Developer Wellbeing; When does it stop being an oxymoron?

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

It’s time for a tech well-being revolution revision!

It’s understandable that companies, particularly those in the tech industry, have always prioritized outputs over the well-being of their developers, especially prior to a time when the concept of “wellbeing” was understood by the mainstream population. However, as times revolutionize and we come to understand the human population better, we are gaining better insight into how to care for ourselves and others. As a result, the concept of “wellbeing” has become not only important, but in fact crucial to keeping developers happy, healthy and able to continue working in a way that doesn’t drain them or burn them out.

…the concept of “wellbeing” has become not only important, but in fact crucial to keeping developers happy, healthy and able to continue working in a way that doesn’t drain them or burn them out.

Well-being can be understood to be a variety of different things, but traditionally it was always understood in the physical sense of the word, which created a need for sick days as an example. In recent years however, we have come to realize just precisely everything that the term “well-being” covers. Well-being can cover financial, emotional, environmental, physical, and spiritual wellness, to name a few. But one of the most important and vastly experienced forms of well-being is emotional. And while companies previously believed that this was a form of well-being that existed and supported only in the private life of their workers, it’s now time that they step up and take responsibility for how the workplace affects the personal life of their developers, and how they themselves are responsible too. For making important changes and revolutionizing their outlook on the issue will not only help developers in the long run, but it will also help the company more than bosses could imagine.

For making important changes and revolutionizing their outlook on the issue will not only help developers in the long run, but it will also help the company more than bosses could imagine.

Photo by Peter Gombos on Unsplash

What causes burnout?

In 2021 it was found that 67% of employees were struggling at work (Microsoft, 2021). While it was believed that around one in four people in the general population suffers from a mental health condition (UK Labour Market, 2016), it is vital that we remember that anyone can experience burnout, even those who aren’t dealing or diagnosed with a specific mental health condition.

Many different things create burnout, but some of the most common issues that can be seen to come directly from the workplace are people getting overly stressed in their work, the resounding pressure from managers and bosses, overworking, not being provided or giving themselves enough breaks and not utilizing personal time to look after themselves and recharge ready for the next working day.

While every employee in every industry is vulnerable to experiencing burnout, it is also true that developers in particular are at greater threat due to the specific demands of our jobs. For example, the chaotic work patterns developers experience can lead to stress and being overwhelmed, with it becoming difficult to rely on suitable routines for our personal life and selfcare, often sleeping different hours and eating irregularly to turn up to work on time for more extended periods. Pressure for developers to deliver work can also lead to heightened stress and anxiety, making our bodies work full-time without much time for break or relaxation, with even personal time making it difficult for a developer to switch off and recharge.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Pressure for developers to deliver work can also lead to heightened stress and anxiety, making our bodies work full-time without much time for break or relaxation, with even personal time making it difficult for a developer to switch off and recharge.

For all of these reasons, it is not a surprise that 83% of developers have experienced burnout (Haystack 2021), and if employers and companies don’t start making changes, that high number will only continue increasing.

Why do we need this change now?

We have needed this change for a long time, but it’s only now that well-being has recently become more understood and that companies and workers are willing to acknowledge it. Over the course of the covid-19 pandemic, well-being became something that vastly affected developers, with many of us having to leave the offices we’d worked in for our whole career to begin working at home. This meant that the work-life balance we might have previously relied upon began to shift, leaving us unable to relax and leave our problems at the workspace. Working from home also makes it more difficult to process or notice if you’re dealing with burnout, so many developers may not even realize they’re struggling until they feel overwhelmed, therefore unable to nip their struggle in the bud with some help before it’s flourished entirely. More than ever, there is now a corporate understanding and ability to prevent burnout and aid the emotional and physical well-being of developers. To therefore allow this revolution to be put on hold for any longer is sure to create even further disastrous effects on the workforce and individuals in need of greater care and support.

Working from home also makes it more difficult to process or notice if you’re dealing with burnout, so many developers may not even realize they’re struggling until they feel overwhelmed, therefore unable to nip their struggle in the bud with some help before it’s flourished entirely.

How can we improve and be healthier at work?


Improving health and well-being for developers all begins with companies and their bosses taking the time to understand what needs to change and improve when it comes to providing support for their employees. This all arises from their taking the time and effort to look at the working patterns of developers and the results it has created for us. Next, they need to look at how other companies ensure less burnout is inflicted upon their own developer employees and how they could utilize similar improvements within their own company.

The notion of what is seen as “normal” when it comes to stress, burnout and suitably empathetic working conditions ultimately needs to be upheaved so that a new, healthier understanding that can assist developers with their specific needs can take hold instead.

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

More than ever, developers need to feel that their employers have their back and that, regardless of anything else in the company that is or isn’t put in place, they can always talk to their managers and ask for support when required. No man is an island after all, and companies are only made great by the people that work within them.

For a company to ignore this desperate call for better well-being is to doom their developers and the future of their company as a result, something that no business, no matter how rich or profitable, can afford.

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