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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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?
That's why people who are burnt out can suddenly freeze and are unable to continue what they were doing.
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.
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.
I owe you a heartfelt thank-you: It plainly and honestly brings me an incredible happiness when people compliment my writing.
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'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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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...
"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."
- 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)
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.
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.
Result: .6 of 6, "high" burnout risk.
I mean, they're not wrong, but gosh.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Also, thanks for the laugh re: your username.
uBlock Origin blocked one weird tracker-like third-party I didn't recognize: fullstory.com. The rest were the usual Google analytics crap.
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.
It's also super creepy.
- use proxy / vpn
- resize your window if you are still scared
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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'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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- you can easily find a job that devalues you in the exact same dehumanizing way your current job does.
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."
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.
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.
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.
More than twice the average income? I don't know whether that qualifies as "shitload", but it's not that far away, no?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
That's ridiculous for answers that by any objective measure would be great.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Might need to do a few of those because I scored a 5.6.
Do not take the survey.
Other than that, cynicism checks out on the results. 5.1.
Would love to see how different industries compare on some of these scores.
People who have time for (or need the distraction of) surveys like these tend to be, of course... the already burnt out.
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.