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Burnout is real – how to avoid it (atlassian.com)
227 points by rspivak 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments

Good compilation of the advice you often read about on the internet. However, a big factor in all of the solutions is having the support of the entire org/company. If your company doesn't believe that burnout is an issue and ignores your "no"s, gives you zero control over what is on your plate, and pressures you culturally, then to take back control, you are stuck fighting another battle on top of burnout.

I've found that doing all the non-work bits of advice helps, but it doesn't reverse the trend. It only slows down your burn rate which can be dangerous. You begin to think it is under control when in reality, you're like a frog in a pot slowly being boiled alive.

To really combat burnout, large influential companies need to target these types of articles at companies themselves, not individuals. We are beyond the point of calling out individuals. Notice how all of the language in this article (until #8) is centered around you. You are supposed to take full responsibility for burnout. It is your choice. Your lack of self-management is causing your burnout. But sometimes, it's really not you. It's them.

I hope the community begins to realize that responsibility goes both ways and shifts the focus of these conversations onto companies. Don't put the entire onus of burnout on the employee. That is avoiding responsibility and too much of it can make it appear to be victim blaming. Start talking about how companies can change culture around this, train management to recognize it, and what it takes to make this a top-down effort instead of a bottom-up one.

A good start to this conversation can be: What does Atlassian (or your company) do to prevent burnout throughout their company?

>all of the language in this article (until #8) is centered around you. You are supposed to take full responsibility for burnout. It is your choice. Your lack of self-management is causing your burnout.

Yes, this! My company seems to be halfway there: acknowledging that burnout is a problem, but then turning that into helpful advice (eat healthy, take breaks, go work out, etc) that is focused on the individual, ignoring cultural factors and the total amount of work that gets taken on and needs to be done by X people in Y time.

+1. This past year by workplace has become much more stressful. I've consciously spent more time on self care and exercise (definitely good habits which made me feel better about myself physically and mentally). But that only served to slow the process of burnout; we needed organizational change to remedy the root cause.

Yeah if you're asking people to do 20 hours work for 8 hours pay no amount of healthy advice can undo the damage done by a culture of unpaid triple time as the norm. After the 2008 downturn it got very easy to find labor and thus you could really over work people to a brutal level and not care. Now that the economy is slowing down you can expect a lot of employers to become more abusive as employees become a dime a dozen.

Yeah. It's like overloading people constantly and then offering mediation classes so people can cope.

"Your lung infection is not my fault because the office is filthy, it's your own fault for not taking your antibiotics"

Wait .. this is exactly what my workplace is doing. I didn't attend the meditation because they clashed with my therapeutic daily walk..

My meditation teacher told me that the result of meditation shouldn’t be to tolerate BS but instead realizing that it is BS and changing things.

> If your company doesn't believe that burnout is an issue and ignores your "no's"

It's up to you to ensure that your "no's" can't be ignored. Really what shy programmers need is confidence and healthy boundaries.

While true, this doesn't have to actually mean being more assertive at your job. I worked at a place where I constantly had to be very up front about my boundaries and work limits. We would plan something, say some certain things can't be done for 2 weeks, and then two days later someone would come back and be like "So... about those tickets, could we actually squeeze them in this week? As well as all the other tickets?"

I did get better at saying no and establishing my boundaries. But that itself is still exhausting. The best move I made was recognizing the culture there had shit respect for developer boundaries and switching to a company that does.

There are places and people that will take advantage of the fact that many developers do not want to say no. Do get better at saying no. But also get away from those people.

Unfortunately for every one tech employee willing to set boundaries and say no, there are 10 in line outside the door, resume in hand, willing to say yes and burn themselves out. You can quit in protest but where are you going to go? You’re competing with dozens of talented people straight out of college willing to work 100 hour days for Mountain Dew and a dual screen workstation.

Unless you believe the “Shortage Of Engineers” meme, intense labor competition is a huge contributor to industry wide burnout.

I don't believe for a second that there is an endless supply of capable software engineers. The salaries available to folks of even modest experience simply don't support such an assertion.

This problem should be self-correcting. If it's as unproductive as it is unhealthy, then better companies will win by retaining talent for longer.

Even if you are correct, the problem often becomes an inability to identify such talented developers, and many companies don’t even bother.

Also, the best developers rarely come on the market, they go straight from job to job thru good relationships with previous managers and co-workers. Managers who abuse workers are not usually able to retain the best talent, they end up adversely selecting for the least productive talent.

I find this to be the perception of:

1. New engineers, and it's certainly valid. The net pros and cons of your abilities are equivalent to those coming straight out of college. You must set yourself apart from the competition by putting more time into your work or increasing the quality of your talent.

2. Experienced engineers who work for companies that devalue personal growth, and that is valid too. Our most challenging daily work will usually come from employers -- If that work isn't mentally stimulating, you're not learning anything, and nothing is being meaningfully done to separate you from those college level entries.

3. Experienced engineers who work in fields with a lower barrier to entry, and it seems valid to me. If your company's projects are more resilient to the mistakes novices will make, or there are less mistakes to make because it's easier to understand, it's difficult to increase the quality of your talent in a competitive way.

4. Experienced engineers who knowingly have poor talent quality, and it's valid. It's challenging for some people to critically think, to navigate the abstract nature of engineering, and to learn those deeper concepts that typically separate experts from novices -- And that is surely difficult to overcome.

5. Experienced engineers who believe they have poor talent quality but are indeed quite talented in meaningful ways, and it's invalid. It's imposter syndrome and it's absolutely rampant in our industry.

6. Experienced engineers with good talent quality but poor interpersonal skills, and its validity depends on your interpersonal growth. If you're not great at negotiating or you intensely value validation, you're certainly at risk to being taken advantage of, and not necessarily with malice on the company's part.

There is definitely a shortage of engineers with high talent quality in fields that require it. Many people believe weekly hours are the only competitive aspect of our industry and it simply isn't true in many cases.

While we will almost indefinitely feel pressure to stay busy, talented engineers have far more leverage to push back than they realize. Great engineers are hard to come by and many companies will work hard not to lose them.

Depending on your position this to me reads like paranoid behavior one would expect from someone without many social skills who gets manipulated into fearing for his job when he has realistically one of the most portable and in demand skill sets in the modern markets.

And if you're not a shy programmer who has shown schedules, estimates, timelines, and are also trying to prevent those you manage/mentor from being burntout? Or what if your direct manager actually agrees with you! But your combined arguments are being shot down for reasons of growth, culture, or they decide to change the metrics so when you do say no, your performance plummets and they now have more power in conversations? Yes, signs of a toxic culture. No, you cannot always just leave.

It's unsurprising to see comments that revert to pinning the blame back on the employee. That's how the narrative has been formed and controlled. It's also a product of the "self-made person" idea where you ultimately have all the control over where you end up in life.

As a side note - not everyone is speaking from the position of being a programmer. Burnout is affecting many other careers. This forum just happens to be tech centric, but I do hope that stereotypes and assumptions can be minimized.

Quoting my father-in-law (who is a senior civil estimator with experience on countless multi-million-dollar projects):

"Do you want someone who will tell you want you want to hear? Or do you want someone who will tell you how much it's gonna cost?"

> A good start to this conversation can be: What does Atlassian (or your company) do to prevent burnout throughout their company?

I agree completely with this, since this is a health AND socio-cultural problem. Trying to solve the problems without the necessary cultural resources in any organization will just put a heavier weight on the worker, and it will eventually crack him. Without true commitment this is a Catch-22.

> If your company doesn't believe that burnout is an issue and ignores your "no"s, gives you zero control over what is on your plate, and pressures you culturally, then

...give notice and quit. No company would do this if they weren't completely toxic.

Far far easier said than done for many people. You never know a person's life situation - medical issues, financial obligations to family, etc. This also shifts the onus of the situation back onto the individual. Again, you are the one who determines if you burnout. No control? Just leave. If you stay, it's your fault if you burnout.

People who cant will have much better negotiating position when people who can actually leave set boundaries. Also, being software developer is not that bad job that you would be so much locked at one place. While there are some people who have no choice, many of us do have a choice.

Crazy hours are not something driven solely by management.

Valid, it is definitely a problem of companies having the power and workers not.

Not everyone can.

There are points in time at which this isn't viable.

Those bordering on, or prone to, burnout, may have a lesser degree of capability to act on this.

Internalising the costs to firms (and their investors and creditors) fostering burnout-inducing conditions may be a more effective mechanism. Destroying 2, or 5, or 10 years of peak-career productivity should carry costs.

Way back in ancient times, employees formed unions to demand better working conditions instead of waiting for a company to benevolently provide them. Replacing burnt out employees and writing good PR articles is cheaper and easier than fixing the many systemic issues that lead to it. They might get better productivity out of non-burnt workers, but companies are afraid to invest in employees that could leave any time for better opportunities. For better or worse, this is the situation that is incentivized by at-will employment and other factors.

> If your company doesn't believe that burnout is an issue and ignores your "no"s, gives you zero control over what is on your plate, and pressures you culturally, then to take back control, you are stuck fighting another battle on top of burnout.

It's even worse than this because, all of the factors you mention are actual risk factors for burnout (pressures, lack of control, isolation, fighting)

What is funny about this is that Atlasssian’s Jira product is designed for two week “sprints”, a term referring to the idea of running quickly at a rate above a sustainable pace with no intent to keep running after the end.

But these sprints normally are done repeatedly with no actual stop or sight of a finish line.

Employees just churn through tickets with no designed breathing room or planned downtime. Jira is probably one of the biggest helpers at causing burnout with all of those burn down charts and story point comparisons, driving companies and employees to not support taking reasonable time off or spending time at lower pressure to encourage employee wellbeing.

Basecamp’s team wrote a guide to their take on this process and why they rejected it called “Shape Up” which seems pretty pie in the sky but makes some incredibly good points on maintaining team happiness, culture and quality of work.

In JIRA your performance is constantly measured comparing the actual work against the estimates, which are usually not under the developer control.

There are reports produced that developers don't get to see that the manager does to compare developers this way.

Of course, this can be easilly gamed. The most cunning developers will go out of their way to get the tasks that are clearly defined in scope and that they are familiar with, while others always end up getting the short end of the stick.

Guess who is going to look better under that report. Developers are overloaded, and will actually avoid to raise new issues or suggest improvements and new tasks, with fear that they will get more work on top of the workload that they can't already handle.

JIRA is really used by middle management to treat developers as essentially replaceable assembly line workers in a factory context.

I'm a big critic of Jira for this reason.

I think the more fundamental issue is that most businesses that existed before and after digitization don't really understand or appreciate that they are alive because of that transformation.

Most tech enabled companies do not understand that competent IT execution is important to their ability to have freedom of movement and the ability to respond to change in their markets.

Also Developers think developing is important, but also business thinks business is more important and they got by with paper and phones for a long time before computers turned up.

Both are fair points.

I would say that quality of life at work (in tech) is a function of how much the business thinks that the work you do is important. Is IT a cost center or a capability factory where you work?

In start ups and tech focused companies the core work is technology so it's easy to understand the investment. But places where IT isn't core work, developers are just cogs. They get treated like crap and are made to sprint because who cares, the 'actual' business is important.

Lastly, IT workers talk a big game about Unions but I'd really like to see the day where a strike by IT workers starts with them walking off the job after turning off the network.

I think Atlassian is the Uber of the software development process and devs are the drivers.

Management by "make metric go up" is almost always terrible in every situation, since human misery is generally not considered an important metric (too hard to measure!) and metrics themselves cannot expose long-term consequences of optimizing for a metric at the expense of anything that isn't being measured.

Death by metrics isn't the fault of Jira--Jira provides tools to do many things more effectively, and gathering metrics is just one of those. Providing effective tools to ineffective people, unfortunately, does allow those people to shoot themselves (and in management's case, everyone around them also) in the foot more easily.

Exacerbating this, as you mentioned, is that metrics do provide a simple, cheap representation of productivity, even if that representation is not aligned with reality. Middle management can present this to upper management to show that they're doing a "good" job, and upper management will be none the wiser about what's not exposed by the metric until a while down the road when problems created by optimizing for those metrics become more apparent.

You should say "In JIRA your performance could be measured"...

We use JIRA and we find it extremely useful, although we never use real-time values for estimates or reporting. Story points, which I believe are recommended by the Agile framework, are used to estimate and draw burn down charts and reports. We can then use these to adjust our estimates for future sprints.

JIRA really is a tool and just because some managers use it poorly, doesn't mean that is why it was created. Those managers would be bad regardless of the tool.

It doesn't have to be that way. We use it mainly as a tool to track issues and move these issues through a workflow. When I was scrum master one of the first things I did was to stop tracking time and we didn't enter story points or anything. Personally I would be very interested in numbers how much things take to learn estimating better but I know the numbers will be abused by some managers so it's better not give them any data that could be abused.

Yeah, I'm in the middle of 3 projects right now using sprints as the base time unit.

One project is in Sprint #17 this week.

One is on Sprint #41 as of Wednesday.

One is on Sprint #56 as of this Friday. On top of that, the weekly meeting is set at 4:30pm on Fridays in my time zone. The sprint planning meetings typically go 2 hours.

Each project has a daily stand-up too, each lasting about 30-45 minutes. I get about 3 hours a week total to actually code.

Yes, this has effectivly killed the entire idea behind a sprint and agile in general, we all know, it's super obvious. But the company is now an 'agile' company as of ~2.5 years ago, so we can say so in the job apps. All the interviewing devs know to ask about how long the stand-up is, we tell them the truth, and the job apps stay open when they decline our offers (we also pay under market rates). Our copies of 'The Phoenix Project" remain in shrinkwrap.

This problem has nothing to do with Jira or agile, but with bad management.

No. Problem is with jira and agile.

Majority of managers will always be mediocre. But previously, managers without tool just let the developers do the job. Nowdays, mediocre managers have industry standard tool to make everyone life terrible and destroy the product by accumulating bad decisions founded on jira/agile metrics.

Also, jira and agile gives management ability to be extremely shorter oriented in their reasoning - that is major factor changing dynamic in the team.

Again. The problem is with management.

They're called "iterations" over here and it's probably precisely because of that implication. It was always an unfortunate term.

A team that is doing agile right is not "sprinting", they are completing as much work as they can do at a long term sustainable pace.

>> A team that is doing agile right ...

Oh, please stop with the "because you're doing it wrong" defense. Yes, I most likely am doing it wrong, I already know that. Is the fact the process allows the level of flexibility for me to screw up this bad a feature or a bug?

I'd love the opportunity to practice Pedantic Agile but things like customers, coworkers and bosses keep getting in the way.

Pedanticness is beside the point here. You don't have to follow every ceremony to get the basic point of "you cannot sustain a pace that works your programmers like Victorian pit ponies".

> “sprints”, a term referring to the idea of running quickly at a rate above a sustainable pace

why would it it be "above sustainable pace".

That is literally the definition of the word. If you can run for more than, at most, a minute or so at a given pace you are pr. definition not sprinting.

Isn't any running unsustainable though ?

Not really. Google ultramarathoning, Humans are incredibly well designed to run long distances at a sustained pace, it's like the one other thing we rock at better than other animals other than intelligence.

A sprinter is wasted after 100m. A marathon runner is wasted after 26.2 miles. Then there are the ultra marathoners. I believe the analogy holds.

Humans evolved to be really good at long distance running and given proper training, time and discipline you can run an absurd distance compared to most mammals.

Sprints also have a specific meaning in Agile/Scrum vocabulary which should be pretty common around here. That's like suggesting github promotes physically aggressive behavior because it's centered around pushing. Nothing about a sprint in Scrum terminology is meant mean an unsustainable pace.

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

-- L. Carroll

What can be sustained for a short effort is not sustainable over a longer haul.

High-intensity long-haul efforts can require months of recovery, or be permanently crippling.

The 100m world record is 9.58s. The world-record marathon pace, 17.2s/100m. The Race Across America 3,000 mile bike race record, a sustained speed of 12.57 mph, or 17.8s/100m.

The specific physiological mechanisms for physical and mental exhaustion differ, but the general principles are similar: metabolites, waste products, side-effects, and damage accumulate. Absent a period of rest and recovery, these will eventually prove damaging.

In sport training, there is a carefully calibrated set of activities and rest and recovery, ranging from in a given motion (power and recovery stroke in running, cycling, swimming, rowing, or virtually any other action), to exercises, efforts, sets, workouts, seasonal, and lifetime scheduling.

Speed, skill, and muscle aren't created on the track, in the pool, on the road or trail, or at the gym, they're created in bed, when you're asleep, during recovery, given adequate nutrition. Training is stress, but a stress that's calibrated to trigger a conditioning response.

If you don't get rest, you'll simply break down.

Burnout is an inevitable consequence of the modern workplace for a lot of people. A lot of those who don't have any problem with burnout are the ones burning out other people.

In the modern workplace, workers are often given a task without being given the good conditions to take it through, or a good overview of the context that the task is part of.

A good percentage of the tasks but not all are hot potatoes, and it can get very political (in some places this is worst than others, but its always there).

You get to the office in the morning and have new 10 trouble tickets assigned to you, with estimations of 2 or 3h of execution time over which you have no control, estimated by a clueless middle manager who has never coded the simplest of programs in his/her life.

If you make too many waves or comments about the length of the tasks, you are not going to last long and you know it, so what do you do?

Stay late, take shorter breaks, connect one hour in the evening to get a couple more things done or do some preparation work like analysis, reading documentation, answer emails, etc.

If you don't do that, you know that it's a fast track to performance improvement program which is essentially a death sentence.

I think the problem is the system and not people, the current employer/employee social contract is needing a huge rehaul because society is coming to a breaking point which all these jobs disappearing due to automation and informatisation in general.

Pretty much, the answer to this kind of thing is unions. The employer is going to feel free to treat you like a replaceable cog to be run over speed until the teeth strip - unless enough people like you can coordinate, to force them to the negotiating table. And unless you vote for politicians who will have your back.

Yes, I think unions under some form are sorely needed for this profession, as well as a recognized ethics code, like it happens in professions like medicine or accounting.

If we are going to be treated as factory workers, we should defend ourselves as factory workers by creating unions.

Unfortunately, due to the volatility of tech skills and the overuse of one-month contracts, I don't see this happening anytime soon, but I agree it's the only solution.

More guilds than unions, but yes.

more guilds than builds?

> A lot of those who don't have any problem with burnout are the ones burning out other people.

Totally, totally this.

To make an analogy, many companies seem to be run by a crazy crossfit overtainer dragging everyone else into workouts that are like the Bataan Death March.

> Burnout is an inevitable consequence of the modern workplace for a lot of people

I agree 100%

For me, I found two workable solutions.

1. Get to work at 6am and get a ton done before 8am, or stay after 6pm and get a ton done. I basically write off the hours of 8am-5pm, knowing I'll achieve essentially zero due to meetings, interruptions, 'urgent' emails, etc.

2. Get to work at a normal time, put my stuff on my desk, reply to a couple of emails so people know I'm around, then I take my laptop and sit in a local coffee shop with headphones on. I can get actually 6 hours of work done in an 6 hour stretch. I'm not far away from the office if I must attend an 'emergency' meeting, but I'm not at my desk getting interrupted every 13 minutes.

Usually the success of the second one depends on if your manager respects you actually getting work done.

You overlooked solution a solution

3. Reduce the amount of work to be done. (Probably by more than half.)

Since when was taking what amounts to a six hour exam every single day acceptable?

Unless you have the short sleep gene, it's going to be hard to be at the office at 6 AM. This means you wake up at minimum 5 AM probably earlier and would have to be sleeping at 9 PM to get 8 hours sleep, which means being in bed at 8 PM, not doable with kids.

Also, you will have the tendency, no matter how early you start, to always leave late anyway, at least that's what happened to me so I would end up getting in slightly later.

As for option 2, it's really not an option for the majority of companies. The things you need to work are on the internal LAN, you have a desktop and not a laptop, etc.

The constant interruptions either in person, by email or chat in the open space prevent from getting anything done, I used to stay later and have my most productive hours late in the evening.

Still, there was occasionally some colleague that would also stay late due to having to catch a bus or a plane and would chat all the time.

It was doable, but I always felt I was constantly living on the edge, always scrambling to get things finished in the last day of the dealine, thinking what I'm going to say on the status meeting that immediately interrupts the work at the beginning of the morning, etc.

The only thing surprising to me in these working conditions is how there are not MORE people burning out, I suspect it happens to a lot of people at least once, and then they learn to recognize the signs and leave the company before things get to that point.

But I don't think it's about taking more yoga classes, meditating or whatever, it's the working conditions and not the people.

People are getting grinded like beef chuck by these companies, these working conditions are literally taking years out of peoples lives, and no one calls out these companies by the harm that they cause to society.

Also, a lot of the work people are so busy with is completely unnecessary and people know it. Several times I was scrambling for deadline after deadline doing super "urgent" stuff, and one day I left and I literally wasn't even replaced!

I arrived at work at msft nearly every day by 730 for the first five years. By the end of year six I was puking in the garage thrice weekly at 9 am due to years of chronic stress, lack of sleep, and caffeine use. It’s taken me about a year, lots of medication, and CBT to get back to being able to sleep regularly for over 6 hours.

> a clueless middle manager who has never coded the simplest of programs in his/her life.

I've never had manager who hasn't coded ever in his life. WhatI had most of the time was a manager who hasn't coded in a longtime.

I've had both, and I don't know what is worst to tell you the truth. The ones who have coded a long time ago think that their experience in another language/ecosystem still allows them to estimate tasks in a completely different environment, when in fact it doesn't.

The non-technical manager will focus more on the business side and will be easier to manage in many situations, but the problem is that that type fo manager will neglect tasks that are purely linked to technical debt, refactoring etc that don't add new functionality to the system but are still really important.

I've had both as well as in my opinion the worst: The manager who pretends they can code and knows just enough to be able to trick HR and other managers.

It's only happened to me once, but the guy was pretending to be a past Java expert and didn't know the difference between Java and Javascript. I don't mean we grilled him on the differences in syntax. I mean in conversation he would use "java-script" to mean a Java source file, and said he had experience with Java frameworks like jQuery and Angular. Don't know how he expected to fool any developers, but he actually kept the job longer than I expected, even with people calling him out as fake.

Every job in corporate land has the person, at every level, who makes you ask "how is this person still here?"

I had a manager with a PhD who insisted on never writing multi-threaded applications because when he tried he failed and considered them dangerous. I routinely wrote apps using 10,000+ threads before. Now he is a head of development of some company. Real life is a comedy.

Just create child processes with a shared memory region. That's not multi-threading.

Hah, I've used the forking server approach very successfully before.

Plus, threads and processes are essentially the same on unix land – kernel flags will control behavior like shared memory. Which you can still setup manually. Or just use whatever IPC fancies you.

Technically correct is the best kind of correct ;-)

> I routinely wrote apps using 10,000+ threads before.

Running on how many CPU cores? Were you writing code for a supercomputing cluster? Otherwise for what kind of system could 10,000 threads possibly be an ok strategy?

Bunch of natively 256-thread CPUs, distributed enterprise messaging system (TIBCO-style) in Java (before NIO). It was normal to have 60,000 threads/machine, just debugging was a bit weird. Whole London, Frankfurt and NYC trading was running on the same or similar systems.

Can't wait for 64-core Threadripper to have something similar at home in a little box ;-)

It can work because when sleeping the only cost is literally the size of the stack (that you can set to a low value).

> never writing multi-threaded applications

Did he suggest an alternative ?

Outside of "use something that is not multi-threaded" not.

Putt's Law: "Technology is dominated by two types of people, those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand."

Putt's Corollary: "Every technical hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion." with incompetence being "flushed out of the lower levels" of a technocratic hierarchy, ensuring that technically competent people remain directly in charge of the actual technology while those without technical competence move into management.


I don't understand where this is coming from?

I've worked in the industry for 10 years and have never seen any of this, except for three people who were PIPd.

>Quick...tells his students he’s always available – except between 10pm and 6am. It’s important to put limits on when you’re reachable, he says.

Really...this is their example of healthy boundary setting? A professor who says he's available the entire time he's awake, but won't answer emails when he's supposed to be sleeping.

I thought the exact same thing reading this.

Average healthy sleep time is 8 hour a day. Even if it's less for some, this professor can be disturbed when he eats ? When he is in his shower ?

Seems strange to me.

Depends on the discipline.

Math professors aren't known for showering :)

Given how many math problems are solved in the shower I would think it would be the other way around

Heh. I gave my students a 24 hour SLO for responding to emails when I was a TA in grad school, but I told them most emails would get responded to in less than 8 hours. That seemed to work well enough for all concerned: they got their question answered reasonably quickly, and I wasn't chained to my computer 24/7.

> * You’ve become cynical or critical at work

> * You drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started

> * You’re irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients

> * You lack the energy to be consistently productive

> * You find it hard to concentrate

> * You lack satisfaction from your achievements > * You feel disillusioned about your job

> * You use food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel

> * Your sleep habits have changed

> * You’re troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints

You say "burnout symptoms", Corporate says "reasons to fire you". Potato, potahto.

None of this advice really addresses the core issue: people don’t want to be on other people’s schedule nearly all the time for 30+ years of their adult life. It’s relentless and soul crushing. I get 4 weeks off a year, and even if I take them all in a row, the only thing I can think of once my vacation starts is “the clock is ticking till I have to be back in the office.” And that’s always in the back of my mind no matter what and will be till I retire or somehow figure out a way to get fuck you money. No amount of meditation, saying no, time management etc., can fix that. I basically have no control of my life until then. Is there any fix to this? Can there be any fix really?

My plan now is just to save aggressively until 40 or so, then either lean FIRE or switch to a 6 month on 6 month off contracting schedule.

The only other option I can think of is take a job I might enjoy. But all those kinds of jobs pay poorly (relative to a software engineer’s salary), so I’d be locking myself into the working world for an extra decade or longer.

Edit: I should note that I realize I am extremely fortunate to be in the situation I am. I don’t mean to sound like I’m ungrateful for a lot of the things in my life.

> My plan now is just to save aggressively until 40 or so, then either lean FIRE...

This is the real answer to preventing burnout: focusing on getting to financial independence starting from the very first day you start your career. There is nothing more liberating and comforting than knowing you don't have to stay at your job one moment longer than you feel like it.

Granted, it's not an option for everyone because of their life circumstances, but it is for most people in the software industry.

Where and how specifically does Jira build in stress and burnout metrics and avoidance mechanisms into its tools and techniques?

And when is it going to mandate a change of langauge in Scrum from "sprint" to some word vastly more reasonable in designating a staged, sustainable, work effort?

The English language is in dire need of an idiom connoting the fox advising the henhouse. This post lacks all credibility.

I agree, today marks my last day in employment with no job lined up due to burnout. A large part of what makes software development so unpleasant is Atlassian tools and they culture they foster. Ultimately the wider problem is business level implementations of scrum as a means to deskill, overload and remove the ability to display mastery from developers; but a company using Atlassian tools is a strong indicator they care more about metrics and permissions and tracking than letting developers work, in my experience.

"Sprint" isn't supposed to be sustainable. It acknowledges that for brief periods we set aside distractions/maintenance/cleanup and make progress and THEN back off to a state that lets us recuperate the whole environment. Or it should, anyway.

If an activity is not meant to be sustainable, then stop using a word literally meaning "A burst of speed or activity" for prolonged, iterated, no-reprieve workfactor increments.

(See above Humpty Dumpty "glory" quote.)

Step 1: TAKE YOUR VACATION!! - every minute allowed, every year. If they won't give you a chance to recharge your batteries, look elsewhere.

And do what with it? For many of us burnout is tied to depression is tied to lack of a mate, hobby, social circle, life purpose. What outside of work is even worth doing? Seems like all I can think about outside of work is how badly I just want this all to be finished.

Might be stepping out but I think you've already identified quite a few things that can be worked on in order to help yourself out.

hobby - honestly just try a bunch of different things for a while and you might be surprised what you like. Take up gardening, hobby games (build/paint miniatures and play 40k, battletech, etc.), hiking, really anything that requires some focus and a bit of work. In a lot of cases its more about having something to do other than work and being tired/lazy/depressed at home vegging out and/or getting into a worse headspace.

mate/social circle - honestly this can be hard (especially if you’re really introverted) but getting into a hobby can open new doors. Also think about getting a pet or two. Animal companionship can really be more than a substitute for other people and fill you with all sorts of joys.

life purpose - this is really hard but honestly you and in complete control over this if you push yourself hard enough. Literally just choose something. It can even be to just live as long as possible despite any shitty circumstances (doesn’t have to be some grand unachievable goal).

I really hope I'm not stepping out of line but your message seemed like a call for help. I've had my own long spells of depression and some of the above have helped me a lot. Please also consider getting in contact with professional help if it’s really getting bad. Forget about shame, nervousness, or whatever had headspace your currently in, your life is 100% worth more than any of that.

The first time I heard all of this advice was 20 years ago, and people just repeat it every week for years on end ...

Impossible for me to say how to find meaning in your life. It's a path each of us is on. But you can't find that path in front of a monitor or at work. Turn it off and go for a walk. The Buddha said that the purpose in life is to find your purpose in life. You don't have to know what it is....you just have to look for it. Start searching (and not with Google). If you can't find anything else and can't bring yourself to plan something...take this cruise: https://www.celebritycruises.com/destinations/alaska-cruises

lately when I am stuck in a rut, I get in a "just do it" mindset. Thinking is sometimes harder than doing.

Thinking about exercise, thinking about cleaning my room, thinking about doing laundry. I can sit in misery thinking about what needs to be done, or I can just start working.

Disclosure: I used to work at Atlassian. I've been reading HN for years without an account but this one triggered me to comment.

I suffered burnout there. I had the misfortune of working as an "SRE" at Atlassian. The reality was you spent your days, nights, and weekends dealing with major incidents.

I do not know if it was a conscious strategy, but it would seem the approach taken to reduce organizational wide pager fatigue and burnout from out of hours work was to concentrate it on a few.

(My guess is that it was conscious, as that best explains why my cries for help whilst falling on seemingly sympathetic ears, yielded no changes.)

All of this advice would be great if following it didn't mean you would be next to get fired.

They forgot "unionize".

Remember, every time you attend a meeting while on your vacation, or answer an email at 10 PM, you're normalizing that behaviour. You're telling your boss it's OK to demand it of everyone.

> Job burnout is an epidemic, and tech workers are especially at risk. Here’s how you can avoid feeling fried – and what employers can do to de-stress their workforce.

Insane work hours and constantly availability is the epidemic here. Workers can de-stress their workforce by refusing to be available for more than 40 hours a week, and not worrying about doing outside projects if they don't feel like it. Employers can de-stress their workforce by not asking for more than 40 hours a week.

> Quick, who is also a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, tells his students he’s always available – except between 10pm and 6am

This is the solution to burnout? Telling people you are not available to answer emails and send over quick spreadsheets when you're literally asleep?

I've felt like I've had serious burnout for almost four years now. We've lost about 70% of our development team with no plans on filling the positions they've left open. We've not had a manager for over two years now. Haven't had a project manager for over two years. Our workload constantly increases. I recently got done with a stint of 45 days straight. Down to only 6 days a week now, but will be back to 7 before the end of the year to meet deadlines. I work for a healthcare company that is top 5 in size in the country. Our CEO had record compensation last year. I'm very excited by that. I love technology! What an interesting and exciting job.

I experienced burnout the first time I went to college. This was after years of school though having changed majors and transferring/lost lots of credits. And I mean a LONG time was spent I really should have taken a year or two off. Busting my rear end while having to be broke and slumming it for years on end with no rewards took its toll. At the end I was just pulling myself out of bed and going through the motions and not really caring about grades anymore. Burnout never crossed my mind since it's always something you associate with high stress jobs. Turned out it was a very expensive misunderstanding.

I've battled severe burnout after my first startup :( Almost 8 years down the road and numerous other startup fails now I believe teams can do a better job with burnout symptoms within colleagues [1]. Please be mindful for your buddies. They may not have the energy to pull out themselves \/

[1] https://medium.com/camplight/what-can-we-do-to-prevent-teams...

> "So serious in fact that in May, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the next version of its handbook of diseases, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD11), will recognize [burnout] as an official “occupational phenomenon” that could drive people to seek medical care."

Eh, what? I thought ICD-10 already had a code for occupational burnout: Z73.0. (https://icd.codes/icd10cm/Z730)

Z73 appears to be "Problems related to life management difficulty". I presume they meant something more explicit like coding under Z56, "Problems related to employment and unemployment".

Makes sense but most of these aren't really actionable unless you're at the top. Other than quitting to find a better culture of course. For example, 3. Manage your digital distractions, mentions Tim Cook. I'm sure he can decide to cut down on his notifications, but if you're working at a place where Slack is used, there's 100 channels and you're expected to respond quickly by the management, your only choice is to leave.

This is just really generic advice that most people would come up with themselves by thinking about it for a while. I feel like this a constant problem with these advice blogs. I've learned so much from books like How to win friends and influence people, feeling good, meditations, etc. Yet I rarely ever see that advice repeated anywhere, they just go for really low hanging fruit and not a lot of thought is put into it.

Original thought is too expensive for blogs that have to churn out topical content to make ad revenue, so they become consolidations of common sense.

Number one cause of burnout is organizations adopting Atlassian products and treating the process like some sort of finite state automaton

Burnout is real indeed!


> "Be the first to experience Burnout before everyone joins in"

I mean...

It gets better!

> Track vacations and plan burnouts.

That just doesn't sound healthy.

Canadian curse. I'm barred (read: geofenced) from watching official SNL channels.

As someone who hasn't taken a vacation in almost 4 years... yeah this sounds familiar.

Thankfully I'm ending my current job in a couple of weeks and will take a couple of free months before starting my next adventure.

>> Job burnout is an epidemic

Start of sub-title.

def: a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time

So a wide-spread, non-infectious phenomena that has been occurring... forever?, doesn't really meet the definition.

I'm not debating this is a real thing nor that it may be more prevalent, but a bunch of generic tips that put the entire responsibility on avoiding burnout onto me seems likely to increase the risks rather than address them...

Most of western propaganda is aimed at preventing class consciousness and solidarity from forming between workers.

The term "epidemic" can be used for numerous conditions, some directly related to biologically infectious conditions, some not. You can find mentions of epidemics of cancer or heart disease, not generally of infectious origin, or of violence or (as in this case), mental health.

The study of epidemiology hides its core principles well (most texts discuss statstical methods, rather than theoretical underpinnings), but they are: susceptible populations, adverse conditions, and vectors of transmission.

You can apply fundamental epidemiological methods to any phenomenon matching this general description. Generally, a vector involves some transmission factor which promotes an adverse outcome, and some transmission carrier, which communicates that outcome between affected instances.

To take a highly non-medical example: Iomega's Jaz drives, a removable, Winchester-style disk storage, in which platters and heads were separated, had a phenomenal capacity to create propogating media and drive failures: misaligned drives would damage heads, misaligned heads would damage drives. The condition could spread through an entire population of disks shared on a single drive, or drives in which disks were shared among systems. It was a phenomenally bad design. Disk/head misallignment was both the infectious agent and vector.

In public health, contaminants (radioactive materials, lead, asbestos, PM2.5, endocrine disruptors) can transmit adverse health outcomes among populations. Host-to-host transmission isn't generally prevalent (though some secondary contact may occur), but source-to-host most definitely is. Prions transmit MCD and YCS without a direct biological agent.

In the case of management and workplace factors, business organisation, management practices (or fads), and tools are transmission factors, and the educational, marketing, cultural, and ideological systems which promote those factors are the carriers.

TL;DR: Agile is a disease.

I'm glad Atlassian is calling attention to this, but I'd love to see them incorporate tools and features into their products that could help identify and measure these recommendations. Most of the data is there, but we just need to expose views of worker metrics and not solely focus on projects. A teams burnout indicator would be just as important as velocity report.

Fitter, healthier and more productive.

A pig In a cage On antibiotics

poor leadership always leads to burnout

I have everything on their list and I'll be talking to my director next week about making some changes. Thanks for posting.

Everything should be done in balance.

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