How to avoid IT leader burnout: 4 tips

Burnout can be detrimental to a manager's work ethic and mentality. Here's how to prevent burnout from taking over your life.

Top 5 ways to avoid IT burnout

More than half (55%) of US employees experience burnout at work, according to a recent report from the University of Phoenix. Burnout typically refers to dissatisfaction with one's current state of life, and 86% of workers said their burnout was directly connected to job satisfaction.

Burnout can have serious emotional and physical effects, the report found. The majority of respondents said they believe anxiety (67%), fatigue (66%), depression (58%), and anger (55%), are all signs of job burnout.

SEE: IT burnout: Causes and solutions (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Many factors contribute to burnout at work, including chronic stress and poor work environments, according to Michael Tuso, director of revenue performance at tech firm Chili Piper.

Outside factors also play a large role in job burnout, Tuso said. Combined with negative work situations, burnout can result from people not focusing on the right motivations, forgetting to enjoy things they love outside of work, and practicing bad nutrition and sleep habits.

Employees can easily get bogged down by having too much work and not enough time to complete it, said Jennifer Curry, senior vice president of global cloud services at INAP. This is especially true for workers in the "chaotic, always-on nature of the tech industry and IT," Curry noted.

"IT employees want to be more involved in value-added activities, but are frustrated by the sheer amount of time needed to simply maintain the status quo," said Curry. "Leaders must recognize that there are real opportunity costs incurred when an IT workforce is stretched thin."

However, job burnout isn't just reserved for employees—it affects leaders, too. IT leader burnout can be even more harmful to a workplace as a whole, since the precedent for the work environment is usually conducted from the top down.

Here are four ways IT leaders can avoid burnout at work.

1. Find sources of alternative energy

To maintain a healthy balance in life, leaders must allocate their energies in the right places, said Doug Llewellyn, CEO of

"The notion of balance has long been forgotten; for entrepreneurs and IT leaders alike, it's all about a work/life blend," Llewellyn said. "Figure out how to keep your energy (your drive and desire) to move things forward. Bear in mind, what you need for physical energy may be different than what you need for mental energy, but they are related so entrepreneurs and IT leaders must feed them both equally."

2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

With physical and mental energies in mind, leaders must fuel both systems in a healthy manner. Proper nutrition, sleep habits, and exercise have positive effects on individuals mentally and physically, which will translate into all facets of their lives, said Tuso.

Instead of staying glued to a screen, leaders should reprioritize time for healthier activities, recommended Llewellyn. "Connection may feel like a requirement and disconnection may feel scary, but downtime is needed. Digital detoxing—even in short segments—to read or exercise allows your mind time to focus elsewhere and be more prepared to solve problems from the business," he added

3. Never stop learning

Many IT leaders reach burnout because of the monotony of their daily routines, but learning new skills can help break up the norm.

"It's vital to encourage managers and senior leaders to provide workers the resources to grow in their careers via training and continuing education opportunities," said Curry. These employees can then take those skills and use them toward new and exciting projects at work.

"One of the best tactics for keeping IT workers motivated and avoiding burnout is to formally ensure they have time during normal business hours to work on technology projects that move the business forward, as opposed to routine tasks that effectively 'just keep the lights on,'" Curry said.

4. Communicate

In a connected tech world, tech leaders must also be connected, according to a session at SAP SAPPHIRE 2019. To be connected, however, tech leaders must be in constant communication with those around them.

Leaders should openly talk about their stress and burnout, said Tuso. Forging this dialogue opens the possibility not only for leaders to feel better, but for employees who may be feeling the same way to feel less alone. Communicating about burnout destigmatizes the issue, hopefully preventing other employees from letting their burnout cause severe side effects.

For more, check out TechRepublic's article on High stress levels impacting CISOs' physical, mental health.  

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Image: iStockphoto/fizkes