40% of people who work in technology workspaces suffer from a chronic stress level leading to Burnout Syndrome. What is this about, and how can we avoid its presence?

First things first: Let's try to define what Burnout is about

Many people talk about burnout vaguely within sentences in everyday life, and it has become a widely used term. But few know what it really means.
Burnout Syndrome is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion linked to the workplace and the stress caused by it, but also by the employee's type of lifestyle.

The OMS defines it as: “a syndrome conceptualized as a result of chronic work stress that has not been satisfactorily managed,” and it is characterized under three dimensions:

  • Feelings of low energy or exhaustion.
  • Increased mental distance from work, feelings of negativism or cynicism,
  • Reduced professional efficiency.

It represents a threat to the productivity of companies but also to people’s lives.

But let's go back to the basics: If Burnout is based on chronic stress, what is stress for?

Stress is our body's reaction to a challenge or demand! In minor episodes, stress can be positive, such as when it helps us avoid danger, meet a deadline, organize an event, or simply meet our goals. The problem is that when stress lasts too long, it makes our bodies confused about that constant state of alert and starts to harm our health.

Our body reacts to stress by releasing hormones, and these hormones make our brain more alert. This state causes our muscles to tense, and it increases our pulse. It is our body's way of protecting itself.

Chronic stress is staying alert even when there is no danger. Over time, this puts us at risk for health problems.

Burnout is easy to prevent but very difficult to reverse once installed. It is necessary to identify it in the initial stages to avoid it. How can we recognize it in companies?

  • Identifying low production
  • Poor performance of employees
  • High turnover
  • Absenteeism
  • Errors and omissions in the team

It is important to know that workers do their best, but since they are already exhausted, they will reduce their performance little by little.

How to identify if you are suffering from Burnout:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Back Pain
  • Muscle Pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Effects will also be reflected in the social and family nucleus, so sometimes, who identifies first is not us but our friends or families. It will impact our interpersonal relationships with everyone.

Four main symptoms of burnout syndrome that can occur together or separately:

  1. Depersonalization: affects your bonds, group cohesion, and participation in social interactions. You have distant and cold responses towards other people. Your irritability increases, and you lose motivation. You start being ironic and try to blame others for your frustrations.
  2. Self/Inefficacy: You feel incompetent, and your self-confidence and professional development are affected. You develop tardiness, work avoidance, or absenteeism, for example.
  3. Exhaustion: impacts your cognitive abilities, productivity, and health—excessive strain and fatigue.
  4. Cynism: You start withholding their effort because work no longer gives them satisfaction or pleasure. You lose ownership.

Burnout is a process rather than a state! And it has four stages of evolution:

  1. First Stage: You start feeling physical, vague, and non-specific symptoms (headaches, backaches, low back pain), and you feel less operative.
  2. Second Stage: Start having problems to sleep, attention and concentration deficit, and tenancy to self-medicate.
  3. Third Stage: Higher absenteeism, task aversion, cynism. Alcohol and psychoactive drug abuse.
  4. Fourth Stage: Isolation, existential crisis, chronic depression, and risk of suicide.

What causes Burnout Syndrome?

Its a combination of many aspects:

  • Excess workload
  • Lack of resources in the organization
  • Excessive control
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of promotion or opportunities
  • Psychological resources of oneself

The responsibility is not only of the company but also of ourselves!
People with idealistic expectations, who desire to stand out and achieve brilliant results and have a high degree of self-demand, are more prevalent to suffer burnout.

Personality characteristics prevalent in suffering from this syndrome are:

  • Low tolerance for failure.
  • Extreme perfectionism.
  • Need to control everything at all times.
  • A feeling of labor indispensability.
  • Very ambitious.
  • Difficulty knowing and expressing their emotions.
  • Impatient and competitive.
  • Great involvement at work.
  • Few personal interests and relationships outside of work.
  • Idealism.
  • Sensitivity.

Providing information about burnout syndrome, its symptoms, and its main consequences is the first step to making it easier to detect in time.

In the early phases, colleagues may realize it before the person itself!

Burnout Syndrom in Technology Workspaces?

In 2o21, the burnout index revealed the following information:

  • More than 40% of IT professionals are at risk of suffering Burnout.
  • Almost 1 in 5 professionals want to leave their company within six months due to a lack of mental well-being.
  • Those who are leaders or referents have higher feelings of inefficiency and of not achieving objectives.

TIPS to avoid Burnout

Burnout is often seen in jobs by a mismatch between demands and resources, especially in people with idealistic expectations who find reality frustrating. So watch out if you feel like you are going to war with only a spoon to fight!

  • First, you need to understand that you are not less for setting limits. Try to say NO, when you feel unsure about having the time or skills to do something.
  • Have the habit of stopping working and seeing what you have achieved in your professional path.
  • Congratulate yourself more often on your objectives accomplished.
  • Express yourself with others, your leaders, lean on! Talk about how you feel and what you need. Remember, communication is the core of every problem.
  • Watch your healthy habits! You are also responsable for being healthy when stress attacks you. If you don't have good habits, once you are experimenting with burnout phases, you won't have the energy to start going to the gym, eating healthier, or going for a walk. Eat in a balanced way and sleep 8 hours at night.
  • Take breaks! Either stretch your legs, have a drink, have a coffee, or close your eyes for 10 minutes.
  • Get together with friends, keep your social circle alive, and talk about nonsense!
  • Laugh! Humor saves us in every bad situation and relaxes us, resetting our stress emotions.

“Choosing to laugh doesn't undermine the serious work we have to do. It enables us to do it” - Coleen Ptrick-Goudreau