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Burnout during the pandemic has had wide-ranging impacts across the workforce.
Nearly three-fourths (72%) of U.S. tech workers planned to quit their jobs between August 2021 and August of 2022, according to a study by TalentLS and Workable.
And the work world is now entering the third wave of post-pandemic mass employee attrition.
The Great Resignation is Now Entering Stage Three
The first wave of The Great Resignation included people who lacked the home setup, or whose companies didn't provide a remote setup, to allow them to work successfully. They got burned out, became completely unhappy, or had to leave because they couldn't work where they did before, so they moved on.
Then there was a wave of folks who saw the healthy side of resigning. These people may not have hated their jobs, but they looked for different jobs after news spread of The Great Resignation. The job market is hot, so members of this group knew they could get a pay bump and perhaps find teams with people and/or technology with which they really wanted to work.
Now the world is about to go into another stage of mass attrition that I call the FOMO phase. In this fear-of-missing-out phase, workers are not necessarily looking for new jobs, but they are noticing many of their peers jumping ship. And they're asking themselves whether this movement is applicable to their lives and wondering if they, too, should give a new job a shot.
My point is that this post-pandemic trend of mass attrition at work may continue for a while. And CompTIA reports that the No. 1 IT position for which U.S. cities have the most job postings is software/application developer. So, developers don't have to settle for suboptimal work conditions, lack of good people management, ineffective tools and processes that don't work.
Spending Too Much Time Fixing Bugs Can Create Issues
Yet many developers are spending too much time fixing bugs, which is taking a toll. The State of Software Code Report indicates that nearly a third of developers (31%) said that fixing bugs makes them feel frustrated. More than a fifth of developers (22%) said they get overwhelmed when fixing bugs. Nearly as many (17%) said that fixing bugs makes them feel burned out.
I understand that based on my own experience. I was a software engineer, and I remember how difficult it was to know what to fix. It felt like there was a fire happening all of the time. And today's developers are more productive than ever — and more code equals more bugs.
However, when I find a bug in my own software, I actually want to fix it, so that I can make my code better. But it's more of a grind when you're fixing other people's bugs. So, my guess is that many of these negative sentiments occur when developers have to fix other people's bugs. It's emotional, kind of like the difference between taking care of your own vs. someone else's kids.
Whether or not you feel the same way, my advice on burnout is to take it into your own hands. Your solution to burnout will likely be far better than anyone else's because you know yourself. Perhaps the answer for you is to quit your job. Maybe it's to take a vacation. Or it may involve asking your manager for tools that allow you to find and fix bugs more efficiently so that you can spend more time on other things. The only wrong answer is not to address burnout.
It's Time to Expand the Focus from Individuals to Teamwork
For many people, the pandemic involved working from home. Some developers may not have felt that their company culture supported remote work and may have suffered from burnout as a result. But there are certain engineers who are thriving in this work-from-home environment.
As I've mentioned before, software development is a team sport. Maybe that's why 41% of developers say that they want to go back to the office when it is safe to do so.
New product development work does entail a certain amount of collaboration and inspiration. Yet many existing tools are either only about teams or only about individuals. But the reality of building software is that it's a mixture of both. At the same time, organizations have pushed people into extraordinarily narrow workflows. For example, as a developer you may be assigned a JIRA ticket. You work on it, fix it, mark it as done and the machine moves forward.
But there's now an opportunity to refocus on team dynamics. This entails looking at the goals, stats and outcomes of teams as opposed to just individuals. That aligns with the blameless post-mortem culture that DevOps created, the idea of two-pizza teams and many of the other best practices that engineering managers should be using. And you can embrace new approaches and tools that support whole teams in the office, remotely or in hybrid work environments.
Fighting Burnout and Finding a Better Way Are Within Your Power
Developers are curious by nature. They're always finding new and better ways to do things. They know what they and their teams need better than their managers or leadership.
If they're not getting what they need, they may opt to find new and, perhaps, better opportunities elsewhere. But developers who advocate for particular tools often get them. Developers should be bringing the tools that they need into their organizations. That should include tools that enable them to continuously improve their error resolution time, deployment confidence and customer experience by proactively discovering, predicting and resolving code errors in real time.
If you're feeling burned out, remember that you are not alone. Know that you don't have to settle for less. Be aware that you have the power to bring the best tools, processes and people to your company and your team to make work more rewarding, efficient and collaborative.