Engineering

How to avoid burnout – Taking care of number one!

Marcos Sponton
By Marcos Sponton

We’re all under pressure with our work and personal lives taking their toll, and we need to manage the stress levels. Ignore this and you risk burning out.

What is burnout?

Mental health is something we must be aware of, but what is burnout?

We spoke to Marcos Sponton, founder, and CEO of Yerbo –  a Latin America-based platform designed to help developers avoid burnout – ​​to find out more and get some tips for self-care.

The classical definition of burnout is the mismatch between the demands that our job puts on us and the resources we have available to meet those demands. 

There are four key markers that could indicate that you’re burned out:

  • Exhaustion – Just like you get tired when you over-exercise, so the effort that you put into work produces fatigue. Exhaustion is triggered by excessive effort over time. Remember that exhaustion can be triggered by emotional and cognitive effort as well as physical exertion. 
  • Cynicism – One of the core markers of burnout. Cynicism is a detachment you feel from your work. When you no longer feel that your work provides you with purpose and that you have nothing left to give. In short, you just don’t care anymore.
  • Depersonalization – While cynicism is an emotional detachment from the task at hand, depersonalization relates to your relationship with other people. These could be clients, colleagues, or your boss. When you feel disconnected from the people you interact with, it’s a clear warning sign of burnout.
  • Self-inefficacy – While the previous two markers relate to your work and to other people, self-inefficacy is much more personal. Self-inefficacy means you no longer believe that you can complete the tasks that you need to, both in a personal and professional capacity.

When you’re burned out, these markers combine to create a barrier between you and the world. You don’t believe in yourself, you’re cut off from the people around you, you don’t see the point of the work you’re doing, and you’re too tired to do anything about it.

This isn’t a position that anyone wants to find themselves in, but in our industry so many of us do.

Simple tips for self-care

So, what can you do to alleviate burnout?

  • You need to be able to name the problem. Just as in any classic horror movie, knowing the name of the demon is the key to defeating it. If you can identify and call out the markers of burnout, you can start to address them before they combine and defeat you.
  • You must be able to speak about how you’re feeling. Once you’ve identified the markers of burnout you should speak to your manager about taking steps to address them. It’s in their best interest to protect your mental health, so letting them know that you’re struggling is an important first step. 

I know not everyone is comfortable speaking to their manager, and if that’s the case find someone else, maybe in HR or someone else in your team.

  • It’s also important to track your burnout levels. If you know what the markers are then keep notes about how you’re feeling and get help before it becomes a problem.
  • Don’t expect that what works for one person will work for everyone. Mindfulness training and yoga are great, but it’s not a cure-all. Find what works for you.
  • Don’t be the hero. We all have limitations and if you try to solve every problem on your own, you’re going to put yourself at risk.

Managers – Pay attention

If you’re a manager or team leader there are also actions you can take to protect your team members. 

While it’s important to capture the mood of the company, relying on a single large survey every six months isn’t the way to do it. Rather, find ways to continuously check in with team members and show that you’re taking the issue of burnout seriously. And don’t ignore the signs yourself. If you’re not taking care of yourself then how can you expect those who report to you to do the same?

On an organizational level, it’s also important that leaders use the same language to discuss mental health with employees. Having a consistent message means that people are more likely to take the topic seriously.

If you found Marcos’ tips from his webinar useful, check out our other on-demand webinars for more essential insights.

Are you a developer interested in growing your software engineering career? Apply to join the Andela Talent Network today.

Marcos Sponton
Written by
Marcos Sponton
Founder and CEO of Yerbo