In times of layoffs and economic uncertainty, engineering teams are having to do more with less. When that means longer hours and max velocity, there’s a high likelihood of burnout amongst developers.
While burnout is common among developers, the root cause can be tricky to pinpoint and can vary from individual to individual. That’s why it’s important to have regular conversations with your teams about why they’re working out of hours. Doing so can give you a better sense of how to help them work more effectively.
In this article, we’ll share some guiding questions to help you get to the bottom of high Always On levels, as well as real data from an Uplevel customer showing the impact of regular check-ins on burnout levels.
Always On is a key burnout indicator in your Uplevel dashboard. It measures the burnout risk based on the amount of time an individual spends working outside of their normal eight-hour workday. If you notice any of your team members falling into the moderate- or high-risk categories, consider asking the following questions to help pinpoint the cause:
Question 1: How are you feeling about your current bandwidth?
Context Switching, or switching back and forth between different projects, can lead to burnout if left unchecked. An increase in Context Switching can make it difficult for developers to get things done, which could lead them to put in time outside their typical work hours.
Unplanned bug work, employee attrition, and other disruptors can lead to sustained increases in Context Switching. These should be monitored closely to keep levels in check. Since Context Switching is unique to each individual, giving devs space to talk about how they’re feeling can provide crucial insight to help you get ahead of burnout before it’s too late.
To alleviate increased Context Switching, consider load balancing or helping with prioritization. You can use the Team Deep Dive page on your dashboard to monitor this metric outside of regular 1:1 conversations.
Question 2: What does your meeting load look like?
Meeting structure can play a big role in burnout. If meetings are scattered throughout the day, it’s possible developers are experiencing what we call Short Fragments. Short Fragments are short blocks of free time (less than 2 uninterrupted hours) for developer work. Too many Short Fragments and not enough Deep Work time can be detrimental to productivity. Studies show that it takes time to “get into the zone” to solve tough problems and get work done. Short Fragments don’t allow this time, often leading to devs working extra hours to get that much needed focus. If this is happening with your teams, consider moving meetings around, assessing the attendee list, or implementing a no-meeting day to bolster focus time.
Question 3: How do you feel this week compared to last week?
No matter what steps you’re taking to fight burnout, it’s important to keep track of your progress. This question should always be on your 1:1 agendas so you can monitor change and success. This can help you understand if your methods are working and where you might need to adjust.
By incorporating these types of questions into 1:1 meetings, we’ve seen customers achieve real results. One Uplevel customer wanted a deeper understanding of how their efforts were contributing to team burnout. They accomplished this goal by including an agenda item in their 1:1s for data-driven discussions around burnout and areas for support.
By addressing these topics in regular conversation, they were able to better identify issues, make adjustments, and track their progress. The organization saw their Always On numbers trend steadily downward org-wide — for both their developers and their seniors devs over the course of a year.
Keeping a pulse on your team’s wellbeing is important to building a great culture. Without intentional check-ins, you won’t always know who’s at risk for burnout before it’s too late. Monitor burnout risk and more by logging in to your Uplevel dashboard, or schedule a demo to learn more.