Like many skilled professions, working as a software developer is stressful and comes with the risk of burnout. But what are the particular risks in this industry, and how can you avoid them or restrict their impact?
Employers such as Sonatafy do their best to ensure this does not happen to their developers, but there are ways that software developers can follow to reduce the risk of burnout. Outlined below are some top tips for overcoming software developer burnout.
1. Why does Software Developer Burnout occur?
Engineers experience burnout in much the same way as other professionals, and the reasons are similar. Work-life imbalance is often the primary cause when work takes up so much time that you don’t have time to spend with family and friends or engage in leisure activities. Other reasons can be:
- Lack of control. If someone feels that they have little control over their work schedule and no ability to affect decisions affecting their workload, this can lead to burnout.
- Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. If a manager is micromanaging or there is a culture of bullying in the workplace.
- Extremes of activity. If a job is exceptionally chaotic or monotonous, this takes up a lot of energy just to focus, leading to fatigue and burnout.
- Job expectations are unclear. If it is not clear what responsibilities or degree of authority an employee has, this can also be stressful
2. How do you transition out of software developer burnout?
Transitioning away from any career usually involves retraining, but there are usually some transferrable skills that you can use to minimize retraining. Software developers possess a number of these. As this article for Indeed shows, there are at least twenty career paths that would be suitable for a burned-out software developer to transition into. The top five are:
- Technical Support Associate. This role involves providing support to customers having issues with their technology and diagnosing problems, as well as providing solutions and documenting them to help resolve similar future problems.
- Graphic Designer. Graphic designers use computer software to create designs for a range of media, such as websites, magazines, and advertisements, producing images and logos to meet customer requirements.
- Software Trainer. With their experience in software, this is an ideal career move for software developers, training the next generation of programmers and designers.
- Tutor. Helping a student to understand complex topics, something a software developer will have had to do for themself at many points, is another career path to consider.
- Technical Writer. Technical writers create copy that contains information about complex topics, often related to software engineering and other technical fields.
3. How do developers deal with stress?
Managing stress is one of the top tips for overcoming software developer burnout. There are many ways to manage your stress. These can include:
- Reducing your working hours.
- Taking regular breaks as needed – working through breaks can feel like the right thing to do, but this can actually harm your productivity. Breaks also give time to unwind.
- Maintaining good relationships outside work.
- Taking up hobbies outside work.
4. How can a developer feel less overwhelmed?
If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break, if possible. A little time to recharge may be all that is needed in most instances.
However, if the feeling is persistent, you should talk to your colleagues to see if they can assist. If the problem is still there and becomes acute, you should speak to your manager.
Managers don’t want their employees overwhelmed, and should work with you to address the problem, perhaps by reducing workloads or taking on more staff. In addition, they will often have strategies and tips for preventing their team from feeling overwhelmed in order to lose less skilled people to burnout.
5. Why do software developers quit?
It is an often-quoted truism that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses” (Forbes 2019) Indeed, a poor manager is the number one reason for people in any profession leaving their job. Managing people is not easy and does not come naturally to everyone.
Ensuring that managers are well-trained is just as important as ensuring that their team members have the right skill. A good manager will ensure that their employees have all the resources and tools to do their job while ensuring that no one is overworked.
Another reason for quitting may be simply because the developer wants a change of direction and takes up a different career. They may also leave because of long-term health issues, family commitments, or retirement. And, of course, the best developers will be head-hunted by rival companies who want their skills and contributions.
6. Are software developers overworked?
Software engineers are highly skilled and, as such, there is generally a shortage of them. So the simple answer is, yes, they are often overworked. However, most good employers are aware of the value to the company their developers represent and will try to avoid overworking them wherever possible.
7. How do I relax after coding?
Coding is mentally challenging, so the best way to relax afterward is to engage in a mentally passive pastime. Meditation can help, as can listening to music or simply watching TV.
8. How do software engineers relax?
Most software engineers report that they relax by simply doing nothing! Of course, they are just as varied as people in any other profession, but most engage in passive activities, as suggested above. However, some do like to engage in vigorous sports activities to clear the mind.
9. Are software engineers happy?
When asking about top tips for overcoming software developer burnout, asking if software engineers are happy is a question that often comes up.
If they are in a role where they are appreciated, with supportive management and workloads that are not unattainable, software engineers are happy. But, of course, this changes when their needs are not met, their stress levels increase, and they move closer to burnout.
Like any engineer, software engineers are happiest when facing a knotty problem that they can get their teeth into.
10. Is it normal to feel overwhelmed by programming?
Yes. Programming is a mentally intensive activity. There will be times when it will feel overwhelming, especially at the beginning of your career, when your confidence in your ability is not high. However, this should not be the normal state of affairs and, should it become that way, you should talk to your manager or colleagues for advice and assistance.
11. How do you not feel overwhelmed when learning to code?
Coding is a very complex skill, with a cast amount of information to learn, so it can feel overwhelming when learning, so here are a few tips that may make this easier.
- Get the basics down. You need to know a few fundamentals first; make sure you have mastered these before progressing.
- Take breaks. Long periods of study are not productive as you get tired and memory becomes less efficient. Instead, take short breaks at 45-minute intervals.
- Break it down. Break study areas down into smaller, more digestible chunks, which will be easier to learn.
- Grasp the principles. Rather than try to memorize every little detail, try to gain a good understanding of the principles. You can always look up details when you need them.
- Ask for help. Never struggle needlessly if you are having difficulty with a topic. Instead, ask a tutor, colleague, or mentor for assistance when you need it.
- Set reasonable goals. Set goals that you have a good chance of attaining. Setting unrealistic goals increases your chances of not completing the training.
- Stick to it. Persevere, even when you are finding it challenging. Keeping in mind your end goals may help with this.
12. How many hours do programmers work?
Typically, programmers work 40 hours per week, usually within the typical 9 – 5, Monday to Friday office schedule. However, some may work part-time if it suits their and their employer’s schedules. Of course, projects with tight deadlines do come up where extra hours are required, but this is not the norm.
13. Are programmers unhealthy?
Programming, like most professional occupations these days, is a sedentary job. This can lead to associated health problems, such as weight gain and heart disease. It can also be stressful, which can lead to mental health issues. However, the job is not inherently more unhealthy than any other office role. If a good work-life balance is maintained, programmers can be expected to be as healthy as anyone else.
14. How many hours a day do software engineers work?
The 40 hours per week expected of most programmers is usually broken down into five eight-hour days. Extra time is not usually expected but, should a task need finishing off, a programmer would usually stay on until it is done.
15. Is software development a stressful job?
Software development can indeed be a stressful job. In many cases, large projects may be waiting on the software development before they can proceed further, which can place a burden on the software development team. Additionally, tight deadlines are common.
However, a good manager who ensures that his staff has all the resources they need and that they have enough employees can alleviate these problems.
16. What is a day in the life of a software developer?
There are no typical days for a software developer as each project, developer, and the company has its own distinct quirks. However, there are a few general features that most developers will find familiar.
- 9 am: Arrive at office, check emails. Arrange to-do lists for short, medium, and long-term tasks.
- 10 am: Team meeting. Coordinate the day’s work with other team members and arrange collaborations as required. The meeting will usually be around 10 – 15 minutes, and the developers will use this to raise any problems they have encountered and let the team know what they have achieved.
- Rest of the morning: The typical developer will spend the rest of the morning working on coding, development, and problem-solving. Slack or IRC are popular forms of chat among developers, and these may be used to send messages around the team. Team members may also congregate around whiteboards at various parts of the day, discussing diagrams and trading solutions. This will take them up to lunch.
- Afternoon: After lunch, there will be more meetings; this is usually when the team will discuss longer-term projects.
The development team will usually consist of five to ten members, each contributing to a project. Projects are often performed in two-week “sprints,” in preference to working on an entire project in one go. Each team member takes a task which they will concentrate on for the duration of the “sprint,” until it ends and the next one begins.
17. Why do engineers leave their jobs?
Engineers also leave their jobs because of bad managers, but they are also likely to quit if they feel they don’t have enough opportunities to grow or take on new responsibilities.
“The best engineers are passionate about innovation and improving their own technical expertise,” according to this Occupop piece. Unfortunately, many of the best engineers leave because they have been head-hunted by another company that is offering the challenge they are seeking – sometimes in a completely different field.
Of course, the other reasons for quitting are the common ones; engineers develop long-term health issues, some require more family time, and, of course, they eventually retire.
18. How many hours a day do developers work?
As with programmers, the 40 hours per week expected of most developers is usually broken down into five eight-hour days from Monday to Friday. As their days are generally quite structured, it’s unusual for them to be longer unless there are exceptional circumstances. Some employers may also allow shorter days to take childcare needs into account.
19. Do developers work long hours?
Developers don’t usually work long hours. In common with programmers, developers typically work a standard 40-hour week, although they may occasionally be called upon to work extra hours, should a tight deadline require it.
20. Do software developers work on weekends?
Software developers don’t generally work on weekends. Although should a particular project demand it, most employers would ask their developers to be flexible and work on a Saturday or Sunday for a few hours.
Software developers work in a demanding field which can cause conditions that cause burnout. However, good self-care, managers who are willing to put their employers first, and a good work-life balance can offset the stresses of the job. Many employers also have websites giving top tips for overcoming software developer burnout.
Take time for yourself, get good advice from colleagues, managers, and other support networks, and you should enjoy a long, profitable career in this field.