Case: The performance of one of your best and most experienced developers is steadily declining, code churn increasing, seems more detached, and less engaged.
Impact and Visibility: Burnout tends to show up as a gradual, but steady decline over weeks and months across several performance metrics. These include code churn, code efficiency, responsiveness, review coverage, possibly test coverage, active hours, and more. As it progresses, burnout may become more directly noticeable – in dress, behavior, attitude, social engagement, more sick days, etc. If these indicators aren’t acted upon, developers can become apathetic, not show up for work, contemplate career changes, and well, it can get worse.
Burnout is an occupational hazard for software developers (See: How To Notice And Prevent Software Developer Burnout). Everyone handles stress differently, but the cumulative long-term impact has several consistencies. Among them is the tendency for burnout to build incrementally and in a linear way and then go exponential, like a hockey stick.
Solutions: It’s common for managers to rely more heavily on their best developers for handling the most urgent or complex tasks. Be mindful of their workload, as excessive utilization ties directly into decreased performance with code churn and other metrics. Recognize burnout as something that most developers will experience to some degree. Burnout can be quickly reversed when caught early, so try the following to help keep all of your developers fresh:
- Take time to interact with your team members, listen to what they have to say.
- Provide developers regular feedback and thank them for their work.
- Use performance metrics to keep informed team and project health.
- Keep retrospectives as a safe zone where developers can openly voice their concerns.
- Outsource or rotate undesired jobs so no one feels stuck with a task they hate.
- Maintain clear paths forward with career paths and continuing education programs.
- Break up the monotony when needed and let developers attend seminars or conferences.