During COVID-19, plenty of IT departments stepped up to the plate to get their organizations through the worst of the isolation. Now that things are starting to wind down, burnout among workers is reaching epic heights.
Burnout doesn’t refer to regular stress on the job. It’s a phenomenon that brings about chronic exhaustion and negativity towards the job. It means that workers are less effective overall. They're cynical about their work and feel less connected to one another. We look at how IT workers have been affected, how to spot the signs, and how to lend support.
The Rates of IT Burnout
The numbers range from self-reported surveys, depending on when the survey was taken and who was asked. However, the overall trend is that IT workers are increasingly reporting how burned out they feel — even more so than other departments. (Developers report the highest levels of burnout thanks to their long hours, with 77% working more than 40 hours per week and 13% working over 50 hours per week.) IT workers were likely the hit the hardest because they’re expected to keep up with a never-ending pace of change. Switching roles on a dime, working with different customers, assisting all of the departments: these are all part and parcel of the job, but that doesn't mean it's easy to do.
On top of this, an IT department’s epic accomplishments can often go unacknowledged by the powers that be, which can eventually lead to distrust and resentment for individual employees. Part of this is because the C-suite may only have a vague idea of what IT workers do in the first place. IT workers may start to think that they’re not really making an impact or that their position is easily replaceable. This is very bad news for any CIO. If they feel no sense of loyalty, they’ll have no qualms about looking for another job.
All employees will be able to identify their dissatisfaction at work to some degree. The problem is that they may either try to hide those feelings from the CIO or they may not be aware of the severity of those feelings. CIOs are free to ignore the signs, but they would be better off trying to get to know their employees instead.
The more you understand about an employee’s habits and demeanor, the easier it will be to spot major changes in their attitudes. Burned out employees take more sick days, they make more mistakes, and their productivity slips. Regular conversations and check-ins can go a long way to opening the lines of communication, which can make it possible for both CIO and employee to identify what's really going on.
There are also more technical tools that can come in handy. Unsurprisingly, IT managers are implementing workforce analytic software that measures everything from break frequency to focus habits. This is a technical assessment, of course, but it can lead to more humanizing solutions for the entire team. For instance, CIOs may be able to spot a small slip in productivity before it has the chance to snowball into burnout.
How to Support Burned Out Employees
There are plenty of CIOs out there who are happy to let burned out employees give up and move on, but this is a dangerous game to play. More often than not, it can have a destabilizing ripple effect that stretches further than people think. Good leaders don’t have to micromanage, but they do need to take some initiative. Being aware may mean offering more guidance. In any organization, it means opening up the lines of communication. People need to feel comfortable and safe enough to express an opinion that seemingly goes against the grain.
If you want to learn how to help employees with burnout, it starts with understanding the situation. Not everyone is going to speak up when it comes to burn out. It’s up to leaders to have some awareness of what’s happening in their team. IT workers are expected to be versatile these days, but not everyone has the training or experience to seamlessly go from one program or device to the next.
This is when a partner like Dataprise can prove to be an invaluable resource. Augmenting your IT staff via a Managed Service Provider (MSP) can reduce the workload tremendously without reducing the quality of your services. When you're wondering how to recover from burnout, MSPs can take over some of the most time-consuming tasks, leaving your in-house staff to attend to more pressing matters. It opens up your employees to work on things that actually matter to the organization and takes the pressure off their shoulders at the same time. It can mean more meaningful interactions for everyone involved (and far less resentment).