Systemic Coaching and IT – Part 4: Burnout Prevention
Limited budgets and tight schedules are an integral part of many IT projects. Agile working styles and continuous change processes increase the pressure on project managers and IT consultants. The resulting workload can easily exceed the capacity of any individual and lead into burnout.
Burnout among employees is a genuine threat and costs a lot of time and money. Systemic Coaching can have a preventive effect and protect IT personnel against overwork.
Agile Software Development
The goal of agile software development is to make the development process more flexible and leaner compared with the classical approach. Each sub-project should lead to a concrete business-related benefit. Changed requirements are continuously integrated into the project. This flexibility isn’t always accompanied by flexible budgets and adjustable schedules.
The Customer’s Change Process
The technical requirements for IT projects are usually considered. The associated change processes in the customer system are not always sufficiently addressed. The customer’s employees are faced with modified processes, new teams, converted tasks and unfamiliar management structures. This results in uncertainty. Some individuals, teams or departments may respond with a negative attitude and pushback. Yet, project managers and IT consultants have to work in this difficult environment.
IT Consultants Sitting Between two Chairs
If the project takes a long time, the IT consultant could be slowly drawn into the customer’s system. The consultants inherit the customer’s problems. These problems then become his own problems. Suddenly the consultant stands in the crossfire between two systems: customer and contractor.
The Way into Burnout
Burnout is one of the buzzwords of our time. We encounter it in all contexts with a high amount of stress.
We all know the times when all we want to do is sleep and work no longer gives us any pleasure at all. A long weekend or a short holiday in those cases will help and our power levels are back to normal. Product launches, project milestones or finalizations tend to be such times when things get “tight”.
The situations described above are part of the normal work life: sometimes the workload is more, sometimes less, and when the weekend is near the limit of one’s own capacity is well reached.
People burn out when the times of rest (weekends, holidays, etc.) are no longer enough for them to sufficiently recover. It gets dangerous when the pressure never stops. When there no longer is any private life or other interests and all they do is work. And the more they work, the higher the pressure gets in turn, which results in even more work. This goes on, and on, and on…until something gives. Body, mind, will, one of them simply snaps. Getting up in the morning becomes a real pain and the daily chores are impossible to handle. Zip, end … Burnout.
Burnout Prevention through Systemic Coaching
Burnout needs medical treatment and lasts for a couple of weeks or months. The medical treatment must be accompanied by a change of behavior. A new work-life-balance must be found.
Systemic coaching is not a suitable tool for dealing with burnout once a person suffers from it. But before this happens it can be put to good use. Space for reflection and timely counter measures can prevent burnout altogether or at least initiate the required action against it manifesting itself.
The IT industry is an environment associated with high demands on flexibility combined with high pressure in terms of costs and deadlines. Not only the IT systems are on 7 x 24 operation – the staff should be available around the clock as well.
Some Closing Thoughts
Unfortunately, burnout often affects the “top performers”. Losing these performers at the wrong time could cost a lot and causes major problems for everyone. In most cases burnout is not something that passes quickly. People suffering from it will be unavailable for a longer period of time or in some cases even drop out completely. Safeguarding employees from burnout therefore isn’t merely a social act. It’s also a preventive measure in the self-interest of a company that pays off in the long run. Systemic Coaching can be used for preventively averting harm to employees and company.
This post is also available in: German