Why VPs Should Care About Engineer Burnout

by Sam Lewis September 8, 2015 | 3 min read

Too many companies take the happiness of their engineers for granted. This is a huge mistake, especially since engineers are doing important work for your company: building your product, and then keeping it up-to-date and functioning. Their morale has a direct influence on their performance, and, by extension, your product. Part of the DevOps ethos is getting engineers working together better, smarter, and happier. But why should executives care about that?

The Cost of Burnout

Burnout is expensive. A burnt-out employee is not only struggling to do their best work; they’re also more likely to leave. And the cost of replacing them is high: you lose productivity training and recruiting a new employee, not to mention lost work from the period that the position is vacant. It can cost upwards of 150% of their annual salary to replace them.  Investing in morale will not only give you an enthusiastic team working on your product, it will also reduce your operating costs. Happy employees are less likely to leave.

Working on software and technology is extremely stressful and mentally taxing—it doesn’t just require programming knowledge, it also requires a great amount of creativity to make tech work well. High morale encourages imagination and initiative, two essential traits for successful engineers. Disorganized teams and schedules can wreak havoc on an engineer’s ability to focus, which results in undetected bugs and underdeveloped software.

It’s More Common Than You Think

Engineers have a tendency to be victims of hero culture. At a non-metrics driven organization, continually fighting fires at 3am is an exciting way to feel like you’re doing your best work to save the company from imminent disaster. Proactive measures, on the other hand, don’t make for as compelling of a narrative. But they’re an important part of implementing DevOps, and ultimately improving engineer morale.

Think of it this way: 70% of companies respond to alerts 24/7, and yet only 39% track those alerts in a single place. This leads to disorganization, missed alerts, a lack of visibility across teams, and a feeling that expectations for engineers are too high. It’s also why almost 40% of IT managers report burnout as their biggest concern for their teams. There’s a reason the top tech companies invest so heavily in their engineer morale.

How to Keep Engineers Happy

There isn’t a silver bullet solution to ameliorating all of your company’s problems, but employing an incident management solution is helping teams do DevOps better. It can help your team put together a more organized on-call schedule, and eliminate alert fatigue. It can improve visibility between teams by letting engineers across your organization see who is working on what. It can create more realistic expectations for team members by cutting down on an impossible number of email alerts. And it can create a better culture for your team – one of improved collaboration and synergy, as you and your team work towards DevOps.

Getting tools and solutions in place, and working out your remaining issues, requires IT managers and executives taking the initiative to open a dialogue with their engineers and working to improve relations. But an incident management service could be an important first step. To learn more, click here.