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Burnout and Software Developers: How to Stay Happy Working in a Remote Team?

By Maryna Demchenko

Actionable advice from those working in a distributed working environment

IT is not a perfect industry, at least not for everyone. Some programmers are happy writing code for hours on end, while others go through a severe burnout once or twice in their career. The most common reason for mental exhaustion are repetitive and mundane tasks, which is very common for long-term projects. Add lack of physical activity, working late, insane amounts of unhealthy food and caffeine – and you’ll drive yourself straight into burnout.

Dealing with burnout at a remote job

Being a part of a remote team of software developers means that you have to over communicate with the rest of the team, be online for the most part of the day, and consistently deliver your best work, or else you’ll be deemed as underperforming. At times it even feels like you are disconnected from the company, which is one of the crucial cause of motivation drops. It’s stressful enough, but that’s what comes with perks like the possibility to work from anywhere.

We have asked our developers who work on distributed teams to find out their ways of dealing with the ghost of burnout. Here are some insights...

Max, 32
Java developer

Playing video games

Playing video games is my way to unwind after a hard day at work. Shifting attention from writing code to something more action-packed is refreshing. I play also play strategy games where I get to challenge my creativity. In programming, I have tasks where I need to come up with something creative to solve real-life problems and I believe that playing in fictional worlds has helped with developing this attribute.

Vladimir, 45
Lead cloud specialist

Perhaps you need more discipline

Always have a plan for the day. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive because discipline is routine by nature, but having your day planned and following it gives me a sense of fulfillment. I run every morning, wake up at 7:00 and feel great about it. Before I begin my work day, I feel energized and ready to achieve more.

Robert, 23
iOS developer

Switching to another project or field

New doesn’t mean better, but if you’re stuck doing something that doesn’t excite you anymore like tweaking code all day long, maybe it’s time to move on. Take a pause and consider finding another job or even switching to a different field. Chances are high you got stuck in your comfort zone and just don’t realize that there are much better better places to work. Programmers often become technology advisors, analysts, or managers – maybe these are the right opportunities for you too.

Pavlo, 27
Full-stack developer

Master a new language, framework or studio

When you I just started learning it, everything was so interesting. In real life, all I did was digging into other programmers’ code, developing against buggy interfaces, and fixing bugs – the frustration was endless. I felt I could do more than that. How did I manage to overcome this? I delved into .NET followed by a suggestion from the project manager who helped me incorporate learning with my daily tasks.

Nina 32
Software architect

Yoga and meditation

When I started working as a programmer, I often found myself stressing over lots of things. At the end of the week, I would be so stressed and unproductive that I sat in front of the computer until late and left work exhausted. Then a friend of mine introduced me to yoga. The peaceful environment we have at yoga classes improved my focus and I could stay concentrated for longer hours. I would recommend yoga to anyone whose profession requires intensive brainwork. If yoga isn’t your thing, you can try meditation as well. There are a few useful apps to help you get started like Mindfulness, Calm, Headspace.

Julia 27
Software architect

Live it through

I believe that there is a possibility to confuse disappointment for burnout. Every time I feel frustrated it’s because my work is not appreciated or I don’t get enough feedback from the manager or the project can’t get off the ground. The thing is that for me this feeling comes and goes and I don’t think that looking for something new is the best of decisions. You don’t have to be motivated all the time, it’s enough to allow yourself to mentally recharge from time to time.

Takeaways

Burnout happens to the best of programmers, and it’s okay. Realizing that you have it is step one to solving the problem. It’s essential to pause and find a way out. If you do everything right, you may even fall in love with programming all over again and increase your productivity. To sum up, here are the most popular bits of advice from our remote developers:

  • Find new solutions – try to approach a problem with new frameworks or languages;
  • Take care of your mental health and switch activities – go for jogging, meditate, play games;
  • Consider the possibility that the job or role you’re currently at doesn’t meet your expectation and causes disappointment. If this is the case – maybe it’s time to move on;
  • From the author: Talk to your manager. If you’re part of a remote team, it’s natural to feel disconnected from the rest of the company, which causes motivation drops. Probably the company doesn’t make sufficient effort to make sure you are happy and motivated.

Maryna Demchenko is a writer at Ncube com, a software development company. She covers a wide range of topics, from managing virtual teams to innovation and technology.


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