Working remotely is a popular choice among developers, who are known for their passion for their craft. It’s not uncommon for programmers to stay up late working from the comfort of their own homes, often taking on extra responsibilities. Although this may seem beneficial, it’s important to recognise that burnout is a significant risk for both developers and team leaders. Therefore, finding a suitable balance between work and rest is vital to prevent burnout and maintain productivity.
Like any other individual, engineers are susceptible to experiencing burnout if organizations fail to implement strategies to manage increasing workloads. There are many interviews on Medium with remote engineers and programmers discussing their methods and offering advice. The vast majority of them aim to establish a balance between their personal and professional lives by creating solutions that enable them to do so.
During their free time, some people choose to exercise, while others prefer making a nutritious breakfast. For remote workers, establishing and sticking to a healthy and productive routine is crucial. You could also offer advice to your remote developers on achieving a better work-life balance through these practices.
How much can maintaining a healthy work-life balance help prevent burnout in the programming industry?
Experiencing burnout is a common occurrence for hundreds of thousands of individuals who work from home every day, including programmers who are not immune to this phenomenon.
According to a recent DigitalOcean study, over two-thirds of software professionals working remotely have experienced burnout. The percentage was even higher in the United States, where an unprecedented 82% of respondents reported experiencing burnout.
Burnout is most commonly caused by:
- Lack of control over job-related tasks or contracts
- Fear of not meeting expectations for remote workers
- Disorganized work environment
- Feeling stressed due to looming deadlines
According to a survey, remote developers have a slightly higher risk (2%) of experiencing burnout compared to their counterparts working in a traditional office environment. However, with adequate support, remote work can lead to a more balanced work-life routine, especially for developers who work from home. Additionally, the survey revealed that remote workers reported better work-life balance (7.02 out of 10) compared to office-based developers (6.95 out of 10).
Introducing the work-life balance concept to your remote developer is crucial in maintaining high-quality and consistent performance. To aid you with this, we have provided some recommendations to include in your Manager’s Toolkit.
Factors Leading to Stress and Burnout in Software Engineers
Studies indicate several common symptoms of burnout that draw a comparison between PTSD and software developer burnout:
- Feeling emotionally vacant
- Decreased recognition of one’s accomplishments
Over time, these mindsets can result in demotivation, fatigue, and worst of all, a tendency to neglect responsibilities and duties.
According to three Harvard academics, in 2023, job stress results in 120,000 fatalities per year in the United States. They further estimated that the associated healthcare costs of burnout would amount to roughly $190 billion annually, which accounts for 8% of the country’s total expenditure. Consequently, several large corporations, such as General Motors, have prioritized investing in healthcare over steel production.
So, what exactly triggers exhaustion?
According to a recent survey conducted by Blind, inadequate leadership and unclear instructions are significant stress factors for IT professionals. Hence, team leaders must ensure that they provide sufficient guidance to their developers and efficiently communicate project requirements to prevent wasted efforts.
Aside from these primary factors, there are other causes of stress that include:
Remote workers usually have more flexibility with regard to their work schedules compared to their office-based colleagues. Nonetheless, this may result in excessive work hours, given that 55% of remote workers report exceeding their contractually agreed-upon hours.
To work effectively with remote teams, it is critical to take a proactive approach to managing tasks and responsibilities.
It is relatively simple to identify symptoms of stress in a co-worker when you are working in the same location. However, it becomes a more daunting task when working remotely unless there is a mindful effort to stay in regular contact. Failure to do so can result in team-wide burnout.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Working remotely creates a twofold obstacle. Firstly, it reduces the probability of forming meaningful connections with senior co-workers, ultimately leading to being overlooked. Secondly, it can result in a lack of interest in the company’s social activities, which typically offer opportunities for networking and building lasting relationships.
To tackle this problem, it is critical to acknowledge and value the contributions of remote workers. This can be accomplished by implementing a competent onboarding process, which includes arranging virtual meetings with all relevant team members. To ensure that remote workers are integrated into the company culture, they must be included in the internal phone directory and provided with company newsletters and other important updates.
As a representative of your team, it is imperative to advocate for their cause whenever feasible. Expressing gratitude for their hard work is crucial, and this could be achieved by praising them in meetings, lauding their achievements around the workplace, and even nominating them for Employee of the Month.
On the contrary, inviting developers to meetings that are irrelevant to them is another issue altogether.
It is essential to acknowledge that an excessive number of meetings can hinder productivity and morale, potentially leading to burnout. Nonetheless, a change of pace or a break in the routine can be effective in mitigating programmer fatigue. Clear and consistent team communication is critical in keeping tasks on track, and daily stand-up meetings are an excellent way to achieve this goal.
What To Educate Your Remote Programmer About Achieving Work-Life Balance?
Tips for promoting a balanced work-life for your remote developers
1. Coping with Mental Stress
Your developer’s mental wellbeing will be affected if they are unable to relieve their stress.
To prevent this, it is crucial to maintain consistent communication with your staff to keep updated on their workloads and any potential issues they may be facing.
The Daily Stand-Up Meeting is an essential factor of the Agile development methodology, best suited for this objective as it allows team members to report their progress, challenges they may be encountering, and future plans.
2. Monitoring Vacation Time Closely
Nevertheless, not all employees are excellent when it comes to taking vacations.
Typically, you can recognize individuals who have not used their assigned vacation time, as it remains unused at the end of the year. To ensure that all staff members take their rightful breaks, we should proactively inquire and motivate them to do so. Moreover, we should consider all holiday time while scheduling our workload.
3. Provide Opportunities for Learning
One of the most significant aspects for a developer in their job is the opportunity to learn and progress in their area of expertise.
Regrettably, this has been a recurring issue for remote developers, who have been neglected in terms of professional development and training.
During the yearly performance evaluation, it is crucial to ask employees about the kind of training they want or need since most courses are now available online. There is no excuse for not doing so anymore, and it is vital to make every possible effort to meet their requirements.
4. Power of Open Communication
Nevertheless, business tactics cannot replace an open organizational culture.
Establish channels of communication for people to feel at ease when providing feedback and discussing obstacles, especially during meetings. You can read more about this topic from our blog post on Fostering a Tech Culture that Promotes Mental Health.
Facilitating remote employees with a suitable platform to voice their concerns can boost their sense of belonging to the team. Additionally, they are more likely to communicate when they feel overwhelmed with their workload.
Building a culture of trust amidst the manager and their employees is crucial for a thriving work atmosphere. To foster this, it is critical to allocate time to listen and respond to feedback, even if it is a critique of the manager themselves. While establishing trust may demand substantial effort, the benefits are certainly worthwhile.
5. Utilize Online Counselling Services
Managers and team leaders may not always have the required psychological expertise to offer the most suitable guidance. That is why numerous organizations have opted to allocate resources for corporate counseling services to ensure their workforce has access to the right advice.
Counsellors who can aid in enhancing the happiness and productivity of remote developers and team members must also be accessible to them.
5. Consider Seeking Advice from a Professional
Developers and project managers are often not trained on work-life balance skills, leading them to face difficulties when attempting to manage both. Remote workers may find it beneficial to participate in workshops, seminars, and webinars that teach them how to attain a healthy balance between their work and personal lives, creating a long-lasting impact on their employers.
6. Prioritize Establishing Connections
Training programs for developers or project managers often overlook work-life balance as a subject.
Remote workers may face considerable obstacles if they try to manage their work without a proper plan. Participating in workshops, seminars, and webinars can be useful in enabling them to attain a healthy work-life balance and make continued contributions to their employers.
7. Promote Regular Exercise
According to a report from the American Cancer Society, individuals who remain seated for extended periods of time (6-8 hours) face a 19% greater risk of death. The Lancet health publication recommends 60-75 minutes of strenuous exercise to counteract this risk.
A few remote companies have achieved success by providing gym allowances to their employees, whereas others have discovered that virtual challenges can be just as beneficial in promoting team spirit and contributing to charity, without necessitating a physical presence.
Encouraging a Healthy Work-Life Balance is an Investment in the Health and Happiness of Your Developers
Promoting break incentives may seem contradictory, but they are actually effective in improving productivity.
Motivate your staff to take regular breaks and share something unique or memorable from their personal lives, such as a stunning photo from a recent excursion or a video of their child’s dancing performance. Demonstrate to your team members that you appreciate them as persons, rather than simply a means to an end.
Employee health and well-being have a direct correlation to the productivity of the workforce and, ultimately, the success of the company. We recognize the significance of staff wellness and are ready to assist you in ensuring your business thrives in the long run. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your needs.