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Preventing occupational burnout and tech employee overload

Learn how occupational burnout impacts job satisfaction, company culture, and mental health. Get tips on workload management to prevent employee overload.

May 30, 2024 • 4 Minute Read

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  • Software Development
  • Engineering Leadership
  • Business
  • Professional Development
  • Team Development
  • Learning & Development

Layoffs and persistent technical skills gaps have left the remaining technologists to take on more and more responsibilities. With software developers understaffed and overworked, what’s a manager to do? 

In this article, we explore the causes of occupational burnout and share workload management tips to balance your team’s mental health with organizational needs.

Table of contents

Causes of poor workload management in the tech industry

In recent months, two major factors have contributed to occupational burnout and employee overload: layoffs and technical skills gaps.

Layoffs diminish headcounts and job satisfaction

According to our 2023 State of Upskilling report, 47% of technologists agree a hiring pause or freeze has caused them to take on tasks outside their job function. And 67% of tech managers said layoffs across software, IT, and data in their organization have resulted in their teams taking on more responsibility. 

Despite smaller headcounts, remaining technologists are still expected to deliver the same amount and quality of work, often without the resources or support they need. 

Technical skills gaps increase workloads

The biggest technical skills gaps exist in security, cloud computing, and software development—and they have major consequences for individual developers, engineering teams, and organizations as a whole.

One of the biggest results of the skills gaps? Increased workloads. According to our 2024 Technical Skills Report, 96% of technologists say their workload has increased due to technical skills gaps, with 48% saying it’s increased a great deal. 

Without the necessary skills, workload management, and company culture, technologists need to take on new responsibilities, use inefficient workarounds, and experiment with unfamiliar technology to keep daily business operations going.

The business consequences of overworking employees

Heavy workloads impact employees’ physical, mental, and emotional health. Without proper support, employees become stressed and burnt out. 

This creates a ripple effect across the organization, tanking workplace culture, productivity, and revenue. Due to the skills gap alone:

  • 78% of organizations have abandoned projects partway through 

  • 54% worry they won’t be able to maintain legacy systems

  • 44% think they’ll lose business opportunities

  • 33% say they’ll lose clients

When you add increased responsibilities to the mix, these numbers will climb even higher.

How to prevent occupational burnout in today's tech work culture

Mental health isn’t a new concern for the tech industry, but as workloads increase, it’s become even more prevalent. Here’s how to prioritize your team’s mental health while meeting business needs.

Know the signs of overworking and occupational burnout

Look out for common signs of overworking in your team.

  • Employees can’t disconnect from work. Do they respond to emails outside of work hours? Is their Slack status always active? As their manager, it’s your responsibility to help them create work-life balance. Limit Slack messages and emails after hours. If you need to send a message, schedule it during their work day.

  • Team members have lost interest in their work. Are they less enthusiastic about projects they were excited for? If you notice their productivity or job satisfaction drop, ask how you can support them. Together, reassess their personal goals and how you can help them achieve them.

  • Employees have experienced more health issues. Do employees seem visibly tired, stressed, or sick? Look for ways to reallocate work. Encourage them to take a day off to reset their mental health or share employee benefits like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).

Meetings are a great way to check in with your team. During weekly 1:1 meetings, ask team members how they’re feeling before diving into the work talk. Is there anything on their mind? Are they feeling overwhelmed? It may take them a while to open up, but continuing to check in will show you’re serious about helping them. 

Understand business priorities for workload management

There’s never a shortage of work for software developers. There are always new products to build, new enhancements to make, and new bugs to fix. 

Before your team takes on new projects and work requests, ask project sponsors and key stakeholders for clarifying information.

  • What are our overarching business goals? What are our department and team goals? Does this project align with those objectives? How is it bringing value to the business?

  • What problem does this project solve?

  • How urgent is this request? Does it impact other teams’ goals and initiatives?

Asking these questions can help you understand the difference between what teams need to deliver for the business and what would be nice to have but isn’t needed immediately. When you know what to shelve for later, you prevent unnecessary work overload. 

Prevent scope creep to improve job satisfaction

Despite your best efforts to minimize employee overload, there will be times when scope changes and projects pile up. You won’t be able to eliminate work overload entirely, but there are things you can do to keep it at a minimum. 

  • Communicate with key stakeholders. Make sure they know how scope creep will affect the project timelines or needs. 

  • Allocate more resources. Look at the team’s current workloads and the new project scope. Identify additional resources you’ll need to meet deadlines without overburdening employees.

  • Shift deadlines. Find tasks and projects you can push back to accommodate more urgent requirements.

Learn more strategies to minimize scope creep.

Close the tech skills gap to minimize employee overload

Over time, layoffs and technical skills gaps place heavier burdens on tech teams. While you may not be able to control layoffs in your orgs, you can create a better work environment and help close skills gaps to prevent overworking employees.

Start closing skills gaps today—take Pluralsight Skills for a test drive with a free trial for your team.

Pluralsight Content Team

Pluralsight C.

The Pluralsight Content Team delivers the latest industry insights, technical knowledge, and business advice. As tech enthusiasts, we live and breathe the industry and are passionate about sharing our expertise. From programming and cloud computing to cybersecurity and AI, we cover a wide range of topics to keep you up to date and ahead of the curve.

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