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Burnoutindex.org (burnoutindex.org)
394 points by hernantz on Feb 13, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 181 comments

Be really careful with these surveys.

The problems of these, among other things:

- mixing up burnout risk with burnout

- mixing up burnout with physical or mental fatigue

- not serving any purpose (i.e. not providing good directions)

Burnout is primarily a negative change in perception, and it's a spectrum, obviously. You get burned out when your perception of the same situation gets progressively worse. This can be caused by various factors -- exhaustion, doing stuff that doesn't match your values, etc. It can also be prevented in various ways; i.e. you can do very exhausting work and not get burned out.

A really simplistic, but fun/useful way of detecting burnout (not the risk): if you regularly think that you and your team/company/environment work hard, but your customers/broader company/other teams are stupid/not intelligent/not constructive, then that's the first phase ('us vs them'). This can progress to the next phase, where it's more like 'me vs them', so you despise most of your environment. This is when people tend to leave. The last step is apathy, people rarely end here.

It's not really possible to move backwards on this scale without changing roles/work/colleagues.

Our common idea of burnout largely comes from Christina Maslach—the Maslach Burnout Inventory is more or less the standard tool that psychologists use to score and diagnose burnout now—and interestingly, it diagnoses burnout as three related but independent subscales:

Exhaustion - somewhat self-explanatory

Professional Efficacy - your view of your performance

Cynicism - a distancing of yourself from your job

Though you may come across different names in different writings. It's interesting how the subscales impact each other.

I don't know if I fully buy into the framework 100%, but it makes for interesting research nonetheless.

The first time I heard about burnout was from a colleague that was just trying to go back to a job after about two years being mentally unable to do any job. It started when one day, arriving at the work, they just froze and started crying uncontrollably.

It was a diagnosed condition. I am always unsure of what people are talking about when they talk about burnout. Is this panic attack that makes someone temporarily incapable of working or is a strong stress feeling that might be solved just by changing jobs?

The spectrum idea makes sense, but the situation, consequences, and ways to help are very different on different parts of this spectrum.

I think the term burnout was first applied to social workers. Just imagine the situation they are in: a steady stream of people with serious problems in their lives comes to you and you are supposed to help them. But you have so little time and power to help any particular case that you hardly seem to make any difference. And no matter what you do that stream never ends. No wonder that feelings of sheer helplessness, ineffectiveness, meaninglessness of your work, cynicism, ennui, and extreme aversion to the work can appear. That's burnout. I don't think it is specifically associated with panic, aside from the panic that if you start working you will experience all the negative emotions that you associate with your job.

> ineffectiveness, meaninglessness of your work, cynicism, ennui, and extreme aversion to the work can appear

Jobs in corporate software development can feel pretty much like that, at least for me. Startups are better, but, on the other hand, they work you harder.

Yeah, exactly.

My own totally unscientific theory of burnout is that with scarce positive reinforcement and lack of progress towards some higher goal your lizard brain just stops understanding why on earth you continue to expend energy on this job thing. Of course your job pays the bills but this may be hard for the lizard brain to understand (and in case of volunteers where even this positive reinforcement is absent, burnout hits them especially hard).

Many corporate jobs share this dynamic. Support, obviously. But every position where there is a lot of routine maintenance and lack of any kind of satisfying milestone ahead carries the risk. Also, opensource maintainers (Unpaid? Check. Never ending stream of maintenance work? Check. Lack of some higher goal? Well, their project is already popular, there may be no other definite goal.)

Startups are better in this regard because growth provides positive reinforcement and the possibility of an exit provides a higher goal. But what if growth stops and the satisfying exit never materializes? Burnout will hit you like a hammer.

> Jobs in corporate software development can feel pretty much like that, at least for me. Startups are better, but, on the other hand, they work you harder.

You might be confusing cause and effect; you feel those things after being burnt out. Once upon a time, I worked at a start up doing very rewarding, high-impact work with cutting edge technology...just too much of it. I could feel burnout creeping up[1] and I asked my boss for time off, he agreed, but feared I would not return after my break and pressured me to finish the project before leaving by working at an even faster pace - you can guess what happened next. I walked in one morning, sat and my desk and I discovered I no longer had any gas left in the tank: I was completely empty inside, no motivation, no interest in any doing anything work-related, all I could do was browse web comics all day, and even this didn't bring me any joy at the time.

I took my break and switched employers soon after (which wasn't my plan initially), fortunately the new organization had a much slower pace, it took me months to get close to my previous level of productivity. Never again.

1. When weekends doesn't feel like enough time away from work, you might be on your way to burnout

It is common with doctors also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compassion_fatigue

Interesting, there is a discussion in this article on whether compassion fatigue is a form of burnout or not. I think it is. It is probably caused not simply by exposure to suffering, but by exposure to suffering coupled with perceived ineffectiveness in alleviating it. It is not like every patient who comes to a doctor has a specific problem that can be precisely diagnosed and that magically goes away after a treatment is prescribed. Many have chronic illnesses, many will get worse or even die despite the treatment. Many require much more time than what the doctor can spend on them for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Freezing and starting to cry without any reason was the exact same moment for me i recognized i hat do change. I made three weeks holiday without any technical equipment just to slow down life very drastically. A few weeks more of just working half days and much sport and i was back to normal. Never again!

Thanks for sharing your experience! Much appreciated.

This could also be attributed to comorbid/latent mental health issues we are not privy to e.g. depression (emotionally numb), anxiety/malaise in social settings that trigger panic attacks/fight or flight adrenaline response, PTSD from work environment (victims of abuse), bipolar disorder, etc.

These seem to mirror/share symptoms with how people feel when they describe burnout in the workplace. Sometimes I feel like it's the reason people jump ship to new companies in the tech industry around ~2 years mark, keeps the novelty and honeymoon factor going. Thoughts?

It's like a rubber band. You can stretch it far, but then it reaches the limit.

That's why people who are burnt out can suddenly freeze and are unable to continue what they were doing.

Wait.... "apathy" is rare?

I thought that is the step where most of us have been hanging out.

I have been waiting for the "real burnout" to kick in when I dropped another level or two.

It depends on what you mean by apathy. I'd look up the definition for you, but honestly I can't be bothered. Hyuk hyuk.

Anyway: I am incredibly productive in my ops job, where I feel like the platforms I support are largely meaningless and do nothing but drive efficiency to achieve nothing important for no one in particular.

I feel I am driving 'value creation' for people whose wealth is already immeasurable, in a way that it's like it's without beginning or end and perhaps does not even really exist.

Running thousands of watts worth of automated infrastructure capable of serving gigabytes of traffic at sub millisecond latency, over multipath anycast triple redundant n-tier software defined fuckin' whatever, so that your loading spinner shows up bit faster.

Like a literal hamster wheel.

And all that said I am neither unhappy nor close to burn out. I have absolutely no passion for my job, but I do for the things that it allows me to do. Work is always, for everyone involved, a means to an end:

For the company, that end is whatever it is producing, widgets for the widgetless, convincing people that widgetlessnes is terrible, tracking widget purchases to better market more advanced widgets to those that desire them, or whatever.

For me, it is my salary: The thing in life that grants me the affordance to do what it is that I actually want to do. That which I have pathos for, it could be.

Honestly, a lot of people I deal with are the same: If they could leave their nine-to-five in tech and make an equivalent living doing interpretive dance or painting while doing handstands or competing in spoken-word free-verse poetry competitions, y'know, the thing it is that they want to do that is worth absolutely nothing to anyone else, they probably would. I would write bad novels from the back corner of a dimly lit cocktail bar.

I can't do that for a salary anything near like what I make now, so I do it in my free time.

Maybe I'm doing it wrong.

This isn't on topic, but assuming you were serious about writing novels in your free time - I enjoyed this comment so much I read it several times, and probably will come back and read it again at some point in the semi-distant future. You have a wonderful way with words.

I was serious about the writing and the cocktail bar.

I owe you a heartfelt thank-you: It plainly and honestly brings me an incredible happiness when people compliment my writing.

For what it's worth, I screenshotted your comment to send to some friends before I'd even gotten to the part where you mentioned that you write.

Well, fwiw, I had the same reaction. You made me laugh and at the end I thought, that was a damn well-written HN comment.

> I have absolutely no passion for my job

Are you talking about the job itself, or the thing being produced?

I don't care about the products my company makes, and I think that's a good thing, at least for me. When I've cared deeply about the actual thing being made in the past, that led to emotional attachment, which sucks when your idea doesn't win. It also led me to tend to bias effort towards my own particular hobby-horse, instead of what the data or the plan told me.

Now, the job itself is different - I care what activities I spend my time doing and who I do it with. Make me do things that bore me, and I will eventually do a bad job, because I'm a bit undisciplined. And shitty or incompetent people will chase me off faster than anything else except obvious management disfunction.

I don't care about either of those things.

I'm an internet plumber, or maybe a computer mechanic. I keep the lights on the a/c working, and it's not for me to question wherefore.

I do my job and do it well because if I'm doing it I may as well do it right, but that's a philosophy for life in general.

Nah, sounds like you're doing fine.

I'd point out that (IMO) you feel like you DO provide value, that you are good at what you do, recognized for it, and there aren't active negatives in your work environment. All that's lacking is a meaningful "greater purpose" that results from the value you provide. Which is fine, although may eventually transition to less than fine.

Thanks. I didn't really think I wasn't doing well enough, but affirmation is always welcome.

As for producing value, yeah, I absolutely crush it in terms of value. I'm spitting out value left and right. If you could measure the amount of value I produce, it's an ever growing number, way way way in the black, guys on the stock market floor screaming 'buy buy buy'. Value practically oozes from my pores. If value were electricity, I could power a small city.

Not sure what that means, though.

Sounds like a reasonable quest for Step 2.

(Step 3 is profit)

I just spent a month doing something enjoyable difficult, but that even if I'd succeeded, would not have produced even close to a month's paycheck worth of value. I'd say "trade?" except there's not much upside to offer.

But seriously: Consider "accuracy" versus "precision". Reaching accuracy from precision is calibration; but AFAIK there's no way to reach precision from accuracy.

You're producing value. Now it's just a question of aligning that value with, well, broader value. Which you can take your time to do.

Apathy is comparatively rare, yes. (Sorry for the HN crowd for not getting into the data here, not enough time right now.) That's because the previous level is usually so painful that people end up changing something. Especially in engineering the market is so much better than in practically any other field that people who don't move out from the previous phase ('I hate everyone around me') mostly do this because they have something else going on in their lives. This, however (other things going on) is something that _prevents_ further burnout, because one of the best burnout prevention method is _purpose_. Example: working in a call center is mostly extremely stressful. Having a purpose like 'I do this to so that I am able to finish my degree' is an useful thing to prevent burnout. Working hard like hell on a startup for 6 months with a clear purpose usually doesn't cause a burnout (can cause other problems tho').

People who end up in the 'apathy' phase usually do so because they somehow lacked the purpose, the means of changing their situation and also the realization that things are going very badly. If you think that you're in the apathetic phase then you're likely not, because you still have some self-reflection.

Can confirm. I don't have the luxury of burnout, as the the primary breadwinner for a larger than anticipated family (yay twins!). So I hover just above breaking point, and only occasionally dip my toes in no longer having any F*s to give.

On the flip side, if I didn't have the family with young children, I'm positive my life would be so much less stressful, that burnout risk would be slim to none...

Apathy at work is only possible if you have a nothing-required job where you can't get fired for not working. It happens, but commonly employers will notice and fire such an employee.

To quote office space:

"That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired."

That describes a big chunk of my co-workers when I worked at a Fortune 500. At bigger companies it is unfortunately particularly easy to coast along that way.

"The problems of these, among other things:

- mixing up burnout risk with burnout

- mixing up burnout with physical or mental fatigue

- not serving any purpose (i.e. not providing good directions)"

Also I'd argue and add to the list: - not accounting for (undiagnosed) comorbid/latent mental health disorders that affect mood, personality, happiness, well-being in social environments that can cloud your judgement and how you perceive your job w.r.t. the signals that generally predict burnout (e.g. clinical depression, panic attack/anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, etc)

This resonates with me a lot, but are these just your own observations or conclusions supported by directly research? (if so, any chance you could share the sources?)

The book "Tribal Leadership" summarizes that scale nicely.

Also, sharing your data with who?

The major part of burnout is thus caused by HR. HR directs that the way teams are evaluated is that they are compared to one another, and it is mandatory that one team be rated over another team which creates an us vs them mentality. Then members of the team must be evaluated against one another again with one person rated above another which creates a me vs them mentality. If you are rated down, your going to believe that the person doing the rating either can't see that you or your team is working smarter and harder than the rest. They got rated up because they somehow cheated the system and the person who rated them is as stupid as they are. If you or your team are rated first, then obviously they don't work as hard or as smart as you.

This is not how HR departments behave in many companies.

Do these companies retain their employees longer than the companies that do do this?

I got a 2.1/6, which is less than 50%. Apparently this is a "high" risk of burnout... Why not replace it with a button that says "Do you work in tech?" Yes -> High Risk of Burnout, since that's the vibe they're going with.

I got 0.6 / 6, and it said the same. Is it possible to not be at high risk of burnout according to this survey?

I was surprised when my 1/6 gave me high risk. I am very thankful for what I do and I enjoy going to work.

If you answer "None" to everything, your burnout risk is low (0/6).

Answering a single question with 1 (A few times a year or less) puts you at .1/6 (Mid), which goes up to .5/6.

I find the results reporting of this to be rather sensationalist and the whole thing pretty useless. If you're burnt out, you probably don't need an online quiz to tell you.

Think it depends on the category. I scored a ‘mid’ with a 1.3.

I scored 'mid' with 2.1, which was rather surprising after reading the parents comments.

I scored 3.4 and got mid. When I read the parents comments I thought that might have meant a lower score was higher risk. I suspect it depends on the categories you answer.

This thing is trash. I put "never" on everything and then "a few times a year" on one and I was still "mid" risk at 0.3/6.

Putting "once a month or less" on one thing made it "high" at 0.5/6

So basically 0.0 = LOW, 0.1 - 0.3 = MID, 0.3 - 6.0 = HIGH

Basically everyone who isn't in their dream job is at high risk of burnout. Pointless quiz.

Odd, I just popped 3 in everything to get 3/6 and it gave "mid" https://i.imgur.com/0YSLoyP.png

I got a ‘mid risk’ at 1.3. All of my ratings were low except ‘exhaustion’ which was a mid.

As a test, I answered 0 for most choices. 1 for like two or so.

Result: .6 of 6, "high" burnout risk.

I guess you give them your email address and then find out?

And they have the balls to tell me that my cynicism level is high.

I mean, they're not wrong, but gosh.

I got 2.3/6 and my burnout risk is "mid", so they probably weight some questions more than others when assessing the burnout risk.

When I joined the tech industry in my early 20s and for years after, I noticed that many in their 30s or older seemed burned out. It didn't make much sense to me, because to become a tech worker takes drive and ambition and how would you just lose that one day? Now, 12 years on I can definitely see how burnout is so prevalent.

It's like living in the desert and hearing about people drowning. You'd ask yourself, "how is that even possible?" But now I feel as if I've moved to the beach, and can easily see the waves and how it's a real problem. I don't think I'm burned out, but I'm conscious enough of the possibility to keep an eye on the tide.

I had the exact experience.

My tech career started at around 22. Everyone past the 28 mark seemed to have a generally apathetic vibe to work (compared to my 22 year old excitement). I had no idea how that could happen. Tech was awesome!!!!!!

I'm almost 30 now. Fuck tech. Fuck clients. Fuck management. And especially fuck 22 year olds. I want to put on my headphones, finish my 8 hours of sludge, and run for the exit.

For me it's a bit similar to how I felt as a kid playing with legos. Who wouldn't want to play with legos many hours a day, most days every week? It never occurred to me that there'd come a point where I wanted to know that my work genuinely improved lives. It turns out that being good at something and getting paid for it isn't always enough. It's hard to avoid the question of meaning forever.

It's something I hear almost every day now.

1) 20 something not willing to live office or blue collar job lives and go for driven passion

2) realize how any regular obligation will lose the art/passion side and will become a system ..

3) realize that a job is a job

4) many wants to improve lives of others.

I think our generation (I suppose we're both from the 70/80s) was pushed too long into pupil mindset (leaving college at 23 if not more) and too focused about our passions. Adult life is adult life and there's no cutting corners, the previous generation didn't really have a choice and learned it earlier.

Also 'improving lives of others' is somehow a metaphor for having a society being a large team. There's a weird pivotal time where we lose this trait.. we want to make it, become anxious.. and then realize 'success' would just be making something useful for the group.

I'm also at 12 years now, extrapolating to 25 years in the industry is actually pretty difficult to imagine.

Personal experience, FWIW: Once you have enough experience and a large enough network to generally not worry about jobs/starving, it makes sense to find more fulfilling jobs. There are plenty in tech, and if you are good, you can be selective. If you are really good, your former colleagues will constantly be telling you about new opportunities and you can be very selective.

I ended up doing a startup full time (3yrs) for a cause I liked (diagnosing TB, with the goal of giving away the product to lower income nations.) Product success, market failure, but personal success and i'm very happy I did it.

I was very selective with my current employer as well -- I really chose an engineering team I could respect and learn from and I'm happy about that.

I realize not everyone has the ability to be selective (perhaps luck, skillset, geography), but if you do, you can be very happy.

The drive and ambition have a funny tech-related spin to them, too. Emotional or relational problems are cast in technical terms as if the solution is to file a bug report on one's own software, even in cases where it makes most sense just to get together and push back on the project / boss / client.

Plus you can only hear about e.g. responsiveness concerns like latency so much from the same team / project before you realize: The people themselves are attempting to work more like, and to become more like, machines. They are also thinking about "my latency" as a way of becoming as responsive as possible. If that's true of the group, you're lucky if the burnout isn't already so well entrenched as to be celebrated.

Did you talk to these dudes ? I remember a few guys being quite dull my internship. I think that old big corps are too removed from reality in a way. You make products and portfolios.. rewrite some shit in <platform of the day> that is clearly not or not clearly an improvement. After some point maybe you just throw in the towel and just coast along for the check.

Also one guy did actually lose it and was now the official monster behind a cubicle. AFAIK he was still there because of years of service and probably some deep system know-how lockdown that nobody wants to touch so he's in charge.

Heh, it rings so true. I remember being an intern and feeling a bit ashamed that I was being paid for tinkering with stuff all day. It was all novel back then and very low-pressure (of course, that's because intern-level tasks are not exactly the most important ones). And there was this 'senior developer' guy whom I of course looked up to. But soon I noticed that he was incredibly checked out and just did the bare minimum of work and browsed facebook the rest of the time. I was seriously confused.

I burnt out 3 years in - just wanted too much, too soon instead of enjoying the process. May have come down to the employers. Have taken it easy these last 5 years, working not for a FAANG but very close and I've never been less stressed. Lucky my employer was acquired, because it sounds like the culture pre-acquisition was much, much more toxic.

Same here, and your analogy was great.

Also, thanks for the laugh re: your username.

I immediately went to do this quiz, but then I couldn't help but wonder if this might be one of those Cambridge Analytica style "quizzes" where they're harvesting psychological data for unknown purposes. I'm not sure if this makes me sound savvy or insane.

No personal information is asked, so the dataset will be pretty useless for monetization (you could just computationally generate a couple of thousand of responses and pretend it was the real deal).

uBlock Origin blocked one weird tracker-like third-party I didn't recognize: fullstory.com. The rest were the usual Google analytics crap.

Marcos here, one of the members of the team behind this. Fullstory is to understand this project as a product and to see where it needs to be improved (because users don't understand or try to do things that we didn't considered, etc.). Only personal data (mail) is asked for those interested to stay in the loop in some way. The dataset without those emails will be on Github soon :)

Why not just add a link add the end or in a footer where users can submit suggestions and report bugs? When you are engaging users in mental health related questions, any tracking is suspect and creepy.

In my experience, users don't report minor UX flaws.

These kind of recording services can show, for example, users rage clicking what looks like a button for a couple seconds before finding the real button.

For startups that don't have the resources to line up tons of user testing sessions where you watch the product being used, these can help make a less frustrating experience for users.

Why ask the company name if the intent is to be anonymous? Many companies just the role name and company name is enough to identify the individual. Maybe there is only one CTO or Cloud Architect, etc. Or maybe gender + role + company is enough to identify.

It's simple enough to enter in "Noneya Business, Inc" for the company field.

I finished the survey and clicked "get my personal results" - email is required to receive the results, but you can "Join" without providing an email.

fullstory records your entire session, which can be really useful for developers and UX folks to investigate bugs or better understand how people are using your site.

It's also super creepy.

Ew. Good thing uBlock Origin blocks it then.

And here I was wondering if I should start Tor, as I usually do when doing anything health or politics related, but thought I was maybe being paranoid for something upvoted on HN...

UI session recording services are incredibly common across all kinds of services. Inspectlet, Glassbox are two others I am aware of, but there are no doubt more. They also probably exist for mobile apps.

I caught that too. Good thing the test still worked with the trackers blocked.

Ah, I took this quiz on my iPhone, luckily my pihole caught the trackers. I have a pretty extensive hosts list I use with the PiHole (full story included): https://www.github.developerdan.com/hosts/

They could use your IP address or some tracking cookies to link this data to a bunch of other data. Potentially.

One nightmare / conspiracy theory scenario is they sell it to potential employers, recruiters, job search web sites, etc. and send them the signal "don't hire this person; they're burnt out".

But a job switch could help the burnout.

- use incognito to avoid trackers

- use proxy / vpn

- resize your window if you are still scared

No. Use the Tor Browser. The manual hacks do very little.

What effect does resizing your window have?

a little help to bypass tracking by fingerprinting

Doesn't it make things even more unique? How many people have a 1347×712 px window open?

No, if u keep changing frequently!

"Has a non-standard window size" still really narrows the search space, and there's still your desktop resolution that might be super unique if you have a laptop and a desk monitor at an offset.

The IP address (therefore city and country) and browser data already says a lot.

At this point, it's just and Chrome

Taking your comment into consideration, it seems like the quiz format could potentially shut out some of those it rather intends to help--its core audience even...how sad would that be.

Imagine those who would elevate your reality-grounded concern (incorporating the current privacy culture context as it does) to the paranoia level, many of whom would do so simply because stress has so affected their judgment process.

I know folks who work in tech for whom this would be a very quick and biting "no" due to such paranoia. But many of these same people urgently need to set boundaries and address destructive issues with their self-criticism circuits. They are burnt out.

I got 0.5/6

and still it says "Your burnout risk is HIGH"

I feel, it was because of little high Self-inefficacy.

I experimented with different answers, once I got 0.6/6 and it said: "Your burnout risk is MID", but for that Self-inefficacy was LOW.

It seems like Self-inefficacy has been taken as a high factor for Burnout.

The quiz is at best propaganda and at worst psychologically damaging. Besides, you can't laugh at the optics of 1%ers whining about how hard their insanely profitable jobs are.

Optics are real, of course, but burnout isn't necessarily whining. It can be seen as a kind of "business risk" for your career.

Ignore it or otherwise fail to manage it, and you can end up stagnating instead of advancing, souring your relationship with your employer, or letting the situation build to a crisis where you must have relief and decide to chuck it all and mow lawns for a living instead.

Also, every person needs to understand their own balance between the value they place on dumptrucks full of cash and sacrifices made for work. At some point the additional $50K in salary isn't worth it, or maybe it is. Or maybe $50K less in salary is a good trade-off.

I also ran the quiz several times and can reproduce your results. Science! I’m going to say the quiz is overtuned.

I don't think burnout is really about overwork so much as spending even 40 hours a week doing something that is contrary to your own personal values. I suspect a lot of people work on things (ads, selling more crap, getting people in more debt, etc.) that they ultimately don't think really matter or are a net benefit to society.

I think it's possible to burn out working on things you think are important but that are chronically underfunded or ignored. For example, I can imagine working on cleantech or green NGOs only to be consistently frustrated that people don't want to pay for better recycling and cleaner energy, or want to reduce their water usage.

Also, that theory does not work with the fact, that a lot of burnout victims are social workers.

Exactly. Burnout can happen because you have a cynical malaise about your mission. But it can also happen because you are so passionate about your mission that where a normal person would understand reasonable boundaries between work and life, you can't resist the temptation to push right past them. (Which violates the principle of taking care of yourself first, so that you can take care of others.)

Sorry to bring up religion in polite conversation, but an interesting theory I've heard about church pastors is that sometimes they have extramarital affairs (partly) for an unusual reason. They feel called to do their type of work, but it's all-consuming, so they end up feeling conflicted. Part of them wants to quit, but another part cannot justify it. So instead of quitting, they do something which might or might not get them fired. It's a moral failing, but less of a moral failing than abandoning your mission. (Ultimately, it's just a way to not take responsibility for your choices, but that's human beings for you.)

I feel like the cynical malaise is maybe more healthy to go in with, and also what your impression of everything turns into after getting burned out because you went in with a ton of personal investment (passion or whatever)

I've worked on and around volunteer and open source projects for social and environmental causes and burn out is an issue there too. Often for some of the reasons you mention, other factors are also lack of resources and an inhibility to come to quick decisions and move a project forward, it can feel like you're going nowhere and having the same conversations over and over.

Reminds me a friend quit tech went to work for the state doing utility grade solar permitting. About 80% of the work he was doing for two years was just trying to nail down the proper process because people are going to sue. Including organizations you think of as allies, like the sierra club. And then the project he was working on was canceled.

badup bumm.

I burned out because I found I was covering for higherups and enabling their further abuse and bad behavior. Can't do that forever...

That's exactly one of the main reasons. Burnout has little to do with overwork.

This misses so many nuances it's not even funny.

I'm mentally and physically exhausted, yes. However, I'm exceptionally happy. I enjoy what I do. I want to do it all day long.

We're working on something I think is useful, I think people need it, and I want them to have it sooner rather than later. This might mean I burn out and need a weeks rest come like... June, but fuck, I'm running straight towards that and I'm so happy I don't care.

A few weeks rest!? You certainly might need that, but it ain't burnout—and yes I'll gatekeep it, because burnout is a different degree. I genuinely hope it doesn't happen for you, and getting out while you're happy is probably a great way to mitigate, but it's risky. One of the things about burnout that is so deceiving, is that combination of feeling great about it and sacrificing so much personally or investing too much personally, then you get hit hard when your expectations stop aligning. Could be anything, like you thought based on your work that you were way more valued, then someone new comes in and fires you or changes direction and all of a sudden the last two years are tossed in the garbage. That 3 weeks you would have spent relaxing turns into 2 years spent figuring out wth you were thinking and what to do next.

I feel this industry is burned out due to the fact that the magic doesn't feel like it's there anymore. If we want a salary we're forced to sign NDA's & NCA's and forego all our personal ambitions to the company.

We have endless pointless tooling for basic shit like writing CRUD apps. Need to make a web app? Install Node to use NPM to install a million and a half packages to write a Hello World example. It's cool though, this project was made by so and so, even though the creators themselves aren't using it in production. God forbid you're writing an SPA, that will be 2 million dependencies. So many noob's entering the work force every day trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, constantly cheer-leading the latest worthless framework which is built upon the same old logic used for the past 40 years.

Managers and tech leads suffering from blogitis reading some dumb ass opinion on why he chose React etc.. and pushing the entire team and company in that direction. As far as I can tell, our webapps are still a broken pile of patches just the same as they we're 10 years ago. Only this time around, they're much more difficult to write and maintain.

On top of that we have endless meetings all day, arbitrary 1 - 5 ranking systems, biased promotions and endless arbitrary deadlines. Not to worry though, Agile and all it's pointless complexities to the rescue.

Finally, we have smug spoiled people all over this industry talking down to us about the tech we use and how much smarter they are because they hit the jackpot due to mommy and daddy's connections etc...

It's not the wild west anymore and tech isn't nearly as fun or as competitive for the individual. It's just a choice between the corporate grind or starving startup hipster.

I burnt out several years ago, I was way past the point of return before I realized. I ended up changing jobs, and took a few vacations... even then recovery was slow. After that I returned pretty strong. Since then there have been a few times I recognized it happening again, but being cognizant of the signs goes a long ways towards preventing it.

Same thing. I've never held a job longer then two years. Not because of incapable of the work but because I get so burnt I shoot myself in a foot and end up "dismissed" "fired" "redundant".

I've been off work for three months now with little-to no money and it's the past three months I've only just started feeling myself again. I start work /again/ next week and I know the novelty of the new job will tick well, but when that wears off.. I will start to burn out again.

It's not stress, I can handle that fine. Its just so stale and no freedom.

I want to run another operating system other than "CentOS". Screw it, lets run OpenBSD for routing instead of $$$ DellForce9 where you have to pay $$$ to enable additional switch ports. But no, it's all got to be kept enterprise. I'm just bored of it as a whole.

I'm with you man. Never held a job for more than a year or so. Though for me it is because I quit once I feel myself losing interest. Nothing gives a jolt to my apathy quite like quitting with nothing else lined up. This will prove harder once my Son is born though...

I might have been more clear, when I recognize myself burning out now I dont quit my job. That's an extreme measure for extreme situations. Instead I recognize what is causing my burnout, and I try to address it. My last bout was a struggle with balancing a new baby. I talked to my boss, Nd we worked out a deal of loosening my workload. About a year later I was able to pick up more.

As for your frustration in lack of agency. It takes time to build a reputation worth trusting. I'd reccomend changing how you approach work. Think about what your bosses goals are, what the companies goals are. If you can find ways to add value, you can earn greater trust, and more agency.

thank you for the input. That's definitely something I'll keep in mind especially with my new job.

I have a working theory that basically all "devops engineer" jobs of the last 5ish years are more or less automatic/happens-by-default burnout traps. Hard to tell how much is that and how much is just we're all sliding into middle age, but man I have yet to see one that wasn't a steadily ratcheting wrench of pressure to keep all the old things running while doing the next new thing every month.

Not to mention the ever increasing stack of tools and tech you need to keep up with.

8 question survey (followed by a summary that explains the questions, but if you use browser navigation buttons it's irrevocably lost).

1. I find it difficult to relax after a day of work

2. After a day of work, I feel run-down and drained of physical or emotional energy

3. I feel less and less connected and engaged with the work I do.

4. I do not have a clear idea of the value and purpose of my job

5. I am harder and less sympathetic with people than perhaps they deserve

6. I am worried this job is making me harsher emotionally

7. I feel that I am achieving less than I should

8. I feel that I do not have time to do many of the things that are important for doing a good quality job

Perhaps tech workers should unionize and demand better healthcare, 40 hour work weeks, etc.

Not only is this politically impossible in the US, it would never be able to be equally applied across the industry. Startups would still give a raw deal to their employees. Startup culture in California practically worships extreme hours and periods without pay as "dedication" and part of the "grind".

Furthermore the fact that programming can be fun enough for lone wolf hackers to do their open source projects for free means that unionization efforts would probably lead to a greater industry reliance on actual free work, not less.

I think that burnout has more to do with existential questions and less to do with labor questions. If you don't have a good answer to "why am I doing this job?" then it doesn't matter if you work 40 hours and have excellent healthcare.

Actually I think it's about missing your expectations of reward.

I've never had an issue with any of those things. Maybe people should move away from the valley into the rest of the country where the jobs are more humane

You could still use your leverage to help other people get those things. Solidarity and all that.

My point is people can get those things by moving away from the "cool" startups and work for the vast majority of other companies that already treat tech workers incredibly well. Compared to my peers outside of tech, I've always had better benefits and better working conditions than them. People need to realize that many of the "issues" they perceive with the industry are limited to certain coastal areas. It's the same with the "women in tech" issue. In every position I've held (I live in Cleveland, OH for reference) there's always been a balanced representation of developers from both genders.

You get downvoted, but you actually have a point.

The problem with GP's statement isn't "unionization". It's "tech workers". What does that even mean? It's such a general term that can be applied to vast swathes of the workforce. Is someone who maintains complex VB scripted excel sheets a tech worker, for instance? Or is that label only reserved for those who work at a FAANG company?

Many who have a so-called "technical" or "digital" role do so in industries whose main primary focus isn't producing digital software or services. Banks, Automotive, Health, Education, Food, Retail, Mining, Construction, Transport, Tourism,... And many of those industries do have long traditions of unionization and defending laborer rights.

Many of those workers are already organized and do have many provisions for a sane workplace culture provided by their employers. Because the latter already went through the pain of worker conflicts.

The trouble with the "Valley" is that it originates in that wild idea of bootstrapping your own company from your garage or kitchen table, taking the same mythical roads pioneers of computing took some 40 years ago.

While many found unprecedented freedom in being able to bootstrap or work for a fledgling company, doing so was - and still is - a very risky proposition. You will work outrageous amounts of time without knowing if you ever will be able to cash out. You have to be okay with that.

Today's FAANG companies originate from that narrative, and VC capital backed start up culture heavily projects that narrative. But Silicon Valley isn't a small community of computing enthousiast anymore. The Wild West doesn't exist anymore. It's a particular industry in it's own right and most sizable companies compare to well-established corporations who are just like any other traditional corporation.

Yet, somehow, everyone still perceives these companies as pioneers and give them a free pass as to the ethical choices they make in how they treat the users of their products, and the workers who make those products.

Breaking off from this tangent about Valley corporatism, it should be clear that the plight of workers in that setting isn't really comparable to all workers in other industries and fields that may provide better working conditions.

Just recently, someone argued to me that working on "boring" technology is what gives you the most job stability (which isn't the same as security!). Like, doing Perl or Cobol for social security institutions, banks, transport, etc. With age, I've come to find that this person is likely right.

Better yet, there are entire continents with more humane jobs than most in "the country".

You can burn out no problem with great healthcare and 40 hour work weeks.

Right, but the velocity is probably slower.

I get the sentiment, but some perspective is in order. We're in the goddamn catbird seat. We make a shitload of money, we actually do have good health insurance, and we punch keyboards in a heated office at a desk. We're not mining coal or working in the fertilizer plant from The Jungle.

In this economy, if your work environment sucks, the door is open and there are greener pastures.

The biggest problem is really that so much of what we do is boring, and, in the greater scheme of things, pointless.

Except that this is not true. The average salary of a software engineer in Japan, Germany and other highly developed nations is only slightly better than let's say an accountant's. If we take the amortized hourly wage by considering unpaid overtime then it becomes even worse which is on par with an average high school teacher or alike. In some cases considering the unpaid overtime plus the unpaid self-studies it can get amortized to the level of a janitor. And this is a systematic problem across the industry.

On the other hand the health insurance doesn't make any difference in these countries since it's the same for all citizens so I am not sure how is that relevant.

> The average salary of a software engineer in Japan, Germany and other highly developed nations is only slightly better than let's say an accountant's.

I don't know. A quick search shows me accountants to start with 25-35k, while software developers start at 42k and peak significantly higher. Sure, depends on your definition of slightly, I guess. If you're in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich or Hamburg and you're not getting 50k, call a head hunter. And a lot of unpaid overtime? That's rare even for startups because labor law is pretty strict over here, so lots of overtime is a liability for the company, and, since it's pretty easy to find a new job if you're anywhere near a metropolitan area, companies do take care to not drive their employees away.

Edit: I'm going to put this here because it clearly rubbed some people the wrong way, HN and YC were historically US focused they have since expanded but this site still has a large US population that view and post on it and with that come a bias for this group, including myself, to think in terms of the US market. My below statement, which to me is entirely benign, is basically saying that's what we do. Is it right? I don't know but frankly I don't know anything about non US markets in terms of software engineering jobs and I wouldn't attempt to make a statement in terms of those markets because I don't know them. I do know my own market though and thus you'll get posts from me in terms of that market and I'm not particularly sorry about that.

So first off this has traditionally been a US centric site, so you'll have to excuse that most things take a US centric view and we do make a lot of money in the US software industry.

Second I have never once worked a job like that and every time I see people talk about this like its the industry norm I kind of become incredulous to the fact. The US market is so good you can turn down jobs like that.

I can't help but thinking the overtime you take on is more about you and not pushing back but again maybe this is different outside of the US. Here in the US at least, what are they going to do fire you? Cool, if they do your salary probably just increased by 10-20k USD as you find a new job in < 4 weeks.

I get that what you're saying is your reality but it certainly hasn't been mine and if you push back on things more you'll maybe find it doesn't have to be yours either. It's our market and we have high leverage because how desperate jobs are for Devs of all flavors.

This is right from the website: "Join the Global IT Burnout Index"

And then there is a form to select my country. So even if HN is a US centric site, which I dispute actually, still the website in this post has nothing to do with the US.

And I get that it's different in the US, but I doubt that people don't care if they get fired. I very much doubt that.

First off I said "traditionally US centric" which it was. I maybe should have said "historically US centric" which would be more in line with what I was trying to get across. I don't think it is anymore.

And second I certainly didn't say they don't care, what I am implying though is they shouldn't care as much, the consequences right now are minimal and potentially largely beneficial.


Excuse in the sense of "forgive" that people have a US bias. I agree with you and you read something from that I didn't intend sorry about that.

> the door is open and

- you can easily find a job that devalues you in the exact same dehumanizing way your current job does.

Which is why it's important to strike while our iron is still hot. Grab collective bargaining power before we absolutely need it, like so many other industries do these days.

> We make a shitload of money, we actually do have good health insurance, and we punch keyboards in a heated office at a desk.

What's the point of any of that if you're miserable the whole time? Burning through the prime years of your life, no less.

There are valid answers to that question, but I think a lot of people haven't even asked it. In the words of a particularly edgy Radiohead song: "A pig, in a cage, on antibiotics."

> We make a shitload of money

Not exactly true outside certain areas, mostly in the US. In The Netherlands for example > 80k euros is considered pretty good pay.

> so much of what we do is boring, and, in the greater scheme of things, pointless

This I would say is actually quite a big problem, one that can lead to burnout in the longer run.

€80K in the Netherlands puts you in the top 1.5% of household income[0]

That said, it's possible to be in the top few % in a major metropolis anywhere in the world and still feel 'average' simply because the cost of living is so great and you're spending >50% of your income on housing.

[0] https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/visualisaties/income-distribution

I'm not really saying that 80k is a little - it's not. It's more than fair - just not a shitload.

Note however that the chart shows disposable income, which I'm pretty sure is the one after tax. 80k gross is more like 48k after tax.

> In The Netherlands for example > 80k euros is considered pretty good pay.

More than twice the average income? I don't know whether that qualifies as "shitload", but it's not that far away, no?

Well, in the US the equivalent would be around 200k USD. You should also take into account the marginal tax rate of 52%, which yields a net income of a bit below 4k/month.

I'm not really complaining, mind you. It's nice to live in a country where basically nobody sleeps on the street, medical assistance is available (if you really need it) and basically free, the infrastructure is great etc.

> I get the sentiment, but some perspective is in order.

Stop minimizing mental health issues. It's profoundly harmful!

Thousands of people in the world jumped off some bridge after being told "you have a good life, take it easy" one time too much.

> We're in the goddamn catbird seat.

A lot of developers have very undeserved jobs, yes.

> We make a shitload of money

Not everybody has the sheer privilege of being born in the right country. In most lands developers are quite underpaid.

> we punch keyboards in a heated office at a desk. We're not mining coal

If you are talking about modern coal mining - it's done by pressing buttons while sitting in a heated steel cabin.

If you are talking about mining with a shovel - that's some dishonest cherry-picking.

On top of that, burnout and suicide rate strongly correlates with feelings of doing a pointless job.

When cooking or building a house or mining coal people can be get a surprisingly amount of satisfaction from their output.

Throwaway, here.

If you can't afford to buy a house on a single-income where you live you aren't making a shitload of money.

Tech is a small club. There is a blacklist. There are backchannel lines of communication. Piss off the wrong people and it will follow you for years.

The Bay is not the world. Most of it is not anywhere near that kind of pathological situation.

What, and, like, have actual political power? Red scare!

My healthcare is 100% paid for and my work week is 40 hours 99% of the time.

My work week is also 40 hours 99% of the time, including the community volunteering my work encourages me to do. I've never missed a milestone because they aren't crazy short and I'm allowed to push back during planning if they are. I think more companies should be like mine. Somehow I still got a 1.4/6 on this survey and my risk "HIGH"

I feel like one of the worst things you can do when you burnout or are on the way to burning out, is to get a new job. Imo, swapping in stuff where stuff wasn't good before is just a way to divert your attention in a way that doesn't let you redevelop your value system in a way that you really need to. Just stop for a while. Maybe a long while. Then see what you want to do.

Some workplaces are really bad though. I've had one that was complete insanity with bosses yelling etc. Better to get out sometimes.

Absolutely agreed, but I think this is more of a specific case where the environment is totally toxic, rather than your personal mental health maintenance. As in, because you can absolutely burnout at even the best organizations, it's indicative of other stuff. If the workplace is shit, get out. Whether you move immediately into another position or not depends on whether you're burning/burnt out. If you are, then you gotta give yourself more time not working generally.

This is useless, unfortunately. I answered it honestly; I'm someone with a low-agreeableness personality, and some health problems (which have been improving, but nonetheless) which leave me pretty drained of energy at the end of the day.

This test doesn't even try to account for those things, and offers me a high risk of burnout despite low-to-perfect scores for everything else.

My burnout index is 5/6. No surprise there.

I'm more interested in why the site reloads the top portion of the page after the initial load. You can tell, because the top image changes from the person sitting on the left side of the table a flipped one where they are on the right side of the table.

left https://images.ctfassets.net/z2g90m75le4q/5yT1ytvHM0WLTih13Y...

right https://images.ctfassets.net/z2g90m75le4q/7kam7578mAMnVlgQTP...

hear you... got 5/6 and was thinking about improving the number of clicks on that questionnaire. Sigh... How did I get there?

Mostly just getting tired of not having a quiet place to work and needing to grind leetcode so that I don't have to worry about being un-hirerable in my free time. Besides that I generally like being an SWE. I'm also pretty tired of private companies wanting me to value stock options equally to dollars.

A bit (quite a lot) simplistic (but personally, I appreciate the idea).

In order to get a "low" index in each parameter, one needs to always set the best possible scenario, which is not realistic.

Even in the best possible scenario _in real world_, one could be less than sympathetic with somebody else once a month. That doesn't mean they're at "mid" level of a burnout parameter.

And not reaching the productivity potential at times is normal (and cyclical). Again, not a burnout parameter.

I see "Based on scientific questionnaires created by psychology professionals", but I doubt it's professionally assembled.

The quiz is at best propaganda and at worst psychologically damaging. Besides, you can't laugh at the optics of 1%ers whining about how hard their insanely profitable jobs are.

This is great. Any interest in expanding the Roles available in the drop-down menu to be more inclusive of other Roles within a tech company.

Speaking for myself, a tech industry Marketer, I'm pretty damn burnt out!

Thanks for creating a tool to help us visualize and keep reference of where we're mentally at.

It might be a cool feature to have the ability to save your report and trigger repeat measurements over time. With that data, you could then 'map' the mindspace of the user and how they are hopefully working towards triggers and burnout.

I like this conceptually, but I don’t think I trust it to be... a reliable opinion.

I got 1.5 / 6. Apparently this means I’m at HIGH risk, which strikes me as pretty stupid. What are other people getting?

(I am comfortable and pretty darn sure I’m not burnt out at all, answering several of these as “Never”)

Honest question, is someone not mentally drained after programming(or just working) all day? That has been my experience for my 10+ year career every single day. Am I doing it wrong?

My mental drainage is tied almost completely to how much I enjoy the work and/or work environment.

If the work sucks - I come home hating my job, hating my life, and wanting a new job. Therefore - I am much more drained.

If the work is relatively interesting or am just not upset with it - then I come home feeling energized or fine. (Rare these days - I really hate my job and want a new one)

This is why I find getting a new job to be extremely difficult. The more I hate my job - the more I need to interview and do technical interview prep to get out... Which needs to be done at home after work. But the more I hate my job - the more drained I am - thus, the less I am able to do those things. It ends up keeping you in the same shitty job for way longer than you want. It's almost like they thought about this...

It depends where you work. Some places have very low expectations for their programmers. I have heard of places with very high expectations, but I've never worked at one yet. I've never felt mentally drained, but on occasion I have felt "keyed up" and I can't stop thinking about an interesting problem even when I go home. That is definitely less than 20% of the days in my 10+ year career though.

Maybe I'm not burning out. Maybe I'm just tired and intellectually drained after 8 hours of intellectual stimulation. And maybe that's totally normal.

This seems to rank nearly everyone as burned-out. Reeks of agenda.

And/or (cynical view), our industry in such a state that nearly everyone IS burned out.

No, I mean it literally ranks nearly everyone as burned out. As an experiment I chose the second-to-lowest burnout score for every question but one (for which I chose the lowest score). My risk of burnout was rated as high.

That's ridiculous for answers that by any objective measure would be great.

It would be possible with some questions that the answer between 0 to 1 is more meaningful than the answer between 1 and 10. For example, "How many tires have you slashed?"

0 to 1 is much more of a jump than 1 to 10. If this was being used to rank some underlying characteristic, 0 would be low while 1-10 would be high.

Now, does that apply to these questions? I don't think so. Theoretically I can see valid cases where answering anything above 0 goes straight from low to high.

> I mean it literally ranks nearly everyone as burned out.

Yes, got that. My point is, it's exactly what you would expect IF nearly everyone ACTUALLY IS burned out.

Not that I'm seriously saying they are, just pointing out that you are making that assumption, mainly as a way of saying maybe software is a profession with a relatively high burnout rate.

I think burnout happens when you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, when every week is darker than the last.

My last job offered unlimited vacation. But if I ever took any vacation I'd get a message from my boss the night before I got back with a laundry list of the things that need attention ASAP - I couldn't really finish relaxing before I was vacuumed back into the soul sucking darkness.

I don't buy it. With a very low score--hey I like what I'm doing--I'm still at a high-risk of burnout. I Don't Think So.

I am never sure about what a burnout really is. It is not in the DSM yet, but that doesn't really say anything. It shares a lot of properties with depression. Weird stuff.

Test is bogus of course. With nine questiI got a high risk, because I scored a bit high on cynicism. But hey, I work in the advertisement business. I am not kidding myself that I add any value to this world at all.

My mind immediately went to the other kind of burnout where you shave a few 32nds off your tires.

Might need to do a few of those because I scored a 5.6.

This is total scam covered with nice UI. All the results indicate burn out is high if you select tech industry.

Do not take the survey.

With my luck, I found a bug. If you press one button for an answer, then press another one, I find that the button is not selected, but the length of the button is shortened. It's strange. After clicking again it seems fine.

Other than that, cynicism checks out on the results. 5.1.

I'm a sucker for questionnaires, but this just seemed to simplistic. I'd say you might as well replace the questions with a single "how burnt out do you feel" input.

Would love to see how different industries compare on some of these scores.

I am reminded of the “Free Personality Test”s which inevitably shows you have some grave personal problems which can only be helped by Scientology (and certainly not by those evil, evil psychologists).

There should be an option for "fuck, I'm far past on being worried about this." (I.e.: the option of do you worry about your emotional state)

Massive, built-in selection bias.

People who have time for (or need the distraction of) surveys like these tend to be, of course... the already burnt out.

I wonder what happens with the data collected by this website. I’m afraid to let them know anything about my mental well-being.

Meh. So much of these end up being self-fulfilling prophesies. Instead of telling someone they're at high risk for burnout, we should tell people to be reasonable with their work/life balance.

Burnout is as much an employee problem as an employer problem. We all need to put our big boy pants on and take some responsibility for our actions and the consequences of those actions.

Disclaimer: I don't supervise anyone.

My wife has helped me to put things in place to prevent burnout, mostly little things outside of work

Good site. This frog is boiled. I'll be returning periodically.

I agree burnout is real, but I have never run into a someone working that doesn’t make a fuss about how ‘busy’ they are. I feel the results are going to be ‘yep, everyone is burnt out’.

I'm not busy, and still burnt out. Not having enough of value to do can also burn you out.

Works fine for me. Great little tool this.

I love the illustration

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