If you have been programming for a living there is a high chance you have been burned out at some point in your career. Whether you call yourself a software engineer, softwater developer, a programmer, or whether you are junior or senior in software development, every once in a while you face this problem that is common in the tech industry.
Here are is a list of reasons why software engineers and programmers burn out:
- Working crazy hours.
- Managers treating programmers as robots.
- Programmers trying to learn all rather than specialize.
- Working as a solo programmer.
- Project Lead/Managers are not good leaders.
- Programmers not being recognized for their efforts.
- Programmers doing other programmers’ job.
- Programmers working on repetitive boring tasks.
But why? Why are programmers more prone to burnout?
Unfortunately, it just depends.
It depends because everyone deals with different circumstances. Not everyone has the same job. Not everyone works in an office. Not everyone works with teams. Not everyone works on exciting projects.
Everyone’s circumstances are unique.
Let’s take a look at each of the reasons listed above for why software engineers and programmers burn out. Remember, some situations oftentimes are far beyond what programmers can control. Situations that seem dumb at the beginning, but then become a real issue when it accumulates over time.
Table of Contents
1. Working Crazy Hours
This must be the top cause of burnout among programmers. Consider yourself lucky if you haven’t worked crazy hours or anything along the lines of 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 hours a week worth of development work.
Let me tell you something, if you’ve been working 50 hours for a long time, watch out! You might have not been working “crazy” hours, but sooner or later it will catch up.
I know you love programming, but you cannot overly do the same thing every day. Think about it. If a person who loves working out and goes twice a day to the gym every day, his body will eventually not be able to keep up with the same intensity. In fact, it increases the chances of getting injured, which is the last thing you want to do.
The chances of writing buggy code are higher when you are tired. The chances of forgetting to add simple features to the code are higher when you are tired. The chances of taking longer to finish development of a feature are higher when you are tired.
2. Managers treating programmers as robots
Programmers have the ability to make a “bot” work and solve other interesting problems. However, being treated as a robot is a totally different thing. Yes, programmers write code and speak in one way or another the language of a robot (sort of..). However, that doesn’t mean programmers are not human beings.
Sending a message to a programmer at all times, 7 am, 2 pm, 8 pm, 11 pm, and 2 am, to check how the development process is going is not okay. They also have a life, they also have a family, they also have video games to play. If a programmer is expected to reply to a message at any time like automated bots do, then expect to chat with a bot, not with a programmer.
3. Programmers trying to learn all rather than specialize
This oftentimes happens to new developers thinking about leveling up their programmer skillsets by attempting to learn React, Angular, Vue, or .Net, Node JS, GoLang, Java, MySQL, Oracle, MongoDB, PostgreSQL, all at the same time.
You quickly burn out because there is only so much information your brain can keep up with. It is ok to put in the work if you want to learn as much as possible so you can find a job and start paying the bills. However, when you focus on one thing your mind can process the information better. Hence, your ability to learn a topic is more effective.
4. Working as a solo programmer
Software Development is meant to be done in teams. The amount of work an app requires is a lot. It’s more than what you think a lot is, especially when you are the only person on the team. You have to think about not only developing the app, the backend, frontend, infrastructure of the project, testing the project, launching the project, maintaining the project, etc.
You might want to say, “That’s the fun part” to be able to be part of the whole development process. Yes, it is fun. However, it is often necessary to talk with someone in the same language, to talk about code, to talk about how to improve the development, how to improve testing of the project, and how to improve the security of the project. Fortunately, there are forums where you can ask questions and share thoughts, but it is not the same as truly working with someone who can give you a hand when you are struggling to make things work alone, especially when your family depends on you finishing to get paid.
5. Project Lead/Managers are not good leaders
You don’t always get to work with a project manager who truly understands the development process or has worked as a software developer before. They have one job: to ensure the project is delivered on time. That’s why they are hired: to make sure things get done within specified timeframes no matter how the job gets done.
In the end, project managers are driven by results. If they don’t show results, they are in trouble. Therefore, you start noticing strict instructions from your project manager that don’t portray leadership, but a regime. That’s why you are obligated to develop features because you have to, even if it goes against software development best practices, or when you need to deliver the project the next week because that’s the date when the project is supposed to be completed.
You quickly lose the joy of being a programmer. Although it might not be the only reason why you could be burning out, it adds up to the number of things you must deal with as part of your daily basis at your job.
6. Programmers not being recognized for their efforts
Apparently, it is hard to say things like Good Job or Thank you for your efforts when you make contributions on a project, constantly exceeds expectations, come up with new solutions, or get things done.
It’s crazy how the lack of recognition affects a programmer, even if you think you don’t need to be recognized for your efforts. Do you like when you develop an app for a client and the client constantly points out the negative aspects of the project? This is what happens, you have to suck it up and handle it the best way you can, but if most of the clients are not appreciative of the work you do, you will quickly start coding without passion.
7. Programmers doing other programmers’ job
Sometimes you wonder how on earth your coworker was able to get the job with the company. No Joke.
There are things you’d expect a programmer to know.
Ok, there is no programmer who can know it all and that is ok. However, if a person keeps asking the same question over and over and doesn’t understand after several times, then there’s a problem with his/her programming skills.
The worst is if you work with one of those “senior developers” in the same team. Let’s say your team has 6 tasks to do for the week. You and the other senior developer split the amount of work in 3, taking as a hypothesis the complexity of the work to be similar. You get the 3 tasks done by Friday morning, but your coworker is still working on 1 task. To prevent from failing to meet deadlines, the project manager assigns you the 2 other tasks your coworker hasn’t started yet.
I understand some people are more skillful than others. However, if your coworker is supposed to have a decent amount of years in the profession, you would think they know a thing or two about programming and getting things done.
8. Programmers working on repetitive boring tasks
There could be a chance of working on developing forms over and over. Yes, you master the art of building out forms and submitting the values. Every once in a while, programmers need to develop different functionalities and be able to get the chance to learn something different here and there. It keeps us motivated about solving new challenges.
If you are in a job that limits you in the kind of features you can develop, there is a chance of getting frustrated about your job. Once again, over time it could add up to being burned out.
All in all, there are different situations programmers deal with on a daily basis. Some can handle them better than others. Some have already experienced burnout and know how to prevent it. However, if you’ve been experiencing any of these situations on a regular basis, be careful, you could be on the path to burning out.