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The burnout age gap in tech

By Danny Aspinall

Burnout age gap

With Harvard Business Review recently publishing advice on identifying burnout culture in a workplace and Forbes offering insights into how managers can better support their employees to combat the phenomenon, burnout remains a pressing subject in the world of work.   

In tech, it’s been a critical subject of discussion for some time now; particularly since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, with our 2021/22 Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide finding that 43% of AWS professionals experienced burnout during COVID-19, up from 37% the year before the pandemic. And the past few years have really brought the topic of burnout to the forefront, with The Great Resignation creating significant waves across the industry and global tech workforce.   

And things aren’t getting any better 

The latest data shows that almost half of female tech professionals are experiencing burnout, while our latest Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition reports that 45% of tech professionals in the AWS community have experienced burnout at some point in their current roles.  

Defined by exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy, or the stress that’s generated by being in a constant state of busyness, burnout has unfortunately become all but the norm in the tech industry. And while the causes of burnout can vary from workplace to workplace, common elements that contribute to burnout across the tech industry include: 

  • Unmanageable workloads – with the digital skills gap yet to be bridged, many tech teams are suffering from being understaffed, leaving those with sufficient skill sets to carry the burden of heavier workloads. 
  • Long hours – bigger workloads and smaller teams usually amount to longer hours, especially when working to tight deadlines. For example, we conducted a LinkedIn poll and found that 64% of respondents from the tech industry sometimes or always work over their contracted hours. This is particularly true for professionals working from home – something the tech industry has accommodated since even before the pandemic – where the line between home and work becomes more easily blurred.  
  • Lack of support – in an industry as fast-evolving as tech, professional development is crucial to ensuring talent remains sufficiently skilled to execute digital transformations and facilitate further innovation and growth. Professionals who aren’t supported with the appropriate time and resources for development during work hours must pursue this learning and development in their own time, putting them at greater risk of burnout as a result.  
  • Poor progression – a lack of recognition, fulfilment, and overall job satisfaction can all accelerate an employee towards burnout, making clear and achievable career progression routes vital for tech teams. But with over a third (34%) of AWS professionals in our Careers and Hiring Guide telling us that they are neutral or dissatisfied with their current career progression opportunities, this highlights a problem mirrored across the wider tech ecosystem.    

And the stark reality is that when these causes aren’t addressed, burnout can significantly impact employees’ mental health and physical wellbeing, resulting in a wave of negative consequences for both talent and employer.  

So, to get a better understanding of burnout in tech, we collected new data that breaks down burnout by age to see what impact it has on different generations of the tech workforce today.


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The burnout age gap: our findings 

With data corresponding to tech professionals across Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Microsoft 365, Azure, and Business Applications, our research reveals that Gen Z is experiencing the highest rates of burnout in tech 

Age Demographic Percentage that has experienced burnout in the last 12 months 
Gen Z (11-26) 56%
Millennials (27-42) 44%
Gen X (43-58) 35%
Boomers (59-68) 25%

Reflecting on this new data, Jefferson Frank Chairman & CEO James Lloyd-Townshend commented:

a picture of James Lloyd-Townshend

“There’s been some talk recently about Gen Z’s relationship to technology as the first generation to have grown up in the digital age, and particularly about their low uptake of tech careers so far. Seeing that over half of those aged 11-26 who are currently working in tech are experiencing burnout is illuminating and worrying. If those already working in the space are having a negative experience, they’re less likely to stay in the space – and their peers are less likely to pursue a similar career path. 

“In the context of the digital skills gap, we cannot afford not to be recruiting and retaining Gen Z. It’s clear from this new information that a big part of that is going to be tackling burnout. 

“It’s also interesting to see that the burnout rate declines across the older generations currently active in the tech workforce. It seems to indicate that the workloads and expectations placed upon younger employees are not reasonable. At the same time, even 25%, the burnout rate amongst Boomers, is still too high. Burnout is a serious issue that affects individuals and organizations as a whole, and it’s vital that we support those experiencing it while working to address the conditions that lead to it.”

  

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