed struggle with high workloads, while others may not be able to work with insufficient processes or unclear goals, so it is important to recognize the symptoms of a burnout and to know your limits.

Symptoms of burnout

Knowing the symptoms of burnout can help you avoid the whole thing. You might also spot some of them in your co-workers, guide them into a healthier work process, save them from an intense workplace breakdown, develop a lifelong friendship and go on to build and deploy an app in Codesphere together that changes the lives of millions of people. You might…

Look out for:

  • Lack of energy
  • Physical exhaustion and fatigue
  • A loss of interest or passion in your work
  • Cynicism toward work-related topics
  • No sense of accomplishment
  • Sleeplessness
  • Frequent headaches
  • Feelings of isolations

They might seem obvious but in a fast-paced work environment with a product to build and ideas flowing, it takes an experienced eye to step back and take a look at how much of a price you’re paying for your passion. You have to know how to pick yourself back up from the ground.

How to avoid a burnout

Knowing what a burnout is and how to recognize it is a great start, but I hear you asking “how do I stop it from happening?”. Well, there are a few tips you can follow if you want to stay on top of your game at both work and home.

1. Diet

Some of you may be rolling your eyes at another healthy eating article that forces goji berries into your life but look, every civilization in human history has recognized a simple truth — You Are What You Eat!

Now, I don’t have a link to a pdf of a dietary plan for you to download and stick to your fridge, but eating smart is the way to go. Developing is a lot of sitting down. Snacks are a great way to get an energy boost, but make sure you’re eating right where you can at work. Take-outs and beers might be best used to celebrate the launch of a new feature instead of to take your mind off that syntax error you find…

2. Take breaks

No brainer, if you sit in front of your work station for 9 hours you’re going to pay for it sooner or later. Take breaks often to get up and walk around. Avoiding the obvious health risks of sitting down for a prolonged time, like deep vein thrombosis or heart disease, your brain needs space to process information. Five minutes outside can make a world of difference.

3. Socialize

The more perceptive of you would have read that isolation is a symptom to look out for when it comes to burnouts and what better way to combat being alone than not being alone. This doesn’t just mean team events or getting smashed on a Friday after work. Time with your team talking about anything other than work can be a great way to strengthen the workflow. Time with family and friends, away from work, can help you build that all-important work/life balance and return to work ready to achieve the healthier, zen-like state of development that we here at Codesphere strive for.

4. Avoid Carpal Tunnel syndrome

It is very common and it is very unpleasant. Make sure you sit in the correct position at your desk and minimize the risk; numb and tingly feelings in your hand can be the sign of the dreaded Carpal Tunnel affliction. It’s exactly this kind of extra stress we are trying to avoid!

So there are a few ways you can keep yourself away from burning out. But let’s say you didn’t read our advice very well, maybe you didn’t like the diet advice so you closed the tab and you’ve since been the victim of burnout and now you’re back to find some sage advice on how to recover? Well, let’s take a look at how one might get back into a healthy state of mind…

How to recover from burnout

Start slow. Don’t make the same mistakes that got you into this state in the first place. If you were taking a 5-minute break every 45 minutes, take a break every 15 minutes now.

Double down on your emotional detachment from work life, if you want to ease yourself back into developing then focus on the things you do when you’re not developing. Be unreachable when you’re not in the office or start hobbies that keep you busy. Too busy to get sucked back into solving that one last problem, and busy enough for your mind to relax without throwing it straight back into the deep end.

Communicate with your team and people around you, let them know what’s going on so people can hold you accountable when you start to slip back into that old familiar routine.

Work smart

Developer Burnout can be an awful experience, leaving you with no desire to string two lines of code together and lose your love to code, but it doesn’t have to be your fate. Listen to your body and look out for your colleagues. Building what we love is a blessing we all share in the developing world, but it comes at a price. Knowing that price and how best to pay it is the key to a happy and healthy work-life.

Bonus Tip!

Another helpful way to avoid burnout is not to spend 5 hours attempting to deploy your next web app. By combining a Web IDE with the cloud, Codesphere streamlines the deployment process, so you can spend less time configuring, and more time doing what your body and mind need.

Thanks for reading! What advice do you have when you feel burnout?