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How to beat digital burnout at work

If it wasn’t enough to worry that your IT systems are holding back your operational efficiency and your business growth, you then have to worry that your teams are suffering from digital burnout. Here is how to spot the common IT burnout symptoms, and how to treat the problem. 

What is digital burnout? 

Like more ‘traditional’ burnout, the digital version (also known as ‘IT Burnout’ or ‘computer burnout’) is a state of emotional and physical exhaustion, generally because of long-term stress. IT burnout is particularly prevalent in professionals whose role is wholly to do with software and technology, but it can affect anyone whose work involves the heavy use of computers. 

These days IT work involves huge amounts of pressure. Businesses are still struggling to find enough talent, which means increased workload and demands on those they do have. There are also more cyber threats than ever: over 2020 and 2021, cyber attacks increased by over 150%. With so much pressure, it’s no surprise that some struggle to cope. 

Even if an employee isn’t responsible for IT, the vast majority of office workers are at a screen for almost all of their working day. That’s even more common in the world of hybrid work, where even meetings and conversations that would have been face-to-face take place digitally. 

Common IT burnout symptoms 

If information technology stress and burnout are affecting your teams, they might manifest themselves in one or more of the following ways. 

Poor productivity 

An unproductive workforce doesn’t necessarily mean digital burnout, but digital burnout almost certainly means poor productivity. With the variety and volume of digital stimuli, people are bombarded with images, information, and messages. That’s not just at work — we’re always on and always connected, and the exposure is relentless.  

Information overload and choice paralysis are damaging enough to immediate decision-making, but long term they easily overwhelm many people’s ability to make swift decisions or act strategically. 

Poor morale 

Any of the following can be on a general or an individual level, and can suggest IT burnout. 

When a department, team, or individual exhibits behaviour that affects the mood of the whole business, it obviously needs addressing. However, remember that it may be the symptom rather than the disease. Approach with the aim to help the person rather than challenge the behaviour. 

Sickness and absence 

The stress and exhaustion (physical and emotional) of IT burnout can start to cause mental and physical health problems which can lead to absence. If people are taking more sick leave than you might expect, burnout may be at the root of it. 

Computer stress relief 

As well as addressing existing burnout, businesses need to educate their teams on how to prevent stress when using a computer heavily. Simple policies are a good start. Encourage regular screen breaks and emphasise the importance of exercise for those who would otherwise be constantly at their desks. 

Empower your teams to draw boundaries between work and home. Remote working means that the line between the two blurs. Also, the connectedness we all have means that work messages can reach teams at any time. Some people struggle to ‘turn off’, so you can make it clear that they can and should disconnect literally and figuratively at a certain time. 

On the subject of remote teams, burnout can be hard to spot when colleagues aren’t nearby, so you’ll need to check in more actively. Those working from a distance are also more digital and more connected because everything they do comes through a screen. They might therefore be at greater risk of burnout. 

The most fundamental help that you can offer is to make sure that your IT systems are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. If your software or your processes are slow, frustrating, counterintuitive, or difficult to navigate, they will accelerate or even cause burnout. By making sure everything is streamlined and supports your teams rather than undermining them, you will go a long way to resolving IT burnout. 

Arc Systems provides the support that individuals, teams, and businesses need to stay in control of their tools and systems. Businesses want to grow, not fight fires or resolve preventable IT challenges, and Arc makes sure they can. 

Get a free IT health check here, or get in touch if you’d like to speak to your local IT specialist. It’s 01268 288100 or [email protected]