Software developers are the very foundation of companies trying to scale operations.

Whether you need to provide new features, improve employee workflows, and exceed customer expectations, your ability to deliver results rests on your developers.

When you overload your team for too long without any sense of progress or relief, they begin to burn out. Eventually, those pillars start to collapse.

And with that collapse, you damage your employee’s mental health, workplace culture, customer relationships, and ability to remain competitive. Roughly 83% of software engineers have experienced burnout. A rate that has been increasing since the start of the pandemic.

If your business is going to maintain momentum, you need to know how to identify developer burnout, and you need systems in place to prevent it.

We explore both below.

Why Is Burnout Common Among Software Developers

The Mayo Clinic notes that jobs with heavy workloads, long hours, and minimal work-life balance where employees feel like they have little or no control over their work lead to burnout.

It gets worse when employees have unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, and a lack of social support.

These conditions are often the same conditions developers face.

Demand for technical solutions is increasing exponentially. In fact, 46% of software engineers say they’re expected to build applications faster than before the pandemic.

There are talent shortages, limited budgets, and rising backlogs that put added pressure on developers. As a result, IT departments are overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, developers have to work within IT parameters and navigate company bureaucracy to deliver results.

All this pressure forces developers to sacrifice their well-being or miss deadlines. Unfortunately, this leads to fatigue and takes a toll on overall performance.

Besides, professional developers also face constant pressure to stay current on new technologies. They must continuously up skill as the industry changes constantly.

Add to that the emergence of AI, the fallout from the pandemic, and remote work blurring the boundaries between professional life and personal life, and it’s clear to see how developers are at high risk for burnout.

Signs and Symptoms of Software Engineer Burnout

Symptoms of burnout among software developers include loss of interest in routine activities, decreased cognition, and a general feeling of self-doubt.

In fact, 80% of developers claim the main burnout symptom is a general lack of energy to work and complete coding projects.

A loss of interest in programming itself is a red flag.

Most developers are passionate about the work they do. They enjoy building applications. If that passion fades, it can make developers feel as though they’re going through the motions.

A general disinterest in coding can also lead to disinterest in other areas.

Developers may be unable to collaborate or enjoy the company of co-workers. They may even start complaining about work, negatively impacting those around them.

As a result, they may distance themselves from others. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, intensifying their burnout.

Side Effects of Burnout on Software Engineers

Developer burnout can cause havoc on your teams and throughout your organization. Knowing how to identify it can help you take action before it negatively impacts your business.

Software developers experiencing burnout are more likely to:

  • Miss deadlines
  • Work inefficiently
  • Produce more errors
  • Innovate less
  • Miss opportunities
  • Negatively impact others
  • Quit

Developers with a healthy work-life balance are optimistic about the work they do. And they look for opportunities to innovate and grow.

Burnt-out developers struggle to keep up. Work feels like a punishment rather than an opportunity. Once they hit this mindset, it’s only a matter of time before they leave.

The side effects impact their personal lives, too. Software developers experiencing burnout are at an increased risk for anxiety and depression.

Does Working From Home Increase Burnout?

Whether or not burnout is work for remote workers depends on the individual.

Some people enjoy working from home because they’re more productive. They also save time by not having to commute every day. And it can be easier to do certain activities, like go to the gym or raise a family.

However, it can be harder for remote workers to separate work from their personal life. Boundaries can blur. And in some cases, there may be more interruptions at home.

For others, an office setting works better. It can provide stable and secure IT infrastructure. And it’s easy to collaborate with others. Plus, the commute can give time to ramp up focus before work or wind down after work.

But, there can be more interruptions with how accessible team members are in office settings. Additionally, everyone has different times of the day when they are the most productive.

How to Reduce Burnout for Software Engineers

Burnout among software engineers not only affects individuals but can also impact their companies.

In fact, a Gallup study indicated that burnout decreases productivity, costing companies $322 billion annually. Ultimately, it’s in everyone’s best interest to tackle burnout head-on.

Here’s how you can reduce burnout in your organization.

1. Promote Healthy Habits

Maintaining healthy habits is key to preventing burnout among your developers.

They don’t need to be drastic changes, either. Even small, incremental changes can make a profound, positive impact over time.

For instance, sitting for long periods can be harmful to your developers. That’s why it’s important to move around instead of sitting at your desk for prolonged periods.

To offset this, you can encourage your team to take short breaks to stretch, go for a short walk, exercise, or even do a few small yoga moves.

These techniques can help achieve a sense of mental clarity and well-being. They get the blood flowing, clear the mind, and make it easier to focus on new tasks.

2. Underscore Work-Life Balance

One of the issues that developers face is working overtime, which often leads to possible burnout and impacts their work-life balance.

As a leader, encourage your developers to cultivate time management skills and prioritize their daily tasks. Set clear boundaries so they don’t stretch beyond their official working hours.

Some team members may take on more tasks, sacrificing their paid time off (PTO). However, this leads to negative health consequences.

Make sure your developers take their time off and use their vacation days. And offer resources to help them understand how work-life balance can impact their overall well-being and success.

3. Provide Support

You should establish a supportive environment for your developers. This will make your team feel less alone, reducing instances of burnout.

You can do this by:

  • Setting clearly defined, achievable goals for your team
  • Providing the resources your team needs to work effectively
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion
  • Recognizing successes and using failures as learning opportunities
  • Establishing clear, open communication with leadership
  • Giving your team a chance to share ideas
  • Organizing team-building activities both inside and outside of work

Be careful when organizing team events. If done incorrectly, they can negatively impact your business.

However, you can create a supportive community built on shared interests that provides a safe space for your developers with the right approach.

4. Listen to Your Team

There’s a possibility that your developers may be going through burnout but aren’t communicating their concerns with you.

When leading a team of software engineers, one of the things you can always do better is to listen to your team. Create an open line of communication. And encourage your team to share their ideas, views, frustrations, anxieties, and difficulties.

Give your team members the tools to voice their opinions. If they’re stressed and unclear about the steps needed to recover, assist them in planning their daily work routine.

Build a ramp-up plan together and adjust their workload where possible.

Follow up after every few weeks to ensure things are improving. Remember, your role should be to support their journey. Not drive it.

5. Give Teams Time to Learn

For developers, upskilling is key to growth and success. If their work becomes repetitive or less challenging, they may not feel motivated to complete it.

33% of tech employees will leave their existing jobs if they don’t get enough skill development opportunities. Lack of upskilling also impacts productivity and can create bottlenecks in production and delivery systems.

Send a clear message to your employees that you want to invest in their skills and build long-term relationships. Give them the right resources and training opportunities to support their skill-building goals.

6. Train Managers to Identify and Prevent Burnout

Employees often hesitate to express dissatisfaction, even when experiencing burnout. That's why it’s critical to train managers on spotting the symptoms and addressing the root causes.

Train your managers to:

  • Engage with employees and understand their concerns
  • Work with team members and solve their issues
  • Identify opportunities to organize work that benefits the employee and organization
  • Build a work-life alignment model for employees to prevent burnout

Managers must also be realistic about task expectations and allocation. Micromanaging and a lack of autonomy will only do more harm than good.

By taking preventative measures, your frontline managers will remain well-equipped to address burnout before it spirals out of control.

7. Enforce Time Off

While taking time off is a personal decision, this is not always the case for developers. The pursuit of perfection can cause developers to push themselves to the point of burnout.

This is why enforcing time-off policies is essential.

Emphasize the importance of taking breaks. Educate your employees on how it can help them avoid burnout. And maintain their productivity in the long run.

Besides, you can also offer your employees various opportunities to recharge, such as vacations and mental health days.

By prioritizing employee well-being, you’ll create a supportive work environment that benefits both the employees and your organization.

8. Reduce Work in Progress (WIP)

Expecting an extensive Work in Progress (WIP) backlog can mentally exhaust developers.

Too many open tasks can create confusion, drive scope creep, and lead developers to miss deadlines. As a leader, you can reduce this complexity with the right resources and processes.

Instead of letting WIP run wild, you need to control it.

For example, you can use a Kanban Board that organizes the projects and individual tasks to prevent your team members from scratching their heads.

You should also set rules that prevent developers from feeling pressured by WIP backlogs. This will empower developers to focus on critical tasks without worrying about other issues.

9. Encourage Innovation

Software engineers are creative people. Without a culture of learning and growth, they’re likely to feel stuck and unmotivated with their current roles.

Unleash your team’s potential by encouraging your software engineers to explore new ideas.

Trust your team. And give them the autonomy to pursue their ideas. Set up rapid prototyping and experimentation processes to allow developers to try out novel ideas at minimum cost.

At the same time, give your team room to fail. Ensure they won’t be punished if an idea fails to meet expectations. And maintain transparency, so your team can learn and grow from failure.

10. Automate Tasks

Developers often need to carry out complex tasks that demand a high cognitive load. These tasks may include building new features, identifying security vulnerabilities, testing, and maintenance.

At the same time, there are numerous repetitive, low-value tasks in the development process. These tasks wear down your team, waste their time, and add stress. Automate them.

The best way to identify these tasks is to map out your workflows. Work with your team to identify slowdowns. And then build solutions that streamline these processes.

11. Reflect and Improve Processes with AI

While working on eliminating redundancies and bottlenecks, your team can also identify ways to improve processes using AI.

There is a goldmine of AI tools like Github Copilot, OpenAI Codex, Intellicode, and more. These tools can help you rethink your approach to work while helping you complete tasks faster.

88% of developers stated they were more productive using AI tools to complete work. And they were able to complete tasks 55% faster.

12. Reduce Scope Creep

Revisions from customers and additional work for developers are unavoidable in any project. However, they can lead to continuous scope creep if not managed properly.

To avoid this, ensure the project requirements have clear documentation. Set up change control processes and create a well-defined project schedule that teams must follow.

You can also explore the scope of extra funding and resources from your client to evenly distribute and manage your team's workload.

13. Encourage Collaboration and Team Bonding

Sitting at a desk for prolonged hours and working in isolation can also impact the morale of your developers.

Building an environment where all the team members remain engaged and find the workplace enjoyable is essential. Only through a collaborative environment can you achieve better productivity and reduce the likelihood of employee burnout.

One of the ways you can achieve a cohesive team is through team-building activities. LAN games and programming marathons are excellent ways to bond through healthy competition.

Remember, these initiatives must be interactive and memorable. They should be interesting for everyone to participate in. Otherwise, you may discourage some team members.

14. Outsource Development

Your team doesn’t have to manage everything internally. In fact, it often becomes more expensive to manage all your development needs in-house.

Whether you have a shortage of programmers, limited internal resources, or your team lacks experience designing certain platforms, consider outsourcing application development.

By working with expert application developers, you can quickly build the apps you need to drive results in your business without burning out your team.

15. Use Low Code to Scale App Development

Software developers need a force multiplier in the face of increasingly difficult conditions.

Rising costs, developer shortages, and internal pressures to work around security procedures stress developers and push them toward burnout.

Instead of building applications from scratch, you should consider low-code development.

With low code tools, your team can build applications in a drag-and-drop interface. This makes it easier for your developers to build high-quality applications in a fraction of the time.

As a result, they can quickly catch up on the backlog.

16. Embrace Citizen Development

Citizen developers are employees trained on low code tools. These tech-savvy teammates can create simple business applications, integrations, and automations that fit their needs.

Citizen development programs accelerate digital transformations. Rather than submit tickets for simple IT tasks, wait for approval, review the build, suggest updates, and test the completed solution (all interfering with priority IT tasks), Citizen developers can quickly build the solutions they need. After, IT reviews the apps to ensure compliance.

This reduces IT backlog while giving developers more time to focus on mission-critical tasks, reducing burnout.

Increasingly, more businesses are building citizen developer programs to reduce the pressures on IT while delivering on increasing customer expectations.

Reduce Developer Burnout in Your Organization

Often, the easiest way to reduce developer burnout in your organization is to outsource development.

Whether you’re looking to reduce your IT backlog or stand up a citizen developer program, Quandary Consulting Group can help you.

We’re a team of low-code developers who build custom applications and integrations designed to help businesses stay competitive.

Get in touch with us to learn more.

Or check out the results of our work below: