Managing IT worker burnoutJob burnout. It happens. You notice that former star employees are now struggling just to get the bare minimum of work done. Your team doesn’t seem to be getting along, people are snapping at each other. Or they seem to just be going through the motions without their usual enthusiasm. Sick days are up, productivity is down. Burnout is a frustrating situation for employers and employees alike. If it’s not addressed, someone usually quits, and losing a good worker is something no team can afford to do!

IT is an especially demanding industry. Persistent talent shortages mean that being asked to do more is the norm rather than the exception. IT workers are often left picking up the slack for an unfilled position. Also, because IT plays such a critical role in business these days, problems can be extra difficult to deal with. In the event of a network outage, the whole company is at a standstill until it’s up and running again. If things aren’t fixed instantly, IT workers get blamed. But when things run smoothly, there isn’t always a lot of appreciation, it’s just expected. It can be an emotional situation.

All of this can be overwhelming and frustrating to your IT workers and the longer it goes on without any remedy, the more likely burnout will happen, and get worse. Some signs of burnout are more obvious than others and include:

  • Showing up late, leaving as early as possible, or calling in sick frequently.
  • An overall decrease in the quality of employee work performance.
  • Visible signs of frustration in their work ethic and attitude.
  • An overall decline in the employee’s health or hygiene.
  • A lack of enthusiasm for work events and isolation from the company community.

As an IT Manager, it is important to keep an eye out for these things and address them sooner rather than later. Left unaddressed you will lose employees, both those that are feeling burned out and those that are affected by working with them. Fortunately, there are things that IT Managers can do to help and a big part of it is good communication.

  • Hold regular staff meetings. Acknowledge staffing shortages, project overload, or whatever the problems employees are facing. Clarify expectations. Don’t ignore or pretend issues don’t exist. This just compounds your workers’ frustration. Make sure everyone understands the importance of the project and their efforts. Look for solutions. Ask for their suggestions on how to best solve these problems.
  • Make sure that workloads are as fair and even as possible. Don’t let one or two people shoulder the burden of all the overtime, or the harder more demanding projects. Make sure everyone on the team pitches in as equally as possible. Monitor workloads and project progress. Re-delegate when necessary to help balance it out or consider hiring temporary help to relieve the team.
  • Acknowledge the extra time and effort your team is putting in. Reward them when, and how, you can. Some team members may be earning overtime, and those who are not should receive bonuses in line with their efforts. Don’t underestimate the benefit of smaller efforts too. Bringing in dinner when late nights are required, take everyone for coffee! Gift certificates or tickets to cultural or sporting events are another small way to show your appreciation and counter burnout.
  • Talk to employees about their long-term career plans. Are they worried about the direction of their career? Show them how extra work can be a benefit as it gives them the opportunity to gain experience or showcase their skills and demonstrate commitment. If applicable, talk about how this may help with a raise or promotion in the future.
  • Determine the true source of their feelings. Sometimes a good worker is bored rather than overworked. Are they frustrated by a lack of direction in their job? Bored doing the same old thing. Perhaps you can offer them an educational or learning opportunity or assign them a new challenge they could focus on, something interesting to them. A change of pace might be just the thing the employee needs.
  • Encourage people to take care of themselves physically. Figure out a vacation schedule for your team that still allows the work to be done. Even a few days away can be a game changer. Encourage your team to take breaks and get outside each day. Lead by example and take a walk. Better yet, invite a few others along!

 There are different reasons as to why employees may feel burnt out. As a manager, be proactive and keep tabs on how your employees are feeling. Make it a priority to try to prevent burnout by reducing stress and frustration. Help them deal with it when it does happen. Strong leadership is crucial to employee wellbeing. By communicating with your employees on a regular basis and getting to the root of their frustrations, you can help alleviate problems before they become a crisis. Yes, the work needs to get done, but not at the expense of employee morale. Both can happen.

Good communication is the root of all success in team environments. It’s up to you as the manager to facilitate it!

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