“Burn, burn clearly until it goes out”, or What is the danger of the emotional burnout of your employees

As I wanted to figure out, it’s cheaper to fire a burned-out employee, “cure” or even try not to burn out, and what came of it.

Now a small introduction, from where this topic was born.

I almost forgot how to write. There is no time at first; then it seems that everything you can / want to write about is obvious, and then you hear a story from a colleague from one well-known company who says that on Friday at 10 o’clock in the evening their general clarifies in all seriousness: “I visited here in the development department 5 minutes ago. Why is it only 10 in the evening, and there is no one in the office? ”

Comrade General, I have to upset you in advance - I have extremely bad news for you, man.


So let's get started. I divided this mini-article into 5 parts:

  1. Terminology. It is very important to understand the exact definitions of a particular characteristic, because often many of these terms are used incorrectly.
  2. About the developers. I have been working in IT for most of my life (except for a year in logistics in my first year at the university), so I reacted to a friend’s remark about the development department. And that is why we will talk about programmers, managers, etc. - the people who form these departments.
  3. About professional burnout. But it will be applicable to everyone and outside the IT world.
  4. About motivation and involvement. But this will be applicable in other areas of life (in addition to work)
  5. Findings. The part that can be read immediately, skipping the previous five, and immediately go to apply in your team. But if you suddenly want to back up with evidence or interesting facts, it is better to leave it all the same.

Part 1. Terminology

Efficiency - getting the maximum result at the lowest cost.

Efficiency - the ratio of the actual result (the measured indicator - the so-called "performance criterion") to the planned one.

The concept of "productivity" comes from the word "product". As you know, a product (thing, thing, project, service) is created by a person in the process of activity. And a person who creates a valuable and useful product with high productivity can be called productive.

Burnout is a complete or partial loss of efficiency in the workplace due to increasing emotional, and then physical exhaustion.

Part 2. About developers

Given the fact that we do not work in the state structure, we do not have the concept of a normalized working day from 9:00 to 17:00. Looking at my guys, who come on average around 10: 00-11: 00 and leave after 18: 00-19: 00, and look pretty good at the same time, I can conclude that they are on a working schedule. Undoubtedly, there are situations in which you urgently need to repair something or quickly finish the unprepared, but this is not re-gu-lar-but.

And now, attention.

4-5 hours - the net time of the effectiveness of the average developer. This is normal.

At this place, you don’t have to grab your head and lament how little it is, but what is it, a working day of at least 8 hours, you need to work, etc. etc.

First, who is meant by the "average developer"? A programmer who writes excellent (not always, but often, haha) working code, closes sprints, goes to rallies, drinks coffee, dines (or not), smokes with boys (or not), here is a list of small joys that an ordinary person allows himself in a day.

Secondly, programmers think differently than other people. This does not mean that they are certainly smarter, more logical and more rational than others, but there are differences. Not so long ago, scientists began to study the brain of programmers and came to some interesting conclusions.

A person who is thinking about the source code has five different areas of the brain that are mainly responsible for processing the language, attention, logical and associative thinking, and memory. FIVE. Of course, further research in this area is required, but it is difficult to find activities that require more brain strain and constant training than programming.

Plusing the first to the second, we get that 4-5 hours a day is NORMAL.

There is a good time tracker for developers - WakaTime. This is not an advertisement now, it’s just that before this article I’ve never been interested in such things, that they showed the first, then I liked it, lol.

WakaTime provides detailed statistics on what the developer was doing on a particular day or week - what projects he worked on, what languages ​​he used, what files he made changes.

In general, with the permission of a very good version developer:


I publish his two-week statistics on writing code and working with it. As we can see, on average per day in its pure form comes out about those same 4-5 hours.

I repeat that sometimes there are days or weeks when the number of hours increases. This is also normal, provided that it is not an ongoing story. We are going further.

Part 3. About professional burnout

“Occupational burnout syndrome is included in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases”

It seems that we are approaching the era of caring for the psychological state of people - this is very good. The World Health Organization is planning to begin developing evidence-based workplace mental health guidelines. But while they plan ahead ...

We will be back in August 2019, in which the directors ask why it is not at the office at midnight.

To make employees feel good, sleep normally, spend time comfortably at work, care must be taken. If the system includes overtime, the tense situation in the team, etc. - this usually ends in burnout.

So. Symptoms of burnout (we record, remember, catch in conversations and behavior of colleagues, we sound the alarm):

What affects the above employee conditions? Going around the sharp corners of the fragile individuality of each person, basically everything revolves around these four points:


The guys from My Circle did a study not so long ago, which showed that more than 50% of IT professionals have experience of professional burnout, and half of them have gone through this experience 2 or more times.

For the employer, such burn-out of employees has rather serious consequences: up to 20% of employees are regularly in a similar state, only 25% of burn-outs remain at their previous place of work. This means that a fairly large part of the employees work extremely inefficiently and interfere with others.

Here, finally, the narrative got to the topic of what is cheaper - to fire a burned-out employee, to cure or even try to prevent burnout.

If you have not done so already due to a lack of interest in this topic or other circumstances, I recommend the following.

  1. Go to your HRs and ask them to calculate how much the search - hiring - the exit of each employee
  2. Add to this the company's monthly expenses on his salary, taxes, rent of the premises in which his workplace is located, tea / coffee / snacks that he drinks / eats every day, medical insurance, etc.
  3. Add the time of employees from the team to which the person goes, spent on his introduction to the project course
  4. Add the probability (in financial terms) that the employee will not pass the trial period
  5. Take into account the fact that within six months after his exit, the employee is not fully effective

You will receive a very impressive figure, which you should always keep in mind before the final decision on the dismissal of an employee. Hiring each new person and their further adaptation will cost much more than the steps to treat burnout or its onset of symptoms with current employees.

What is the danger of getting employees in such a situation?

A hospital with a diagnosis of “burnout” can be taken from January 1, 2022, if changes are made to Russian law. Two more years are up to this date, and there are already a lot of burned people.

The most unpleasant thing is that of those who went through the experience of severe burnout, only 25% retained their previous place of work. Think about it, out of 100% people burned out at work, 75% leave the company.

Why do we need to take preventive measures in order to prevent burnout?

The problems of professional burnout for each employee in particular are not limited to ineffective work and subsequent dismissal. If someone burns out nearby, this also affects the overall performance of the guys in the department, and even in the company as a whole. Half of the respondents said that they observed professional burnout from colleagues. One in three noted that the burnout of a colleague interfered with his work.

In addition to reducing productivity, which will clearly affect the quality and quantity of tasks performed by the employee, he will begin to hurt. Our body is so arranged that a long stay in a stressful situation begins to affect physical well-being - the so-called psychosomatics. The body is trying to weaken a serious condition for him, and one of the options for release is a physical illness. The solution to such a problem does not fit into the banal "stop being nervous - and everything will pass."

Historically, the classic psychosomatic diseases (“holy seven”) are classified as stressful: bronchial asthma, ulcerative colitis, essential hypertension, neurodermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer. Currently, these diseases also include psychosomatic thyrotoxicosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity and somatoform behavior disorders.

The latter are frequent companions in everyday life: a feeling of incomplete shortness of breath, stiffness of the chest during breathing, stitching pains and pressure in the heart area, palpitations, sweating of the palms and trembling in the body, non-localized migrating abdominal pain, etc.

All of the above are serious health problems that can progress to even more serious illnesses.

Do you want to be responsible for the fact that your employees, being in constant stress at work, begin to constantly and seriously get sick? I think not.

There are actually two options for the development of events:

  1. If you are humanly not sorry for the people who work for you, if you have a lot of time and money, then get ready to constantly invest in recruiting and adapting new employees to replace burned out ones (I do not recommend)
  2. Learn to manage the burnout process, and as a maximum, try not to allow it at all. This will save a lot of material and moral strength for the whole company (recommend)

My suggestion on how to start treating employees is:

  1. Find out the cause of the approaching or the coming burnout at confidential regular meetings 1-1
  2. If the problem is in “operational” activities →

    • give other tasks
    • transfer a person to another department
    • carry away with something other than ordinary activities
  3. If there is a problem in processing → at least send on vacation for at least two weeks, as a maximum, strengthen the team of the person in whom regular processing takes place

For example, I had a terrific case of how we accidentally cured tired employees in an outsourcing company who worked on the same project for 8 years. When they decided to invest in youth in order to raise good and right employees (for themselves, ha ha), they started a development course. The programmers, teachers and examiners in this course were just the guys from that eight-year project. Fire in the eyes, a thirst for activity, suggestions of new training options for the "youngest" minds of the mind soon indicated that there was no trace of the symptoms of burnout.

Part 4. About motivation and involvement

An adult cannot be re-educated. However, you can carefully direct in the right direction.

The involvement of a person directly depends on his faith in the company and its leaders. But this faith cannot be achieved unless a team of like-minded people who share the values ​​of the company is assembled. People come to work not to fit the tables. They don’t like it when they are looked at under a microscope. And the formal rating system for a certain type of activity, especially creative, unique, does not play a positive, but a negative role. People stop working when interest is lost. Or they work “wrong”, if there has never been any interest.


An unmotivated employee will not strive to do more and better.

There may be several reasons for the lack of motivation:

Noticed that the reasons in some places are very similar to what I described in the part about burnout? Pam Pam.


Quite pleasant to me in spirit, a man named Adizes, answering a question about how to motivate employees, said: “Take motivated employees and do not demotivate them.”

If the first is easy enough to deal with if there are more or less sensible eychars in the company, then you will have to work with the second.

I love to read all sorts of studies on motivation. Here, for example, there is such an institution Gallup - this is the American Institute of Public Opinion, which was founded in 1935 and conducts regular surveys of the population on the problems of domestic and foreign policy. Gallup enjoys international prestige as one of the most reliable sources of information.

If you had enough of his authority, then take the following information for thought - in the next study, it was found that the involvement and motivation of an employee is 70% dependent on the actions of management.

Here are a few rules for a boss who can and, most importantly, wants to increase productivity and motivation:

Part 5. Conclusions

Summarizing all of the above, I can say that no one is immune from the sudden loss of motivation of their employees or from a gradually coming burnout. However, you can try to prevent this. Here are a few points that I suggest you pay attention to. This is not a panacea, but regular observance of some rules will help you keep the situation with the emotional state of your employees under control.

  1. Gather feedback on the state of the employee at work - must have. There are many tools for this at different levels of interaction - retrospectives after sprints, 1-1 team lead with the developer, etc.
  2. Try to roll out information about what is happening in your company to all of its employees as transparently as possible. Transparency leads to a deeper understanding of what is happening, the trust of employees, increases loyalty to the company and confidence in the future.
  3. Arrange periodically anonymous Q&A sessions with your employees. Announce the event with a link to anonymous filling out a form with any questions that concern your colleagues, further answers to which you will publicly voice at the event. Remember that if someone is silent about the situation, this does not mean that he does not think about it. And also the fact that the burnout of one employee acts on every third in the team, and quite predictably come out of one of them in the near future.
  4. Burnout is cheaper to treat. A little less cheaper to avoid. It’s quite expensive to fire a burnt out person and look for a replacement in his place.

I wish everyone a lack of overload, a good atmosphere in teams and mutually beneficial cooperation :)

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/463511/

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