17

Short backstory:
I've been working for my current company for a few years as a developer and IT Support\Specialist which includes a lot of calls, help-desk duties along the developer part of the job. This job includes a lot of outside of job hours calls and interventions as well. I am satisfied with my salary and the collective inside the company is great. I love what I do.


The problem:
I have noticed my work efficiency slowly dropping over the past year. It seems like I find less and less joy in what I do and its a bit distressing. The last couple of weeks have really been stressful and I feel I overworked myself a bit. I had a 2 week vacation where I tried completely ignoring and not thinking about work which worked relatively well but when I came back to work I found not much has improved. I often find myself spacing out and losing focus and/or getting distracted a lot. Again, the most distressing of all is that I am slowly losing the joy I felt for this job.

I have done a bit of research and I must say resigning or taking a long time off the job is not a viable option as I am not stable enough financially to afford being off work for an extended period of time.


Update:
It is a small team of 3, for privacy reasons I'll use fictional names Bob(me), Steve and Tony. Here are our roles:

Bob - Developer and Support
Steve - Developer (knows enough to do a Support role but is unwilling to)
Tony - Support (not a developer)

The structure is such that if I fall out of any of my duties one of the others gets overburdened or worse(like in the scenario where I took a vacation), nothing(or almost nothing) gets done until I am back.

7
  • Less efficiency in what way? Normally it's the opposite
    – Kilisi
    Sep 27 at 10:04
  • 2
    Did you ask your boss to distribute workload so you are not so stressed? Did you try to collect any objective numbers whether you are stressed by the same amount of work you did for years, or maybe the amount of work grew?
    – nvoigt
    Sep 27 at 10:05
  • @Kilisi, mostly in quality and work speed. Losing focus on what I am working on makes me wonder in circles sometimes thus increasing the time it takes for something to get done and decreasing my efficiency
    – CodeJunkie
    Sep 27 at 10:07
  • 7
    Go to a doctor first.
    – Pieter B
    Sep 27 at 14:02
  • 2
    Yes. How much? Really depends on the support part of the job as sometimes it can be really hectic and other times it is relatively peaceful. I didn't mention it in the above question, but the Support job includes field work as well.
    – CodeJunkie
    Sep 28 at 10:07

8 Answers 8

24

For me, having significant on call/help desk duties is not suitable for a person who is a good developer.

Most developers are methodical, and detail oriented. Planning is preferred to crisis management. They spend a lot of time in reflection on how to avoid problems before hand rather than dealing with a current crisis.

A successful help desk person is the opposite. They can deal with the here and now and has a bunch of different tricks to solve issues immediately. If they can't solve them on their own, they can summarize the root cause and assign them to the right people.

Both skills are necessary and respectable, but having to demonstrate both will stress many out. Personally I could not handle the help desk duties, but I make excellent software.

IMHO you should seek to concentrate on one area, the one that you like best. Work with management to take one off your plate. I bet you will see your stress decrease dramatically.

Response to your update:

Perhaps you can carve out some time dedicated for development and other time dedicated to support. Say every Monday, Tuesday and Friday afternoons are dedicated to support, the rest of the time development. Make a conscious effort in the context switch, like do so after lunch or by taking a walk. For me that has worked in the past when changing roles in one job.

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  • 7
    I've done both, simultaneously. But management has to understand and accept that time on one takes time away from the other, and that context switching has costs so multitasking has limits. Get priorities set and time allocations agreed upon, then work to those parameters.
    – keshlam
    Sep 27 at 16:33
  • 3
    This has been a day one requirement of the company and I did take the job as a chance to increase my own experience and value in the IT industry. Right now, I virtually don't have a designated focus time. I mean it is in place but it is not respected in the slightest. That seems to be literally killing my dev efficiency as I need more time to readjust to my projects after finishing whatever thing needed to be done ASAP.
    – CodeJunkie
    Sep 28 at 6:24
9

The two parts of your job are diametrically opposed, as Pete B has pointed out.

The developer portion requires quiet time for reflection and analysis in order for you to be at your best. There are deadlines, and the priorities don't shift very often. If the environment is stable, you don't get called into operational issues.

The support portion doesn't offer quiet time in the same manner. It requires you to drop anything at a moment's notice and chase after the highest priority for the day. If you're working on something for a lay person, and a request comes in to immediately support someone else with more political "pull" in the enterprise, you're caught in the middle. Your deadline usually is ASAP, and you're always pulled into issues.

Smart companies do NOT blend these two roles. It's like trying to write your PhD dissertation while working at a child day care center... you'll never get it done well, because your attention is divided.

I personally wouldn't stay in a company that tried to force this dual role situation. But if you're going to hang in there:

  1. Whenever you get interrupted from a development effort to chase a support issue, don't do ANYTHING before you reset the priorities and deadline with your supervisor. "Okay, if you'd like me to do X, then how will we move back the priorities/deadline for Y?" This puts the stress back on the manager to resolve any incongruences, and leave you less anxious.
  2. If you have an eight-hour workday, don't work more than eight hours. Take your breaks and your lunch outside the office. Do this so you don't get pulled into stuff when your mind needs a rest.
  3. The two-week vacation was nice. Get some smaller, more frequent refreshing activities into your life to look forward to, and commit to them. In my case, I have had reasonably priced annual season tickets (five shows/yr, spaced about two months apart) for a small city-owned Broadway theater for several years. To commit myself to my own well-being, I prepay for the tickets, and it's a nice little treat. You might find something similar.
  4. Take long walks, work out, find a meditation routine. Plug this into your schedule.

You'll find your stress levels dropping dramatically!

4

resigning or taking a long time off the job is not a viable option

You can job search or you can work on the issue now that you have identified it.

Becoming 'jaded' with your work is normal enough for many, it can be countered by being proactive and making an effort to focus. It helps to set longish term but achievable goals. When you have goals you're working towards, the day to day stuff becomes just part of a plan rather than drudgery to get through.

It changes ones whole outlook on things when you're actively and knowingly working on your own agenda rather than passively working on other peoples and vaguely expecting it all to work out for you.

3

It seems like I find less and less joy in what I do

resigning or taking a long time off the job is not a viable option

Sounds like you need a new, less stressful, job.

Start looking, but don't quit your current job until you find your next.

2
  • giving don't quit your current job until you find your next as a copy-paste response everywhere without taking into account the differences between people and situations is hardly useful. In many contexts, it's a lot better to quit a stressful job before trying to get a new one. Not all people live to work, Joe, some people work to live. Some people might want to just rest or unwind. Some people might want to learn new stuff or respecialize. In many cases it's literally impossible to do that with 9-5 job. In many cases people don't even need the job at all, due to many reasons.
    – user141789
    Sep 29 at 13:49
  • no, Joe. I'm not taking life advice from random strangers from internet, and likewise I'm old enough to decide myself whether I write unpaid answers to supplement Stack Exchange, Inc. employees income, or not. OTOH, if you don't understand how nuanced a human existence might be, I see no way of helping you with that. Have a nice day!
    – user141789
    Oct 2 at 10:47
2

I've been in a similar situation, with support tasks eroding my ability to work on development tasks. I was working in a small team that all had the same problem, so we collectively approached our boss and laid out the issue.

We found that the amount of support work my team did would be enough to employ a full-time support specialist, freeing up the developers to do mostly development. Our boss accepted our suggestions, someone was recruited to take over most of our support tasks and our workload became manageable again. These days, we do the occasional bit of support (mostly working as second-line support, solving the problems the support team can't) but it's no longer taking over every working day.

So, my recommendations:

  • talk to your teammates, find out if they are having the same problem
  • try to quantify how much time you're spending on support tasks
  • talk to your boss as a team, if possible

If you're spending more than 40 h/wk on the job, find out if others are doing that as well. The number of extra hours may add up to a full-time position.

In addition, talk to a doctor. I've benefited from advice from a professional on how to handle the stress of the job. And he may recommend taking sick leave to recover as well.

1
  • In my case it is also a very small team, I do both support and dev, the others are either support or dev which is kind of annoying but I've managed so far.
    – CodeJunkie
    Sep 28 at 11:04
1

"... I had a 2 week vacation where I tried completely ignoring and not thinking about work which worked relatively well but when I came back to work I found not much has improved. ..."

Food for thought: Hypothetically, in case you're living in a lake, and the water is dirty, staying out of the lake (and living in a fresh water lake) for couple of days is not going to clean the lake you live in. As soon as you're back into your lake, you're getting into the same dirty water, again.

Moral of the story: No amount of break / leave / away-from-keyboard time is going to fix this issue permanently. Aligning with the other suggestions, my two cents:

  1. Try talking to your manager and see if they have anything to offer to take some work and responsibilities off your shoulder. This may involve

    • introducing new tools / process
    • dividing the existing responsibilities to other members
    • automating some recurring jobs
    • Some trainings for better work management (also known as time management)
    • even hiring new workforce, as needed.

    In any way, make sure your manager is aware that you're overburdened, and looking for a solution.

  2. If you've tried out (1) and that did not help, look for a new job. Find a new one, resign from the current one and move on - in that particular order.

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  • 2
    I don't agree with that. Keep working when close a burn out is not going to help anyone. Mental health should come first, and then you can worry about improving the workplace.
    – Helena
    Sep 27 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Helena: Mental Health definitely matters, but you can't throw your hands up without trying anything, or you won't get anywhere ever. The OP seems pretty far off, sure, but do note they also admit being short financially, so dropping their current job doesn't seem to be an immediate option either. So I do agree with Sourav, they need to talk to their manager, explain their issue, and see if there's a way to improve the situation quickly. Sep 28 at 12:25
0

It's possible you're not burned out in a completely exhausted, need to take months off and do nothing type way, but in a tired and maybe bored of your current job type way.

As Kilisi mentioned, it is not uncommon for people to get jaded with their work after being in the same role for a while, especially if you're doing similar work over and over again.

It's not necessarily linked to your salary or the people you work with. You can love working with the people you work with but still be fed up with working there. You can also like your manager but still not be happy with the fact that they way they run things makes your role more stressful.

In this case, you don't necessarily need to worry about taking time off unpaid, you can look for and find a new job, then leave without having time off between jobs, and you might find that a change of scenery and working on different things is invigorating in itself, without needing rest time away from work.

At least if you start looking at available jobs you can see if you find things that sound interesting to you. If you see a job description that gets you excited or enthusiastic about that particular role, it might be a sign that you just need a change.

-2

Did you expect things to improve while you were on vacation? If so, why? Have you discussed this issue with your boss? It seems to me that would be the best course of action. Discuss your workload, your responsibilities to the job outside of working hours, your stress, etc.

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  • 1
    I took the vacation as it usually allows me to cool off for a while. Thought I'll come in fresh and resume my work, but the effect was insignificant and I find myself looking down the same hole.
    – CodeJunkie
    Sep 28 at 9:32

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