The IT Pro Podcast: How to beat burnout
Unmanaged stress can be a serious problem - but there are warning signs to look out for
Burnout is a major problem within the IT industry. Technology professionals are frequently overworked and under-resourced, and the buildup of unmanaged workplace stress can have severe consequences for both the mental and physical health of workers. While some stress is unavoidable - particularly in fast-paced industries like IT - there are ways that managers and employers can help their staff avoid burning themselves out.
This week, we’re joined by Karen Worstell, senior cyber security strategist at VMware and former CISO for Microsoft and AT&T, to discuss her own experiences of dealing with burnout, as well as how to spot the warning signs of an impending crisis and how to address the problem.
“I had an opportunity to speak with [a former colleague] last year, and he said, my work literally broke my heart. And I was like, what do you mean, and he, in his mid-50s, ended up having to have a heart transplant because of unmanaged workplace stress.”
“I did the burnout thing again, at Microsoft, and that was kind of less severe, but more of a wake up call. I think there was a lot of emotional exhaustion going on there, and the circumstances that we had. I also, by this time, didn't sleep a lot. And so when that finally came around, I had these voices I heard at night telling me what a fake I was. And it was so vivid, and I got up. I remember getting out of bed and walking around the house and going, Okay, wait a minute, I'm not dreaming and these voices are following me. And now I'm talking back to them. So I called a psychiatrist who told me the next day, he says, you know, you're absolutely fine. There's nothing really wrong with you, you're not getting enough sleep. Then he wrote out three prescriptions and handed them to me and said, ‘Welcome to Microsoft; you have no idea how many people I see here just like you.’”
“My number one red flag that tells me that burnout is at work in the workplace is cynicism. That there's a sense this irrational belief that nobody has the best interests of the company, or the people who work there at heart. So yeah, those things combined together can make for a pretty dangerous combination.”
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