Even the best of us find moments where our work no longer brings us joy or excites us. It’s when that work starts to feel like an anchor around our neck that we need to stop and take inventory. When we’re asked to work harder, for longer hours, and low pay, the needle moves ever closer to the redline. This week we talk about what causes burnout, and what you can do to cope with and avoid it so that you don’t lose your passion for creation.

Followup Resources

Transcript

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Hello, everybody. You’re listening to The Breakfast UX Podcast. This is episode number 82 where we’re gonna be talking about coping with code and design burnout and strategies. Things for dealing with that in addressing it and hopefully making you feel a little bit better. I am your host, Michael Keenan

on your other other host. Aaron. How you doing, Michael?

I am awake and bright eyed and bushy tailed. This is a departure for us. Uh, I had to do some time juggling. So we’re recording first thing in the morning for a change which is a little bit different for, well, first thing in the morning for me. A little later for you. Uh, if you are enjoying the drunken UX podcast, be sure to run by our kind sponsors from the live at Manning Conference. Siri’s If you go to drunken, you x dot com slash graph data.

You can get a free ticket to their upcoming online Web conference on graph data science. That conference is gonna be well if you’re listening to this on released a tomorrow. February 16th. It runs from noon to 5 p.m. Eastern Standard time. It’s over on twitch. Get a free ticket. Just go to drunken you x dot com slash draft data. With that, it is morning. I’m keeping my stuff in books.

I literally just ate a bowl of cereal, so I’m drinking coffee with no Irish, and it is just coffee

that Z that is

the theme for my morning.

So I had a discussion yesterday on Twitter asking about what I need. I, incidentally, finished off to my Scotch bottles this past week. They just had very little left. And I finished them Eso I bought another bottle and it got recommendations from Joel we’ve had on the show before. And Marc Ambinder, fellow African, And they mark suggested the Shackleton.

So I picked the bottle of that up and I literally opening it for the first time today. I’m just gonna have, like, a small drink.

The story of the Shackleton is interesting, though, right? Yeah.

I don’t know in a lot about it. I know it was something about the antique blend of McKinley’s rare old Highland malt whisky supplied to the British Antarctic expedition.

Right? Like right on one of those ice shelves. You know, the where people come in and out of Antarctica lot, There’s a cabin, okay? And the guy, the the expedition stayed there for a little while and then left. But obviously, you know, traveling this time was difficult. And so they left everything. And because an article is so cold and where they left it all is temperate from the standpoint, like there’s no blizzards or anything like that.

It’s just cold. So the whole thing is preserved. You can actually if you go to Google maps. You can You can do a street view of it, and I go into the house and look around in the house. So this scotch they when they were doing an audit of the area or whatever, um, they found a crate of scotch that was brought down with them. And so they took one of the bottles, Did their science see stuff to it on?

Brought in some scotch people to knows that do all this. And so the bottle you’re drinking is basically a reproduction of what they think that Scotch tasted like when it was made back in, you know, the late 19th century. So that’s the story. That’s cool. That’s pretty good.

I’m disappointed there’s no penguins on the label,

but

I will say it smells really good. It smells, Um, now almost fruity, like a fruity. I’m looking for the Shackleton thing on Google Maps, and I can’t find it.

While you look for that. Let me tell everybody what we’re talking about this week. So, uh, for my birthday, I told Aaron I only wanted one thing, and that was to not come up with the next show idea. And so he said, Well, how about we talk about burnout and I went OK? And the more I thought about it, I’m like, this is a great idea, because, boy, am I burnt out E did it.

So this is what we’re talking about this week, and I’m we’re talking a lot of what I’m gonna be saying. Um and stuff will have, like, some specific relevance toe web design and Web development. Um, but a lot of it also is going to deal with just feeling burnt out at work regardless of where you are. So if you work with anybody in other fields who, you know, our our suffAarong from this are having a tough time after the last year, um, or not like that’s gonna be the thing.

Some of what we’ll talk about certainly is made worse by the stuff. The changes that have happened through co vid. But people were getting burnt out of jobs well before that, Um so be sure to share this episode if if you think itself will leave a like comment review wherever, I don’t ask that Ah, whole lot. But I will this time because I do think that what we’re gonna share is gonna be useful and valuable to ah, lot of,

Ah, a lot of folks outside of our industry. Um, I’m going to start with a definition because we were talking just before the show started about like what burnout is. Burnout is not a medical diagnosis. It’s not defined in What is it, Aaron? The the L S M. Um, it’s not like it shares qualities with anxiety. Disorders with depression are with things that are, you know, acknowledged there’s an article over the Myo Clinic.

They say job burnout is a special type of work related stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.

Turn out to me. Feels like when you’re over compromised on what you’re able to give out, you know, like we have, whether you’re introvert or extrovert. There’s like there’s giving energy out putting, you know, putting effort in labor into things

on. And then there’s like,

Yeah, yeah, I think you used the word carrying capacity

for pre show.

Um, I think that burnout is when we have had to kind of run right. We had a red line that carrying capacity for too long?

Um, yeah. So a couple of caveats before we get too far into this one, Um, I wanna be very clear. I am a 39 year old white male with a good job and good career, and I’m found to frame something in a way that is maybe not reflective of other people’s experiences. Especially regard to work, stress, burnout, anxiety, all of these things. I understand. I don’t mean that in a minimizing way.

Um, it’s just that my frame of reference is is framed in a way that comes from a place that, yes, I have access to things and have had experiences that are not nearly as bad as other other people. Um and so I just don’t want people to feel like I am putting down your experience or not acknowledging your experience. It’s just that in the course of this conversation, I’m liable to say something in simplistic terms.

so I just wanna say that straight out, but understand that it’s okay for anybody to feel burnt out at any given time, and it’s not because you messed anything up, its not because you’re not strong enough to deal with anything. It’s just because, like Aaron said, right, we have this carrying capacity. We have this emotional economy weaken deal in, and sometimes we’re just not taking stuff off the pile as quickly as we’re putting stuff on. And everybody’s limit is whatever their limit is. You know, it’s sometimes we

just get stretched a little thin. We just, incidentally, and

getting from it. Yeah,

well, Getting stretched

thin

isn’t the burnout point. The burnout point is when you’re already stretched thin and then more is demanded of Yeah, that’s that’s, I think, the breaking point.

And you can always rewind that. It’s not like there’s nothing broken when you get there. It’s more like I would I would say it’s more of a warning sign, right? Burnout is the thing That part of the reason I think burnout is not in the D. S M is because burnout leads to the things that are right. That’s what causes depression. That’s what causes anxiety disorders.

Our lives are not lived in vacuums, and so things that happened in your personal life can and will affect your work. Like everybody says, Don’t bring your personal life toe work. That’s not possible. It really is. You can’t not do it now. You can choose to, you know, bring certain things in. You know, drama is the one that I always kind of come back to it. I’m not a drama, dude, I don’t handle. I don’t want your drama in my life.

And drama is a choice. You know, things that are happening in that sphere. That’s just you bringing some stuff along. But things like stress things like anxiety stuff that’s happening outside that is having those that is dealing in your emotional economy. You can’t not bring that along because your economy is yours. Like that is that is a thing that you know, changes your value throughout the day. Um, I don’t I don’t think is healthy for

an employer or any kind of place or organization or anything to expect that if you are facing a very riel and understandable situation like the death of a close family member or or similar that it’s not going to affect you, and I don’t think it’s fair or healthy for anyone to say, Okay, you need to just cram that down in there

and compartmentalize

on dure not about to feel those feelings when you’re here at work, because this is we own you for this time. That’s a really dysfunctional.

So there’s over at the Ivy exact dot com. They they quoted some research research by comparably shows that 51% of people in design jobs say they feel burned out. When I’ve worked with professionals in this industry, they tell me it’s sometimes due to unrealistic expectations, changing priorities and not receiving clear feedback. 51%.

I mean, I don’t I don’t know what a reasonable amount of burnout is to expect in an industry, but I do feel like 51% is too high, that is, and it’s, you know, a consequence right of everything worked does to us in terms of wanting to get more. What’s that? We’ve all seen this graph right? This this graph of like, um, wage variability since the eighties, how it’s like flat, but output from employees is like a steady trending line up. Like you. You can Onley milk the blood from that stone for so long,

right? The older I get, the more I’m like. My time is very important to me.

There are post after post after post an article and research and all the stuff that always will tell you. Time is your most valuable commodity, and you need to value it as such. And there’s always this thing about and I’ve ran into this. I used to freelance, um, or not freelance. I used to moonlight. That’s really the way to put it. I was working a normal job, 9 to 5, and then I moonlighted in the evenings to make more money.

Um, and that meant doing more work. And over time, I wanted to do that less and less. So what did I do? I started raising prices, and at first I raised my prices. But I didn’t lose any work. And so I realized I was undervaluing my time. It just got to the point where, like, you know what? No, I now value my time mawr. And when I got the job on that, currently, that was really where that cut off happened, where it’s like I’m not gonna keep raising my prices.

Now I’m just going to stop moonlighting because my evenings my time outside of work is more valuable to me than any number. I’m gonna put on that right? So if we start talking about, like the stuff that is, let’s say, very heavy, the things that are maybe out of your control, that can affect your stress levels and things. So let’s, let’s take, you know, death of a loved one that happens, you can’t stop it.

It is a force of nature that will affect your stress level. It will affect it in a way that is much larger than other things in your life. And it also as a consequence, I think, increases the volatility of the small thing. You know, the other things that maybe are in your control or otherwise wouldn’t even register to you.

The closer you get to that red line, because of all of the base levels to the bedrock stress, sort of that you’re carrying those little things. You know, there’s it’s it’s almost like there’s a noisy factor, right? Like as you get closer to the red line, you also pick up noise. You also pick up just this volatility to it. Um, and you get angry or, you know, you get frustrated.

You know, you walk away from your code, you know we there’s always this sort of joke, right? Like I worked three hours trying to find a bug, and all I really needed to do was go to sleep and look at it in the morning, and I immediately found nothing. It’s funny, it’s anecdotal. It’s true. It’s true, so true. It’s also a sign of stress like that that in and of itself and when you’re not, when you’re bedrock stresses low and you’re not near that red line, that’s not a big deal.

It is funny. It is something that’s just like Ha, ha, I should have seen this originally. I can’t believe I missed it. But if you are much closer to that red line, it can be a much bigger deal. And when you walk away from it, you know, you know that old phrase like E. I think it comes to our first like married couples, right? Never, never go to sleep angry, you know, always try toe, resolve your stuff.

We’re talking about it regardless, Like just get it out kind of thing. This works on. I think, on a very similar modality. If you are pissed off of your work, your code you can’t find what you’re why it’s breaking or whatever and you just get up and walk away from it. If you are still angry about that in an hour, that’s a sign that you are stressed beyond what maybe you think you are, and that’s okay.

It’s like those look for those kinds of signs. If you’re not having fun an hour later doing something else playing around with something, then realize that, yeah, these things are starting to add up for you.

I want to clarify that I don’t think that the red line itself is burnout. The red line is when you’re burning

its’s,

when you are like you know that phrase like burning the midnight oil. It’s like you’re already exhausted and tired, but you’re pushing through anyways. That’s that’s what your That’s what you’re burning there.

You can run already. Red line. You know you can you can push. It doesn’t mean a PM for a while. The and the motor will be fine. It’s if you keep doing it and go beyond it

right if you do it for a sustained period of time like what you’re burning is, you know, whatever your intangible existence, and at some point you run out of that. You no longer have anything that you can burn to push yourself at that level. That spurn out is when you run out

of. And if we don’t talk about that and identify and sort of talk about coping mechanisms for it, the one rial risk that I think comes with that. And I know we’re talking this about this in terms that feel very tangible but really aren’t the way I’m going to say. This sounds very finite, and it it’s simply just isn’t that way.

But the risk that you run is if you do push beyond that red line too long and too hard, you will recover you, you know you will bounce back. You know you will take time off. You’ll do some of the things that we’re gonna talk about for coping. But the risk that it brings is that your new red line may now be lower. It’s kind of heat stroke, right? Like you know how they say, Like when you get heat stroke, it becomes easier for you to get heat stroke in the future. I look it. I never knew that

but I look

at burnout very much that way, and it doesn’t mean it definitely will. Like that’s every again. Everybody’s experience with this will be unique and individual. But I would say anecdotally, I have No, there’s no research. I can quote you There’s nothing like that that I can share with you. But I do think that risk exists that if you burn out too hard once the next time comes quicker and eat more easily and that’s the real risk you run.

And and even if that risk is low, I think it’s worth trying to avoid Um, uh huh.

I can confirm this personally, as I’ve talked about many times over the past few years on this show. I was the project lead for Diaper Basin, Ruby for good, and I have burned out there like widget burnout. I I really believed that if I hadn’t kept pushing that the project would die or at least not reach the success that it needed to reach.

And it always felt like we were so close, getting to a point where I could finally take a break and I just kept pushing. Um, but in the end, though, like I I legitimately burned out on

it. There’s you sort of unintentionally even segue perfectly into the next point. One of the reasons why burnout is such a problem for developers, especially name Model, has an article over on at the Hacker noon medium page. He talks about several things with with burnout one or two of them. Rather, one of them is that programming is isolating.

He says that Developers Day is spent in deep concentration in front of a computer screen. Teams could be remote or simply small. Further reduces human interaction. That isolation leads to burnout. The other thing is what you just said. Basically, he says, the bus factor is low. What? What is the bus factor? That’s like

my my favorite

McCobb

metaphor in our in our world

way. Say, at work when the lottery we’ve tried to stay away from the bus factor is this idea of If you put you know, if you’ve only got and you know one or two experts on a topic and you put them on a bus and the bus, you know, goes off, uh, cliff crashes, Yeah, crashes and they die. What happens And so and the way, UH, memo says it, meaning a small group of developers are the only ones available to maintain or build certain components.

This dependence makes it harder for them to take time off Prager duty responsibilities and customer complaints, disrupt sleep schedules and lead to an always on mentality. If you’re the Onley person, in an environment capable of dealing with something that increases the burden, it’s it’s just like, you know, you imagine the guy that lays on the bed of nails, right? Why can he lay on a bed of nails? Because there are 10,000 nails in that board.

If that board had four nails in it, he is now function. Should the outcome is much worse. And that’s what this is talking about. If you have. You know, if everybody if you’re on a team of 10 people and those people are all well skilled and versed on the things you’re building and one of you can come and go on any daily basis without any disruption, that means the bus factor is high.

Um, Maria Mustafa’s has another explanation that I really liked, and then Maria says, maybe you’re not seeing the meaning in your project because you can’t learn anything new from it. Programmers belong to the most curious creatures on this planet. If you can’t learn from it, you don’t like it. So I really liked this quote because I think it is largely true. Not always true. You know, I think it is.

There’s a characterization there that I think it’s maybe mawr broad than it needs to be. But we do know that to be successful as a developer, even as a designer, you have to constantly be doing. You know, we’re always learning new tools. We’re always learning new idioms in languages. If I don’t work that word into every single show. Now I feel like a failure.

But there’s there’s this need to always be learning new stuff, and part of the reason we pick up outside projects and or do something ourself outside of work hours is for that reason, right. It’s one of those things we have stressed. We say if you wanna learn something, go out and start a project on it, build it for yourself and it’s good advice as long as it’s not taxing you in that way.

But I do think programmers are probably mawr prone to this and again. This is anecdotal on my part, but I think programmers are more prone to it than people in other industries. Now, maybe the one exception might be medical. I can absolutely see doctors having to constantly be keeping up on new techniques and surgeries and conditions and treatment teachers to teach teachers.

But teachers are a whole other breed, like when when we say burnout is not unique to our field. Yeah, the medical field teachers, um, police officers, military like this problem is universal for a lot of different reasons. Um, but programmers have this hunger, right? Like we like doing what we do because it’s challenging.

And because those skills, like it’s almost a skill set that demands to be challenged. You don’t want to write the same code over and over and over every day, and you won’t you’ll write a module and just include it. And then what?

I I left a previous job. Actually, I’ve left. I left one previous job because my work was stagnating and I wasn’t having opportunities to work on new technologies or wearing new things. Um, I didn’t I wasn’t burnt out I was just ready to move on. If I had to stay in that job longer, maybe I would have hit burnout. I don’t know if other people have this experience, but, like I feel like feel deep pain like like it.

It feels it hurts

toe work with technology that I don’t like.

So let’s get in, though. Thio Work Life Balance Let’s talk about that first, because part of you know, when there are things you can do in your life in your outside time that can help reduce that stress carrying capacity that can give you some space between where you are and where the red line is, and that will help you all the way around. There’s, um, an article over from Colin Netter Corn Netter corn, corn.

There’s two O’s in Holland, Better Corn. He’s the CEO of customer dot io, and he says some things that he thinks are must have exercising 2 to 3 times a week, eating well, getting eight hours of sleep at least four nights a week and unplugging totally for at least a week a year. The fuck I like all of these,

I’m doing none of them

right I’m not doing most of those. Well, and this is where, like, I I realized I have sort of even before you brought up the topic of this episode. Ah, lot of this stuff was where things that I was starting to lock into. I haven’t exercising two or three times a week hard because I can’t go to the gym right now or I could.

But it, you know, carries a risk that I’m not willing to take, Let’s say, but I have started over the last part two weeks to three weeks. But, um, I am exercising every night. Um, free weights stretches like I’m not going crazy. I have my bike out in the rec room. I need toe kind of set it up on the trainer. And when it’s not negative 15 degrees outside a walk, you know, go for a walk at five o’clock after work.

It’s funny to me that I’m like, man, I’ve been my my brain. My body has been pushing me to do these things. Um, eating well, I don’t eat good. I don’t really I don’t eat Well. I don’t know about you. I like trash. Quite frankly. Yeah, I go through spurts where I cook regularly. Um, I have so to kind of catch people up. My work life balance sucks. It has sucked for a long time.

I have frequently been known at work is the guy who doesn’t take time off and who is available for help, questions and work at any point from 8 a.m. Toe 8 a.m. For the most part, which is tough when we have international offices That, you know, they’re noon is my evening, you know, and times like that. So I had a very unhealthy work life balance between the isolation of Cove in which we’ve talked about.

I think in past episodes that, you know, I am sort of an introvert, but I I get out. I would like to go out to the bar once a week. Haven’t been doing that. I haven’t had that exposure this, You know, we talked earlier about isolation. The isolating factor that happens when you work from home a lot. Um, I do sleep. Um, my sleep was trash, and I really have committed to this. I don’t necessarily get eight hours, but I’m getting at least 7.5 consistently,

I’ve been getting better, mostly about my sleep. I do want to say that like these four things are the CEO of customer Io’s things that work for him. Um, they do sound. They do sound like good things, but man like it is a privilege to be able to do these things, like if you If you have the time and energy to exercise to 2 to 3 times a week in the ability to do it, that’s awesome.

And eating well. You know, if you have grocery stores nearby that sell fruits and veggies, you have the knowledge to not to prepare them. Um,

if you’re a parent, totally understand. If that’s harder for you, like that’s that’s thing. I don’t have kids. I’m not waking, especially young kids like I do get like That’s a thing, but that’s a different kind of trade off. Also in my book, like That’s ah, well, that’s a biological trade off.

Even if they’re not waking you up at night, there’s still like, you know, when you’re awake and having the parent, you’re usually means you’re not able to do the things that you want or need to do for yourself.

And so this is one of the trade go to bed. I mentioned at the start of the show that it’s like I get that there are, like, That’s an extenuating circumstance. I think that your employees, you know, other other things. Other other things in your life. That again I understand I don’t have that effect in my life, so I will throw that out. Is one of those, um the unplugging totally.

For at least a week a year now, I didn’t get a wish, but I did take off from Christmas Day through New Year’s this year. Um, I was not as unplugged as I would have liked to have been, though I did do a pretty good job of not doing work. I will say that like, that was kind of where I was. I can’t think of the last

time I’ve unplugged for longer than a day.

The eating thing that I want to talk about this. And this is where this is Some of my advice Don’t eat at your desk. Yeah, and I say that is somebody who that is literally the thing I do right now that I am committing myself to not doing. I eat breakfast and lunch both at my desk every day. And mentally it’s It’s so hard to disconnect,

even if you’re not looking at work like it doesn’t matter. Even if it was sitting. Even if you’re sitting at a different desk at a different screen, like take the time. If you can take your lunch, go literally anywhere else that isn’t in front of a glowing rectangle, or at least not in front of a

E. I will sit here. I’m not working while I’m eating. Usually I’ll throw YouTube on or something like that. The problem is, it doesn’t give your brain a chance to sort of disconnect from work,

right, because it still looks the same this context

a half hour to an hour that you can take. Yeah, put your brain into a different gear, and a lot of folks will also say like this just depends on if you have the time. If you have an hour lunch and like right now, especially if you’re working from home, this is much easier to do. But even if you know you have access to a gym or something else, you know your situation will dictate this Spend, you know, 15 minutes eating and 30 minutes exercising.

You know, take that exercise 23 times a week, fitted in over your lunch hour, and it’s a great energy change as well. At that point, it helps get through the rest of the afternoon again much easier if you are working from home, obviously, but, um, if you can, that’s a great combination. But get away from your desk, get a hobby, get a hobby that is specifically not using your computer. Because again, I know coders designers we love to.

We love to do that thing frequently, and we won’t necessarily do it for work. But we’ll do it on other projects, and that’s fine if if you’re carrying, capacity allows for it. But it is so, so, so important to have hobbies that don’t involve your computer. I have a huge problem with this because I work from home. My computer. My work machine is my machine. I love the video game seven days to die.

You have put in hundreds of hours in that game. The last couple years, I haven’t put in hardly any because playing a video game means have to sit just like eating. Have to sit in the space. I work at the machine I work at, and it’s it fucks up my connection. At that point, it makes the game less enjoyable.

I know that we’ve talked about remote work on previous episodes, but like that’s a big thing that I don’t think I don’t think you really realize how much it affect you. Um, I have my main desktop where I’m recording here. I don’t usually work down here. Sometimes they dio, but I usually work like in my dining room or something on my laptop.

And if I don’t tear down my standing desk, um, it’s like a folding standing desk. Um, if I don’t tear it down at the end of the day, it’s really easy to kind of like not have a good end to my day. Like my my brain doesn’t get out of the right context. Not having that context switch of changing buildings really messes with your sense of

of work on it. And you know, of course, we’ve talked to remote work and stuff on the show before, and that is one of those things, and this is one reason why some people aren’t good at remote work.

They really need that shift you’re talking about, you know, shifting your brain into a different gear and why it’s important to not eat at your desk it lunch And that that holds true if you don’t work from home because there are a lot of people who go to an office every day to work and still eat at their desk. Get away from your desk, go eat in your fucking break room. But, yeah, you have to disconnect from from those things. Um, and the other thing that I have picked up heavily recently is I’m trying to read for fun again.

Yeah, me too. And to

this, this is where we get into like this This problem, right that we have in this industry. I considered it a point of pride that I didn’t read for fun anymore. When I read, I was reading articles on the latest CSS techniques I was picking up books on, you know, let me look over my shelf, actually, right now, you know I’ve got Don’t make me think over their content strategy for the web Cognitive surplus, Theo, elements of content strategy.

The smashing book like D I. Y. You the long tail like these are the things I’m reading. Yeah, just dream nonfiction. And I always thought I don’t have time for fun. I read for work. I’m making myself better and I’m not. That’s not making it better. That was That was robbing Peter to pay Paul so way said unplugged for at least ah, week, a year. The way you do that is use your PTO.

Okay, look.

So

if you have PTO, if you’re fortunate enough to have a job that gives you paid time off, um, there is There is no nothing to be proud about in not using your vacation time. Ever. Um, take your vacation time. You know, it doesn’t have to be, like, a month or whatever. Take long weekends here or there. Do a week. Take. You know, if you have kids, take your kids somewhere fun.

You have the vacation time. It’s part of your compensation package. Use it. If you have sick time and you feel sick, use your sick time. Don’t try to push through when you’re not feeling up to it. You’re gonna make shitty if you’re not gonna do is good of work. And you’re not doing yourself any favors either. So

and I know that the, you know, the bus problem factors in here, right? This feeling like if the bus factor is low, then I can’t take a day off because then the work’s not gonna get done. And I I know that feeling better than a lot of people, probably and better than I want to. And I have committed myself, I said said earlier, I took my week off. That was the first genuine vacation I had taken in five years. Six years?

Probably like I have taken a day off here and there. Usually it’s for something, though. Um, it’s and it certainly was never a vacation like it was not intentionally. I am planning to take this time off so that I don’t have to work, and I just do fun stuff. Um, you have tow. You have to get away from that mentality because those companies existed before you and they will continue to exist after you.

And yeah, maybe work doesn’t get done when you’re not there. That’s okay. The company is not going to close because you’re not there.

If the company closes because you’re not there for one day, then that’s not your fault. That’s the company

that is not your And that is something. You know what? That is A really important thing to emphasize. If you are feeling stressed, if you feel like you can’t take time off because you know of whatever reason, that’s not your fault. That is your works fault for putting that on you. And I know there are a lot of places that will shame people for taking time off or will discourage you from taking time off.

We’re gonna get to them here in just a second. But again, that’s not your problem. And if they try to make you feel that way, the best way I can encourage you to put it is just to say it flat out that that is a part of your compensation on you are allowed to use it. And if it is that much of a burden for you to not be there, that is their sign that they need to hire somebody else and I would say it straight to him. Now I know that’s hard, but

if there is work that needs to be done. And if you take a day off, all of that grinds to a halt, then they need They need to hire more developers if you’re If you’re in a situation like that, just talk with your talk with your supervisor.

Talk with your you know, the rest of your team and say like, Look, I need to take some time off. When can I do it? That would be the least impactful, but you don’t have to be a jerk about it. Like I’m not saying. Like like I’m gonna take a day off today, Screw you all.

I make it sound like you have to be super confrontational about it. You absolutely don’t. That that’s just me just

is working out with your team. I mean, if you tell them your needs and I’m like if nothing else, you not taking time off and risking burnout and risking like exhaustion is not going to be the good for the company overall anyways,

So they

may may. They may lose a day of labor, but you’re taking day off or a few days for taking a few days off. But how much? How much productivity. They’re losing over the long run from their perspective. If you are slowly like exhausting yourself out by not taking any breaks

it, you know, it makes me think of like the video game industry. Right? Um, you know, how many stories have we heard, especially over the last couple years, about video game production environments that are demanding, you know? Oh, yeah. 13 hour days out of people, seven days a week and all of this and just absolutely grinding game designers into the ground and spitting them out and not giving two shits about what those consequences are.

What I will tell you is, and I’m going to say this with a preface immediately because I do understand that it is not as easy as what I’m about to say and that wait before you

say that. Hold on. Okay. A few seconds ago, I said the things I was saying about productivity and whatnot, um, that I feel ugly saying that, um, the productivity of your workplace is not and should never be more important than your own personal, mental and physical health. Um, we whole separate discussion here about, like how we’ve, like, internalized capitalism and I don’t want to get into that.

But I will say that like the productivity of workplace is never more important than your mental and physical health. Those are always more important. Okay,

continue. But and but even in service of that, if you find yourself in an environment that is not healthy for you, and you are being led by people who do not take your safety, your health, your consideration seriously, the Bureau of Labor Statistics I can give you a number that, well, maybe give you some comfort.

They say that employment of Web developers and digital designers is projected to grow 8% from 2019 to 2029 much faster than the average for all occupations. The man will be driven by the continued popularity of mobile devices and e commerce. Yes, I didn’t need that last part that wasn’t that important.

Um, the reason I put this statistic is to emphasize the fact that there are jobs out there and there are people out there who are looking for you, and many of them will be much more considerate than where you are now. If where you are now is a problem, Now I understand.

I say that knowing very hard to just drop what you’re doing and go get another job, you know? And certainly I would never advocate for just walking out the door, burning the bridges and hoping there’s something waiting for you That’s not a strategic way to go about it.

I’m on

Lee saying it to emphasize this idea that much like, you know, nursing and some of these other fields. We work in an industry where there it where demand is outstripping supply in terms of good skilled workers. And so you have power in that negotiation, so to speak. Thio say, you know what? I don’t need to put up with this, and you’re gonna go figure something else out.

If you’re starting to feel away about your work and your feeling like you’re not able to change it, don’t wait until you’re at your breaking point to leave and look for new work. Start looking earlier. Foot your resume out there, find some people are hiring. Talk to some people, find some excuses to do interviews. Yeah, like if you’re going to negotiate a salary or like negotiate a, um, a position with a new company.

The absolute best time to do it is when you already have stable employment. Because you could just walk away from the table. It was not favorable for you. You could just tell them like Okay, well, you know, I appreciate the offer, but this isn’t gonna work for me. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. Um, that’s that’s the best possible situation for you to be in. Don’t wait until you’re unemployed. So, um yeah,

and I know, like, depending on your specialty, it could take time to find the right job. I know, especially in our economy right now. And with cove, it and everything. If you are a highly specialized individual, you probably will have a little more trouble than somebody who’s, you know, more generic or or doesn’t you know I’m sorry, Aaron, but if you’re a Ruby Dev probably a little harder to hunt something down than if you’re a reactive.

I’m just going to say that I actually had

when I got laid off from Cove it in March. Um, within a week and a half, I had four interviews and two offers lined up, so I But I was surprised I I didn’t think it would be that quickly. Especially with everyone so many people getting laid off of that time. Um, there’s work out there.

There’s work out there. You have to look like, say, yeah, it won’t necessarily be easy. I don’t want to imply that it will be easy. I just want to imply that you are in a relatively good space overall, you know, relatively speaking this you are in a favorable situation to help yourself. If you need that.

Yeah. Or more importantly, like if you’re at a job that shitty and it’s making your life hell and you don’t like it and you’re unhappy and you’re exhausted all the time, then maybe consider, like, putting yourself first and finding new work.

You don’t You

don’t know your employer. They you know you don’t have a unless you literally have a contract with, um, you don’t owe them anything. You don’t have to stay there. You’re allowed to look elsewhere. Yeah,

go fish and see if something nibbles. A. And to that point, I want to end with a a message to leaders, managers to bosses, businesses first and foremost, especially right now, like in this environment co vid working from home a lot for a lot of people. Make sure you put your employees in control. One of the reasons people get burnt out is because of the outside forces we quoted earlier.

You know when when timelines are shifting, when they don’t know when work is coming when priorities change on them? Um, you know, when people aren’t in control, that’s where stress starts generating. Let them adjust their hours. If they would rather work 10 to 6, let him work 10 to 6. That’s not going to impact you. Probably, you know, let them have that ability to time shift.

I’ve heard a lot of employers do a thing where they say This is the time of day when you have to be available for meetings. Other than that, you’re allowed to shift your day. However, you need Thio

give give your employees a sense of ownership over their work. Their working environment. Um, there’s an article from VM Ware over CMS wire about some of the stuff they have done on some of the advice they have for helping employees during this time. Um, it’s pretty short read. It’s a good read. Go check that out. Um, one thing and again, I do have Thio. I’m really lucky to have the environment to work. And I do.

On some of this comes from my personal experience, which is things like give employees time for personal projects, not necessarily like non work related personal projects. But let them say, and this is this goes back to control too. Say, you know, and is it Google that those, like, the 20% time, 10% time? Whatever it is like we have 20% time, I think is what it is.

Um, that we say, you know, 20% of your workday could be committed to working on something that is work related but isn’t on the board or isn’t a ticket. You know, you can pick something you think would be valuable and go research it. Go build it. Go try it. Yeah, go. Like, do all the things that we’ve been talking about, like it gives you a chance to learn.

It gives you a chance to try something new to push your own boundaries and experiences so that you’re not doing the same thing. Um, and the phrase that I’ve read is it lets you get to what they call a state of play. It makes your work feel like play. And how did so many of us learn to be developers by playing by getting a computer as a kid and deciding we wanted to see what we could do with it?

It was fun because it was play for us and we discovered we could make money playing. And so we got excited about that. And when we lose that feeling, that excitement of play and it just becomes redundant, you know, repetitive crap. That’s when we start getting towards that red line. So find ways to give employees a state of play, don’t make them commit every second of their day to just check and tickets off aboard.

Um, that’s how you get rid of them. Yeah, individually like those. Those are two things that are sort of like organizational in nature, you know? How are you going to give employees control? How are you gonna let them organize their time as an individual? If you are in charge of people, learn how to listen. And I mean that both actively and passively when you’re in meetings with people.

There are keywords people will say and ways people will say things that will give you an indication that maybe they’re not doing so well. The frustration in their voice, the attitude they have, the word choice they may have It will be different for everybody. But there are signals that come out in some of that.

I think that also you should, um if you’re in a position to do this and you have a large enough staff for it to be worthwhile. I’ve worked at places where they did anonymous surveys,

um,

that were actually anonymous. And those air those air, I think helpful because I think it’s important to understand that even if you are the coolest manager ever and you’re super approachable employees, they’re gonna bring in their own baggage about previous work experiences. And they may not necessarily trust management or feel comfortable approaching with grievances.

So you should give give, have a way to take the pulse of your workforce, but but recognize that not everyone is going to approach you. So like, if you’re just saying, I’m not hearing any complaints, so I guess everyone’s fine doesn’t actually follow right

and It’s hard to listen like I say that as if you just need to learn how to listen to your employees. Some people don’t have good listening skills or don’t have when people skills and that’s a hard thing. Toe learn, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is, if you don’t have those skills and you don’t acknowledge it, you don’t get somebody in the mix. Who can? You can always say, You know what?

I am not going to be good at helping you with your problem, necessarily. But here’s Suzy over in HR. You know, here’s here’s Bobbsey email. Go give him a shout and let him know what you’re having trouble with. And they can help set something up for you. Bring somebody in who is capable of handling those kind of complaints or those kinds of concerns.

We have bi weekly, one on ones with our manager at work, and nothing is off limits like we can talk about whatever we need to and again, I’m lucky I have a manager who is very receptive to anything at all that you want to say, whether that’s frustration, successes, anything. And if you are complaining about something that is taken seriously. And we try to figure out a way toe, you know, address that, Um I say all this.

I mentioned how I feel like I’m very lucky tohave some of the resource is I have I still burnt out this year. Like this stuff helps. It’s not a cure all. It’s not a panacea for any of it. Like it, it just helps. Um, And if you have access to this stuff and you’re still having trouble, that’s okay, too. Um, but that listening pieces, it’s a tough one. But you need to know if your workforce is having trouble one way or another.

Um, and sometimes people get elevated to managerial positions without those skills. Um, and the best thing I can say is, if you are an employee and you realize, man, I’m not comfortable talking to this person about this stuff like they aren’t listening to me, they aren’t They don’t care. Then say that part to say, Hey, I want to talk to somebody about some stuff that’s going on. Who can I go to about that? Go to your HR or go to another employee.

You don’t have to go to your boss sometimes with that. But if as a boss or manager leader, if people are not comfortable coming to you with issues they’re having with their work, you need to address that. Like, that’s a that is your problem. And you are creating a work environment that Onley increases the struggles people have with carrying capacity.

I would be careful approaching hr do remember that they’re there to protect the company, not the employee. True. Um, they were kind of like your liaison with the company, but they’re not there for your benefit. Even though they say they are, they’re ultimately, if it comes down to it, they will protect the company.

And if they think that, yeah, I will say that if you have, if you recognize actual problems with your with your workload and other things, you should absolutely raise them to your supervisor and maybe see if you could negotiate some kind of remedy for that. Um and if it if you raise those issues and they’re unwilling to address them, then start looking. I mean, you can’t You can’t make them change.

You can’t strong arm them into changing. And but, you know, you can you can choose where you work, as we mentioned earlier

on change could take time. That’s something else. Besides, like just because you raise an issue doesn’t mean it could be fixed tomorrow. Um, and a lot of times it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes change can take a while, especially if it’s something more systemic with the business. Um, and what I find is a lot of time.

Just knowing that the issue has been raised and is being talked about is sometimes enough to actually turn that dial back a little bit like you don’t necessarily need the problem solved as much as you need to get it out of your own body, you know, get the words out of your mouth. And I would also encourage folks to not be afraid to bring those things up.

You may think that a manager isn’t receptive or doesn’t want to talk about something, and I would say more often than not, they probably are more receptive than you think they are not to say they always will be. And it’s not to say that you know they’ll that they will definitely care or things like that. It’s just a case of we tend to think things are worse than they are. Oh, and a lot of that comes from this idea.

Like I say, a lot of folks aren’t really good at that listening piece, but they do still hear you. Um, and even though they don’t listen well or they don’t necessarily know how to take that immediately, that doesn’t mean they are against you. And that doesn’t mean they will fight you on it. Um, it just means they don’t have great interpersonal skills. Um, and you may not have great interpersonal skills. That’s also a reality.

That’s fine. Um, And if you ever have questions about that kind of stuff, feel free to come ask. I will be more than happy to give advice on how to approach a situation and how toe tackle a problem you’re having there. There are Resource is out there like that for for you to get some assistance. If you need from somebody who isn’t, you know, in your sphere.

Um, the last thing I’m going to tell the folks out there who are in charge, you need to on behalf of your workers challenge work. That isn’t strategic challenge. work that doesn’t bring value to your company and challenge work that is setting people up for failure. There you will always have. Stakeholders in your organization will ask for things that shouldn’t be done.

They will ask for things that aren’t properly resourced. And they, you know, they will ask you, Thio land a person on the moon. But we’re not going to give you the money to build a rocket.

You know, you yeet them into the sky.

Yeah, let him crash. Uh, you have to be a voice for those workers because the people building this stuff know that this is a bad idea and this gets back to all of those things were not building things that we see value in. We’re not building things that we get value in. We’re not building things that challenge us in the right ways.

As somebody who is a project manager or, you know, a any kind of liaison or anything with sea level people or marketing people. You need to have a voice to push back on those things and not just be a yes man, not build the things because somebody who makes more money than you said. You have to build it. There has to be that challenge. There has to be that moment of saying, you know what? That’s a good idea.

I really like where you’re going with it, but for us to do it right here are the things we need to do. And we can’t just build it because it will break. It will fail. It’ll you know, these are the consequences if you don’t know them. Ask your developers and designers what those challenges will be because they definitely know.

Either you’re not collecting the data, right, or you’re not modeling it in the way that’s going to scale, or you’re not gonna be reviewing the tool frequently enough to catch problems like there’s a list of things that these folks will know, and so make sure you challenge that don’t don’t bring work to them that lacks value.

Quoted that earlier from one of the other articles that that’s one of those problems, like not seeing value in the work you’re doing is one of those demoralizing kind of aspects.

Let me share it. Also check out our social presence Facebook’s dot com and sweaters dot com. So I struck struck a new X and instagram’s dot com slash struck US podcast and drunken you x dot com slash discord Talk

with us about stuff like how we’ve done that a million times, but you always have this little subtle hint of like una surety about what you’re saying. They’re like, You’re not sure that you’re saying the right e

have to remember the names of the sites, even though I use them all the time. Remember the names anyways and have to remember which one has the weird name that we couldn’t get.

I don’t think that’s a sign of burnout. Speaking of burnout, though,

burnout. It’s just my brain.

I am almost out of firewood. I have I need to go Hall in a fresh load. And I am, like, down to my last last armloads that air coming in. And, um, yeah, I I hope my house stays nice and warm because I don’t I’ve not been in this house where it’s gotten on the negative 15. So we’ll have to just see how that goes. Um, there’s a new technique that I have for keeping warm.

Um, so after the last year that I’ve had and Christmas and everything, I learned that, um, the best possible way to keep warm is to go grab yourself a great big bank blanket. Um, an electric blanket if you have one. And while you’re laying there, you keep your personas close, but your users closer by,

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