How to Overcome and Prevent IT Burnout
At a glance
- Burnout refers to feelings of stress, exhaustion or being unmotivated, often with regard to work.
- Burnout can lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
- Warning signs of burnout include a lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, absenteeism and decreased productivity.
- University of Phoenix students have access to the Life Resource Center, which includes life coaching, counseling and access to more than 5,000 resources to help navigate life’s challenges.
Every career has its challenges, and IT workplaces are no different. While IT can be an exciting field, it also encompasses its fair share of stress. As a result, burnout among IT employees is a real concern.
The term burnout refers to a state of mind when people are tired of their line of work.
Working in IT with its long hours, high-pressure deadlines and sometimes monotonous tasks can take a toll on a worker’s well-being and may lead to career burnout.
Burnout has been classified as an “occupational phenomenon” in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases. Furthermore, a Harris Poll found in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that more than three-quarters of employed Americans reported experiencing work burnout.
It’s easy to see how this can happen in the IT industry. What with cybersecurity, business operations and the responsibility for putting out digital fires daily, IT professionals may feel overworked and overwhelmed.
To combat burnout, it’s important IT employees recognize when it’s time to change jobs. But it may be even more imperative to understand how to prevent career burnout in the first place.
5 steps to beating burnout
Recognize symptoms of IT burnout
Burnout often coincides with a lack of career development, a poor career fit or toxic work environments, where employees don’t feel motivated and challenged.
It’s essential to know the signs of career burnout, as burnout can lead to various mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Here are several warning signs you might be experiencing career burnout:
- Inability to concentrate on tasks at work
- Anxiousness or restlessness
- Tardiness and absenteeism
- Low morale
- Inability to meet career expectations
- Loss of motivation for career advancement
- Poor memory retention
- Decreased productivity
- Increased workplace stress
- Exhaustion at and outside of work
When you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to take a step back and consider how job burnout might lead to other mental health problems as well as job dissatisfaction. From there, it’s time to recover.
Overcoming IT burnout
While burnout is a common career challenge within the IT industry, you don’t have to let it cast a pall over your entire career. You can overcome burnout by taking the necessary steps to prevent and combat its symptoms.
It’s important to note that career burnout cannot be cured overnight. In fact, it’s often a career-long journey to understand and prevent career burnout.
Here are some tips to overcome career burnout:
Take time off
Often, career burnout occurs due to stress and overworking yourself. If you are constantly stressed or unable to focus on your workload, it may help to take a couple of days off away from your responsibilities and workplace.
Use the time away from work to regain a sense of control in your career and spend some extra time doing things that make you happy outside of work.
Whether you’re off to camp for a week or enjoying a staycation, time away from work will help you tackle career burnout and reenergize yourself to come back stronger.
Speak to your manager
Another option is speaking to your manager about career burnout. Your manager can help you find ways to combat it and improve your career fit within the company.
Career advisement can be helpful to those dealing with career burnout. If you’re not sure how to approach your manager, consider presenting a career goal plan that outlines ways for you to overcome career burnout and how it can help the company in the long term.
Redirect your tech interests
If career burnout continues to affect your career, you might find it helpful to look into alternate career paths within the industry.
For instance, consider going back to school. Various technology degrees can prepare you for new avenues of opportunity. University of Phoenix offers online technology bachelor’s degrees in computer science, data science, cybersecurity, information technology and security management. You may also want to consider an undergraduate certificate, such as:
- Certificate in Cloud Computing
- Advanced Software Developer Certificate
- Advanced Cybersecurity Certificate
A master’s degree is another option to expand your knowledge base and skill set. A Master of Science in Cybersecurity can help provide the foundation to explore a career fighting cybercrime, while a Master of Information Systems might help prepare you for a management role or directorship.
Alternatively, if you need a change of scenery, you might even consider a role outside of technology. Technology skills can be applied in a number of industries that collect and monitor data, from healthcare to education to human resources.
What’s more, if you’re tired of the technology industry but love helping others, consider management career paths in IT. Management career paths often allow employees to explore business interests and create a team culture that directly impacts a company’s success. Perhaps becoming an IT manager can be the career change you need to overcome career burnout.
Make time for hobbies
In addition to redirecting career interests, it’s important to have hobbies that allow you to escape career burnout.
For instance, if you love photography but work a 9-to-5 job in the technology industry, consider capturing photographs on your lunch break or going out with friends on weekends. You could even set aside time to go to a local photography meetup during the week.
You can transition career burnout into career rejuvenation by finding new ways to make time for your personal life and outside interests.
Preventing IT burnout
In short, career burnout is a career-long risk that needs to be managed accordingly.
Here are some tips to help prevent career burnout:
Eat a balanced diet, get exercise and remember to sleep
Often you can prevent career burnout by maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Maintaining this balance means having a sustainable diet, exercising regularly and making sure you get enough sleep at night. This looks like:
- Seven to nine hours of sleep per night
- Regular exercise such as visits to the gym or evening walks
- Eating nutritious foods that provide energy
By incorporating a balance of these three factors into your daily routine, you can preempt career burnout at any stage in your stage.
How to form healthy habits
Periodically plan for time off
Career burnout can occur when you’re working too much overtime or being exposed to high stress levels daily. To avoid burnout as you advance in your career, it’s helpful to schedule time off from work.
For instance, take one or two weeks during the year to travel. During these trips, you can relax and spend some quality time with family and friends while enjoying fun activities that rejuvenate your perspective on both your career and life in general.
By planning for this type of time off in advance, you can stop career burnout before it begins.
Ask for help
Lastly, you can prevent career burnout if you ask for help when needed.
Much career burnout is caused by career stress that becomes too overwhelming to handle alone. This means it’s important to have a support system in place both at work and outside of work, so career burnout doesn’t affect your career or personal life.
Reach out to trusted friends and colleagues. Use career resources such as training courses, coaching sessions and assessments that can give you a fresh perspective on your career path.
Ultimately, burnout can occur regardless of career stage, type, path or industry. However, it is preventable if you redirect occupational interests and reach out for help when needed. The key to preventing career burnout is knowing what resources are available to you and how and when to use them.