By Seun Faluyi
The world is seeing a very rapid increase in technology solutions, companies are erupting every day, new patents are being signed and we are seeing a lot of technology teams coming together to build amazing solutions daily.
Start-ups are fast-paced and members of a lot of technology teams burn-out quickly. Burn-out is one of the top 5 reasons why people quit technology teams (other reasons include salary, career growth, remote-friendly roles, and company culture).
A lot of technology leaders and managers do not pay attention to the adverse effects of burn-out in their team. My goal for this article is to give some of the reasons for burn-out so that you can address them even as you build amazing solutions.
Are you ready?
1. Poorly Defined Scope
A poorly defined work scope burns a team out especially an engineering team. Tech requires a lot of work ranging from brain work, research, analysis, execution, etc. A change in work scope means a lot of effort would be going down the drain.
This is why product/program management is very important in a technology company because a well-structured roadmap would help teams to clearly define their goals and know what they need to do per time. In my opinion, if you don’t have a clear product roadmap that shows what you want to achieve for at least a year, you might run into issues. Of course, we should give room for accommodating changes into our plans as market and customer needs could change, the point is that you should never run a tech team without a clearly defined roadmap of what you need to achieve per time.
The fix for this is to make sure to have a well-defined roadmap and work scope. This is why tech teams need to have a product manager to help guide the vision of what a tech team is building.
2. Too Much Workload.
A lot of tech teams set very unrealistic expectations and sometimes the only way to meet up with these expectations is to stretch the tech team.
From my experience working in engineering teams both as an engineer and as a product manager, I can confidently say that the efficiency of a team would begin to drop as they take on too much work overtime.
Allow people to have the weekend off to spend time with their family and friends, allow people to take breaks and go on holidays. They will come back full of energy and would contribute more meaningful work to the team.
If there is so much to achieve within a short time frame, it is either you expand your team or take on the priority tasks. Managers and leaders should try to avoid the temptation of over-stretching their tech team at all times.
Product owners, leaders, and managers should set realistic timelines and goals so that they don’t take on more than what their team can handle.
3. Engaging In Multiple Gigs.
A lot of people in tech teams engage in many side projects. Some of these projects could be open source projects, a paying side job, a startup on the side, etc.
I have seen scenarios where people engage themselves in up to 3 or 4 jobs at the same time. This is unhealthy and it also means one or more of your projects would suffer.
Individuals take on side projects for various reasons such as looking for extra cash, levelling up on a new stack, gaining recognition by doing open source projects, technical assessments for a new employer, etc.
Team members should be well compensated for the job they do to discourage them from looking outside.
4. Working Without A Proper Structure.
Having a structure is very important for tech teams. There should be a well-designed organogram, people should know their line of managers and the task for each team member should be well defined.
A friend once complained to me that on his team, he functioned as the project manager, QA tester, designer, and team-lead all at the same time. When he told me this, I knew that a huge burnout was going to hit him hard like a tornado and it did.
A good way to also ensure you have a great structure is to apply the agile approach to managing your team. Agile and Scrum clearly define a well-recommended structure that a tech team should adopt.
I wrote a different article that differentiates between an agile and fragile team, you can read it here.
Always try to have a structured calendar, I have been in a team where almost every meeting was spontaneous. The team lead could call you at any time even when you are in the middle of a task and these emergency meetings could last hours.
5. Poor Company Culture.
Yes, poor company culture can cause burn-out. People tend to have a lot of energy when they are in a workspace that is non-toxic. I’m sure you must have worked into a start-up space and you can feel the energy in the air.
Poor company culture means you would have a lot of unhappy people complaining in the room and this just leaves people exhausted. The dangerous thing about this kind of exhaustion is that it spreads as teammates get to interact with each other.
Part of what defines company culture is how people are treated. An engineer told me how he left a higher paying job for another simply because the manager on the lesser paying job is fond of complimenting her for a job well done after every sprint as opposed to the manager of the higher paying job who is always complaining even after engineers have gone above and beyond to deliver their task.
Culture is a big deal in our world today. Companies with the best culture would always attract the best talents. Poor culture is one of the top 5 reasons tech talents exit companies.
If a founder lacks the skillset to create an enabling culture for their tech team, they should consider hiring seasoned HR staff to help set the company’s culture.
6. Flexibility / Remote Work Policies.
This point is relative and might not be true in all cases. The truth is that not all roles might be able to function seamlessly in a remote setting. However, where remote work is possible, it should be seriously considered.
In Lagos Nigeria for example and some megacities, people can spend over 4 hours commuting. Imagine spending almost half of your work time commuting. It means even if you don’t put in extra hours for work, you will still experience burn-out at the end of the day.
Tech teams should consider advocating for remote work if they can.
A happy team is a productive team. A way to ensure that your team stays happy is by ensuring you take deliberate actions in ensuring there is a low burnout rate.