Is the Tech world working itself to exhaustion? Why employees are still stressed out

Is the Tech world working itself to exhaustion? Why employees are still stressed out

If you feel like you just can't catch a break at work these days, you're not alone. As the world is slowly getting back to normal – if there is such a thing – employees are reporting record-high levels of stress.

No surprise, is it? The pandemic was rough. It stretched a lot of us thin emotionally, financially, and in pretty much every other way imaginable. Now we just want things to go back to the way they were.

But reality looks a little different because things just aren't the same. Our workplaces have seen some tremendous changes over the past few years. While it's amazing that many of us can go back to offices and business as usual, our work lives look quite different now.

Asking friends, colleagues, and our editors at TechLife, there are some common themes and feelings we see and hear among people. Many of us feel the pressure to overperform and work longer hours to make up for lost revenue and opportunities. Though, pushing yourself to the breaking point day after day just isn't sustainable. That is because it will ultimately lead to burnout, health issues, and just plain old unhappiness.

What’s really causing that constant feeling of being stressed?

Good question, right? Because didn’t we all hear how everyone and everything had slowed down – at little at least. That no longer seems to be the case.

  • Balancing work and home is tougher than ever. Our work and personal lives regularly tangle up while we work from home. Now as offices reopened, it feels nearly impossible to separate the two again
  • Expectations have been turned up to 11 – or 12. In the current market, most companies seem to want more, faster and better – and employees feel that pressure
  • Everyday costs are skyrocketing, and salaries aren’t. Inflation has bills soaring, and it's just one more thing to stress about

With the ongoing influx of bad news and layoffs, this stress epidemic seems especially bad in the tech industry. What makes it worse is the fact that the tech world has always celebrated overwork “hustle culture" and often demanded employees to be available 24/7.

Australians already work some of the longest hours in the developed world, so tech workers are ever more at risk for stress and burnout. Constant change in the industry has also led to anxiety about skills disruption and having to constantly stay ahead of the curve just to keep up, especially with the rise of AI for everyone this year.

Now you may say, even Pre-COVID, work-life balance was a struggle? Absolutely. But boundaries were clearer, weren’t they? Once you left the office, most of us could fully disengage. Expectations were also high, but still not the intense pressure most people seem to feel today.

Where does this leave us?

Firstly, we may have to face the fact that the pandemic profoundly reshaped our work. We believe that with clear boundaries gone, the mental health toll demands the need for more empathetic work cultures – work cultures that are focused on human needs instead of just productivity and profit and employers that prioritise employee wellbeing over productivity alone.

How can employers make a difference?

Maybe that really is the million dollar question these days but we do have some suggestions.

  • Continue to offer flexible and remote work options so people have more control over their own schedules. We see more companies force rigid in-office hours again but that’s not the way to retain top talent
  • Lead by example and discourage overwork. People Leaders need to stop rewarding the “always on” attitude. Respect days off and don’t send after-hours and weekend emails, or at least minimise it
  • Keep workload and expectations realistic for your employees
  • Host company wide wellbeing activities like yoga or meditation or provide stipends for self-care like gym memberships, therapy, or meditation apps to truly show you value your employees’ health
  • Equip your people leaders to spot burnout warning signs early, before issues become serious ones

Make your own mental health a priority – always!

Everyone deserves a healthy work-life balance, even in Tech. So your employer doesn't provide enough support, there are still a lot of ways you can exercise self-care and set reasonable boundaries. Please remember:

  • It’s okay to set clear boundaries at work and learn to say no to unreasonable requests. You come first after all
  • Step away from your laptop and inbox and take regular breaks during the workday to recharge and reset
  • Block time for fun stress-relieving activities, whether exercise, hobbies, or socialising with friends outside of work
  • Use your vacation time and completely disconnect. We know this can be hard, but hopefully you also know that you deserve real breaks
  •  Find the courage to speak up if your workload is unsustainable. There is no shame in asking for support. You may also want to consider counselling if stress impacts your mental health
  • Try meditation, yoga, deep breathing when you feel overwhelmed

Is this the key moment for the tech industry?

We at TechLife think it is but we would love to hear your thoughts.

Prioritising mental health has to be part of tech culture now. While we can't go back to 2019, we can build a new normal that works better for everyone. There are so many ways tech leaders can step up to create healthy workplaces – that is if employers want happy, healthy employees who can do their best work while living fulfilling lives.

If you have made it this far, we hope that this article provided you with some helpful tips but also with reassurance that you are not alone. For context, we included a cat meme to get that ball rolling because research shows that cat memes and videos give us feelings of happiness, hope, and renewed energy, and also reduce our anxiety, annoyance, and sadness (yep, someone did research on this - here)