Burnout: Community Problem & Community Solution

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[Music] blues brothers in case you didn't know sort of fitting because everybody does need somebody so I'd like to introduce you to one of my somebody is lucky in truce you to my friend Bob Bob's not his real name I asked him if I could share his story he agreed but in order to help maintain his privacy I changed his name the rest of the story is very true though so Bob and I worked together a long time ago we were both developers at a company and I really they're the three things that I really love about Bob is first that he's genuine and honest second is that he's enthusiastically curious and the third is that he's an optimistically hard worker so these are a great combination because when Bob says to you how's it going it's not just another way for him to say hi he actually does care about how you're doing and he really actually wants to know what you're working on because he's curious to learn about the technologies that you're using and then being optimistically hard-working means that whenever there's a challenge and you're working with Bob Bob's attitude is always just we can work harder like we're smart people if we work together on this we can solve anything which is really great so I worked with Bob for a long time we ended up moving on as people do in tech got new jobs ended up moving to different cities but we still kept in touch and whenever Bob would talk about his his current company I would think of this this meme his current company from my outside perspective they were an out-of-touch tech company who really didn't understand their market didn't understand their customers so they were constantly pivoting what their product was and it was hard to actually figure out what they actually did from Bob's inside perspective they were just an out-of-touch tech company that was chasing buzzwords like micro services and containers and DevOps and they didn't understand what any of those words actually meant and so this meant that bob spent a lot of late nights just building things and once they'd get built he would get told that they didn't actually matter because the company had pivoted again so they throw it away and they tell him to build something else and this led to other problems like one one month bob said that he worked on this project for two months it was fantastic he actually optimized the end-user experience improved checkouts and they actually saw a sales revenue increase of two percent across the company I was like this is amazing Bob he's like yeah nobody really liked it because apparently my new team KPI was web performance and driving traffic and the website didn't load any faster so no congratulations just it was like you did the wrong thing bob worked remotely which is really it's great when you can but his manager in the leadership team decided one day that really they wanted to have better communications with Bob so they weren't going to end remote work but because of his position they were ending his remote work they forced him to move from where he was living to the Silicon Valley which as you know very expensive so Bob moved across the country left all his friends spent a bunch of money to move to a city and he ended up stopping doing the things that he really loved to do right because he was now in the office so he was working overtime to build more things didn't know anybody in town so he just felt really alone and isolated so during all of this Bob and I had had kept in contact and one day I started to notice that his tweets were growing more cynical that optimism that I really loved about him had really just started to die he had this one tweet one day where he compared the cap theorem to life the cap theorem as many of you know is consistency availability partition tolerance and yet you can only pick two in addition a muted system and Bob tweeted out that well there's work success family or health and you can only pick two I was like this is really really bad so and that was a red flag for me I immediately gave him a call and realized that he'd actually he didn't even pick two he'd picked one and burn had destroyed his relationship his girlfriend had left him his health had taken a dive and I realized even more so not just his health like exercising and doing the sports that he loved but when I called him he was actually pretty high on some drugs so he was self-medicating so in this situation like what the hell do I do you know someone that you care about is going through crisis I had no idea right do I do I put him on hold and I call for help and if I call for help who would that help be right I mean could call 9-1-1 but depending on where you're at in the country and who you are like cops are more likely to hurt you than to help you and it is it is it even safe to put an amount hold and so I realized I was grossly unequipped for this what I might quit for so take a step back I'm Jason and work at data dog I do dachshund talks so dockside I talked to her engineers about what our product does I read through our code I help them make make our product easier for for engineers and developers to use I'm a travel hacker I like to travel a lot and fly on planes sometimes to nowhere in particular I'm a pokemon trainer so if you wander around with me at all around Chicago or if you see me wandering and it looked like I'm lost I'm not I'm probably just trying to catch something and then I'm I'm a whiskey hunter so I like to taste whisky wherever I go these are the ways that I help relieve the stress in my life but let me be clear especially about the whiskey enjoy it for the flavor I love the craft of it but don't if you like whiskey don't self-medicate with it if you find yourself enjoying it for other reasons than the flavor and ask for help talk to someone a little bit about data dog since they did cover my trip here and pay me very well for what I do which I appreciate data dog is a SAS based monitoring platform we have thousands of customers we handle a trillions of points of data every day and we are hiring so if you are in a work environment that you're not happy with that you may be facing some burnout data dog is hiring I like the company I think we have a great culture and we do not burn people out or at least we we try very very hard not to but so back to the topic I've called this talk burnout community problem community solution because it's an issue that affects all of us and it's an issue that's going to require all of us if we want to actually solve this and in particular I wrote the stock because of that situation I realized that most of us aren't equipped to help others so when I say it's a community problem what do I mean well first we have to ask is this really a community problem and I think it's fair to say that we are a community we've all come here around shared beliefs shared ideas and we're sharing that information so we are a community but is burnout really a problem so GFI is a company and they're in the tech space they run an annual survey about stress and that happens in IT and so this from this last year's report this is one of the the stats that came out 40% 40% of us in tech across the u.s. regularly lose sleep due to stress and this doesn't mean when we're on call this is purely just because we're totally stressed out actually here in Chicago when you break down the numbers the numbers higher 46% of Chicagoans in tech lose sleep because of stress if we look at the amount of overtime that we're working 50 percent of Americans in tech work between 8 to 20 hours of overtime and if you look at Chicago 63 63 percent of you guys are working eight to 20 hours of overtime and then this last one 82 percent of people in tech in the US are considering leaving tech right we our jobs are just so stressful that we want out interestingly here in Chicago this number drops to 77 percent so you must be doing something a little bit better here in Chicago but actually if you look at all these numbers a third of all people in tech consider leaving on a regular basis so they're constantly thinking about it so if I ask is this a community problem well we're all here at DevOps days because we're here to learn about implementing cultures you know to build better systems by implementing better cultures but if if 82% of us are like thinking of leaving this job altogether like that's a problem right you can't build better systems if nobody's working so what are some of the ways that we can start to address this issue all right community solutions well this is DevOps days so I do have to mention DevOps DevOps does address a lot of the issues that create the environments that make people prone to burnout John Willis who's one of the the founding members of the DevOps days movement had a fantastic talk a few years back that's a link to his talk I'm not going to go over a lot of it we've already talked about a lot of those issues for example Katie this morning mentioned some of the the issues that you can actually help to encourage people to adopt DevOps and a lot of those are the same things that actually prevent burnout things like recognizing people and providing good incentives the other thing that we can do is self care and this has been talked about a lot as well there have been some open spaces yesterday Ken Muggeridge talked last year at DevOps days Portland a grave gave a great talk about Christina Maslach six areas of mismatch that lead to Murnau and how we can recognize them in ourselves and actions that we can take to help solve those burnout issues with ourselves but just to go over some of these mismatches so the first one is work overload this one's super obvious from most of us just having way too much work as I mentioned Bob had mountains of over time because he just had these these long lists of tasks and it was worse without that clear direction right because he couldn't prioritize what he should do with the constant pivoting if you have a bob in your office and you notice him or her making commits on the weekend you noticed him or her staying late at night don't don't reward that discourage that kind of behavior talk to your managers ask them to discourage that behavior as well because you're going to burn people out the second mismatch is a lack of control we all need to feel empowered feel like we have some sort of say in what we're doing Bob had no input into the direction because it was constantly changing in fact when I talked to him it sounded like pretty classic micromanagement unfortunately this is a sign of toxic cultures so you know if your management is open to it encourage them to listen to not only to your voice but if you notice that others in your team aren't being listened to encourage them encourage your management to listen to them the third is insufficient rewards money is a weird thing in our culture right we don't talk about salaries because it's taboo so I don't know what Bob was actually making we didn't talk about that but I do know that having a moved to Silicon Valley the most expensive place to live in the country and not giving him a cost-of-living increase like that's clearly insufficient rewards but also rewards don't have to be money rewards can be just appreciation gratitude recognition for what you're doing one thing to point out is you know with that we talked to era we heard yesterday from from Riya she pointed out that you know giving people credit so when people help you out in your teams you know recognize them for what they're doing the fourth is a breakdown of workplace community according to Maslow and I think this is really breakdown of any sort of community right we all need to feel connected to people so for Bob like he lost that when he moved to Silicon Valley he no longer had the band that he played with he no longer was playing the sports that he loved me was just doing work all the time if you're not regularly going to lunch with the people on your team or going to happy hour hanging out with them just having an actual connection beyond work I'd encourage you to do that start creating a better community with your team's the fifth that Malik points out is an absence of fairness this is pretty obviously we all need to feel like we're getting treated fairly and I don't have to say too much more about this but if you do see injustice in your organization obviously say something and the sixth is a values conflict now sometimes this is super obvious right if you believe in gun control you don't go work for the NRA but there's also like mismatches like the small things can build up you know mismatches like with Bob right he he worked on UX that was important or he thought it was important for the company increased sales and turns out that it wasn't so small mismatches add up to to really being out of alignment with your company and leading to burnout so these are six things that we need to be aware of but really one it when I wrote this talk I wanted to focus on this equipping ourselves right because we've talked about spreading DevOps a lot of other other speakers have done that a lot of the other DevOps days talked about how we spread DevOps that's the main point of the conference really and then we always talk about burnout and how to self recognize and what we can do on our own but as I mentioned before in my situation I was grossly unqualified to deal with that so how do we how do we equip ourselves the first thing that we need to understand is that burnout is prevalent I didn't realize it when I faced that situation but a third of all Americans know someone that's been diagnosed with burnout so there's a good chance that you may end up in the situation that I was in so equipping ourselves the first thing that we got to do is recognize burnout how to recognize it well if you watch Ken's talk he brings up the the masloff burnout inventory essentially the research is people that go through burnout experience three main areas the first is exhaustion the second is cynicism and the third is loss of efficacy essentially people that burnout don't feel like they're doing a good job I don't particularly love that description partly because it was designed as an identifier for people that work in human services so healthcare industry mental health professionals so I actually there's another another definition out there SMB M that defines burnout as physical fatigue so people are just physically tired emotional exhaustion and I really like this over cynicism because emotional exhaustion means that people don't necessarily have to be cynical they could just be apathetic which I find more often when I meet people with Murnau right it's not that they like get really cynical and they hate everybody they just don't care they don't give a anymore right and then cognitive weirdness and I like this over the idea of efficacy because it's really hard to know if someone feels like they're doing a good job without asking them but it's really easy to see when they're just like brain dead and they you ask them a question and you know they're just staring off into space and they can't answer it or it takes them a long time to be able to like realize what you're asking so the other way that we can be equipped is to be connected right having real relationships with people puts us in a better place to be able to help them also puts us in a better place to be helped if we ever need it a friend of mine has a very very simple test for this that he calls three am friends and it's simply this that you should be able to easily name three friends that you could call at 3 a.m. to bail you out of a problem and if you can't you're not connected similarly if you don't know three people that would maybe call you at 3 a.m. to build them out of a problem you're not connected and I'm not saying that we need on-call paid your duty rotations for friendship friendship isn't a duty right well what I am saying is that caring about people and being cared about by other people is necessary for us to fight burnout and so when it comes to recognizing burnout like you know MBI and SMB em are they're great definitions for people that are actually you know psychologists and like researchers but when it comes down to it when you're connected how do you recognize burnout you'll know you'll know because you'll see changes in the people that you're friends with you'll know because more often not they'll actually just tell you they'll be like a work sucks and I'm burn out it's also important to remember that we're not mental health professionals when I say that you know I say that with the caveat that you could be wrong it might not be burnout it could be something like depression but though they are closely linked an interesting point about burnout and depression actually burnout was once defined as depression at work so actually there was a research study last year that did a survey of they took a bunch of teachers that had all been diagnosed with burnout and they they ran studies on them matching them up with depression symptoms and actually 86% of the subjects in this study who are diagnosed with burnout actually met the criteria for being depressed so again when I say you'll know I mean that you know you'll know something's wrong you may not know that it is burnout you could be getting confused with depression you're not a professional but the great thing about this is actually the actions that you should take are exactly the same so you don't have to be an expert you don't have to feel like you need to know everything just being connected with people just knowing that something's wrong allows you to take the steps that you need so what steps do you need well first get training right how many people here have taken a first aid class yeah wow that's great this that's way more than I thought you took a first aid class right not because you wanted to be a paramedic not because you did it because you thought you'd be a doctor you're clearly here so you're not working in the medical field you do it because you know at some point that you'll be in a situation or you could be in a situation where someone has an immediate need and you want to be able to help until professionals come right so you learn tell someone shout call 911 and then you start CPR similarly with mental health first aid not saying that any of us should leave the field and go become mental health experts psychologists and people like that but it's the same thing people are in mental crisis all the time and there isn't someone there to help them immediately so that's the idea behind mental health first aid it's a fantastic course takes one full day or you can do it in a series of evenings and highly recommend you do that but I'll give you a head start on the class this is algae algae the Koala algae is an acronym it's actually the core of what you would learn in mental health first aid training algae is an acronym unfortunately mental health people aren't nerds so a does not stand for algae it's not like a self-referential acronym a stands for a cess of risk of suicide or harm pretty clear right like the first thing that you need to identify with if you're dealing with somebody in crisis is are they gonna hurt themselves and then trying to prevent that a few things about talking about suicide first it's a myth that if someone's talking about suicide they're not going to do it if someone's talking about suicide believe them the second is it's totally okay to say the word suicide I know when I say that like part of you inside is like scary word but it's totally okay to talk about it especially with people in crisis you're not going to be planting the idea in their head by bringing it up if they're thinking about it they've already thought about it and by talking about it and putting it out there in the open you can gauge how serious they are ask them when where how they're gonna do it have they planned this out helps you really understand how serious they are about about that if you do feel like somebody's at risk of committing suicide there are some great numbers and folks that you can call that first number is the Chicago Community Counseling Center they're all across this Chicago metro area that's their number that's available 24/7 and nationally is the national suicide prevention hotline and then there's also an SMS line from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and of course if you think there's an immediate threat an immediate problem 911 is there the L in algae is for listening and listening Nadja non-judgmentally and so three ways that you can really listen non-judgmentally is first to have an attitude of acceptance respect that the person the friend that you're dealing with that their feelings are valid don't judge or criticize be genuine with them and then finally have empathy and oftentimes when we talk about empathy especially in DevOps we talk about it in a very cognitive way of listening to them in understanding understanding the facts of this situation when an actual ID for someone in crisis it's better to have true empathy approach their story and imagine yourself in their position and having that imagination of what they're going through helps connect you the GLG is to give reassurance and information so what does reassurance mean what means that burnout is real and like many things that we talked about in DevOps it's a systemic problem it's not a personal issue burnout isn't somebody's fault so reassure them of that the other great thing to be reassuring of is that unfortunately burnout is common but the positive side of that is there are a lot of people who have gone through it there are a lot of resources out there so there are success stories there is hope the first the analogy encouraged appropriate professional help and go see a doctor medical doctors are fine go see a mental health professional but I think also a secondary line of encouraging help is to encourage people to speak with their managers or their HR people this can be tricky right because if they're in a toxic culture their manager probably doesn't want to help and may actually try to fire them I'm not a lawyer but one thing to keep in mind is that if you do seek medical help if you go to a doctor and you get diagnosed with depression and then your company tries to fire you there's a thing called the Americans with Disability Act which will actually kick in and protect you some professional help resources two-one-one is available in over 90% of the country give them a call they have resources they can point you to mental health professionals Oh SMI is a fantastic one open sourcing mental illness they have a huge list of resources particularly oriented towards people like us people in tech and then again mentioning the community counseling centers of Chicago they have a ton of resources as well the final en algae is to encourage self help and support strategies this could be things like exercise regularly taking breaks from work and getting out walking around playing Pokemon and one thing to note about this though is I hear a lot of people recommending that someone just take a break go on vacation vacations are not vacations are not a good strategy they don't help with burnout vacations are useful for taking a break and clearing your head thinking about your next action steps but they are not a sustainable way to prevent burnout some self-help resources burnout diet do is another tech oriented site that talks about burnout has some good strategies on how to deal with that mood gym is actually a really interesting one it's an online tool that actually does help you with your self-awareness helps you with your your moods actually has some some pretty great science behind it and then mbc t so mindfulness based cognitive therapies you can actually get training on this it helps you to be more mindful more aware of your emotional state and that can be very very helpful so LG just to recap assess for risk you of suicide or harm listen non-judgmentally give reassurance and information encourage appropriate professional help and then finally encourage people to have self-help or other support strategies so back to that call that I had with Bob I didn't put him on hold I didn't call the cops I asked what he'd taken and as with anybody taking drugs like I don't do them so they all freak me out but I you know I had him on the phone I looked it up on Google turns out like not too bad you know he wasn't there was no chance of OD'ing and dying or real actual self-harm so I ended up just listening and we talked and I reminded him that you know I cared about him and that he had other people that cared about him and without knowing it without having gone through mental health first aid training at that time it actually managed to do some of algae and you know I assess him for thinking about those drugs and I listened to him and so we talked for hours that night until bob was ready to just sleep it off and until I realized you know I could be fairly certain that he was safe I managed to visit Bob a few weeks later I flew down to the Bay Area he was still burnt out obviously like burnout doesn't go away and actually shortly after my visit the company did lay him off they cut a lot of people so being out of work is a new type of stress for him but I think he's dealing with it well and it's a stress that isn't burning him out he's got some savings so he's taking some time off but unfortunately he does fall into that 82% of people that's now just like not sure if he actually wants to continue in tech so recapping some community solutions for Bernal the first spread DevOps continue to work to implement good cultures in companies right because that'll fix the environments that make people prone to burning out and that's the link again to John's talk encourage self-assessment and awareness so the more that we can talk about this at places like DevOps days the more that we can talk about this in our organizations make people aware of themselves so that they can start to realize when they're burning out super helpful but finally equip yourselves equip yourselves by simply being connected create real relationships with your co-workers have real true relationships with people that you've worked with and then take training it's cheap it's available the more of us that have mental health first aid training the more people that will be able to help and when they have crisis's so that's all I've got I'm open to questions but keep in mind I am NOT a professional in this so I'll try to answer as best I can and that's the link to the slide so there's a ton of resources there so once you identify somebody with burnout and you were looking at all the stats was there any stats on from the onset of burnout to the mean or average time that before they leave your company and you can't either a help them at your company or reclaim them as a useful employee that's a great question and I don't know of any stats around that so yeah unfortunately you know to be honest if I were to if I just like make wild conjecture which is what I do a lot of I guess now yeah wild conjecture would probably mean that most the people that burn out like if they're not getting help from your company you'll never hear from them again to be honest and it is because most of them do leave I think I'm trying to recall there is a stat about how many people end up burning out and leaving and people like the people that have been diagnosed with burnout I think this debt is like half of them never go back to tech so you had mentioned about one of the ways to prevent this is to make sure you're building your community in your company and so like doing lunches together and do going out to drinks or something like that do you have any suggestions for very distributed teams that are maybe like almost 100% remote and then like don't have the chance to get together for that kind of thing yeah so actually work on a remote team within data dog we tried to get together face to face once a quarter similarly if a few jobs back it was at MongoDB and worked remotely and we did the same like every six weeks or a couple months we'd we just get together in person the other thing that I have implemented that data dog is a remote happy hour so once a month everybody remote and this point it's like 75 remote people not everybody can make it but we just have a giant zoom video hangout so it's whatever time zone you're in grab an appropriate beverage ya know at no day-drinking for us but yeah definitely get together online and hang out you know oftentimes it's because we're growing it's we're meeting whoever's new to the to the remote part of the company but other than that it really just becomes hanging out and not talking about work just talking about like what people did you know like how was your weekend see any good movies like what should I be watching on Netflix stuff like that I'm so a lot of that causes you've recognized kind of seem to be company based I'm not wondering when you were kind of going through looking at the statistics on this it it seems very bad that any company would do anything that would promote burnout and but it also seems like a lot of companies don't seem to care so it seems like kind of self harm to the companies that have you have you seen anything like companies like kind of recognizing that this is an issue and maybe trying to do something about it consciously rather than reactively yeah I don't know I mean so I haven't firsthand seen many companies addressing that but you know I only work at one company right now so I can't really say what other companies are doing definitely though you know things like not encouraging people to work long hours of overtime you know Katy was up here mentioning those things of like incentivizing right like it's not a badge of honor to be working 16-hour days so starting to try to think of ways to incentivize people to to be reasonable with their time and stuff like that so I think there are companies that are doing it it's just really hard to see into companies unless you have people like you know like Katy aura or others who come up and and talk about some of their issues yeah I don't think that it's very widespread at this point you know I think we still live in a culture that very much rewards people for you know investing there for their whole lives and being loyal employees which is a sad thing I honestly like maybe that's an open space topic but like I'm interested in know how do not get hired into a company like that and how to leave like recognize the signs and run away before you kind of get all in to that mentality yeah thank you very much let's give it up for Jason [Applause]