Mental Health Hurdles Developers Face and How Companies Are Addressing Them
October 28, 2022
Like every industry, the Information Technology (IT) industry is seeing the impact of poor employee mental health. As long as developers struggle to prioritize their mental health and lack wellness support from their employers, productivity and engagement will suffer.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Before providing tips for developers and leaders in IT to best navigate mental health hurdles, let’s explore what’s contributing to the mental health struggles of developers.
What’s Contributing to the Mental Health Struggles Among Developers?
No rule says developers must spend consecutive hours in front of a computer screen, but they do. They don’t take breaks and tend to work through lunches to meet deadlines. As a result, they tend to live a sedentary lifestyle that limits exposure to natural light, nature, and people, which leads to isolation, depression, and burnout.
The IT industry also clings to a “crunch-time” culture that leads to increased anxiety and a high-pressure work environment. Moreover, developers take on work that requires an incredible amount of mental energy. When they don’t know how to detach themselves from work, that’s when mental exhaustion and emotional instability rear their ugly heads.
Although various factors contribute to the mental health challenges developers face, their intentional effort and supportive efforts from management can help overcome these hurdles.
Tips for IT Company Leaders To Better Support Their Employee’s Mental Health
Without the genuine support of leaders in IT and their willingness to fight for healthier work conditions, it’ll be hard for developers to be mentally and emotionally well. If you manage a team, help your developers address their mental health challenges more effectively in the following ways.
Create a more fun, positive workplace culture
Worsening mental health conditions among developers can be primarily attributed to the company culture they’re exposed to. For instance, if employees are expected to work long hours and never take a break, that’s what they’re going to do. And they’ll be stressed, burnt out, and unproductive because of it.
On the other hand, when the expectation is for employees to take care of themselves first and speak up when a need arises, they’ll do just that. As a result, they’ll feel more supported, focused, and emotionally stable.
Focus on creating a more fun, positive work environment for your developers. A business pet policy, for example, can boost your team’s morale and take some of the pressure off of the demanding nature of development work.
It’s also essential to normalize mental health-related conversations in the workplace. According to the 2021 OSMI Mental Health in Tech Survey, 50% of respondents said their employer hadn’t ever formally discussed mental health.
Although informal discussions on mental health are helpful, etching formal mental health communications into the fabric of your company culture is even more powerful. Create wellness campaigns, posters, resource packets, and other internal communications on mental health. You can also meet directly with your developers to learn more about their needs.
Develop personal relationships with your developers
Managers won’t ever be able to adequately address their developers' needs if they don’t know them. We aren’t suggesting that you become best friends with each employee. However, you should aim to develop personal relationships with them.
Get to know the developers on your team. Meet with them one-on-one regularly to find out more about them, their family life, and how they’re doing in their work role. Discuss mental and emotional health concerns, too.
Be candid about your own struggles with mental health and how you address them to open up the conversation about how you can best address theirs. Make sure they know that you offer a no-judgment zone and their admission of mental health struggles will never negatively impact their position in your company. Offer resources that are personalized to each employee in order to be the most helpful.
Tips for Developers To Continuously Nurture Their Mental Health
Developers need to take their mental health and wellness journey into their own hands, as well. Here are some tips for developers to continuously nurture their mental health.
If we’re honest, sometimes self-care, mindfulness activities, and being around family and friends isn’t enough to get mental health challenges under control. You aren't alone if you need a deeper level of support to navigate your mental health issues. Therapy is helpful even when you aren’t “going through something.”
Therapy is one of the best ways to ensure you get the mental health support you need. A therapist can help you flesh out what you’re feeling and give you a proper diagnosis, if applicable, for your mental health challenges. In addition, they can help you devise a concrete plan for managing your symptoms and creating a better work-life balance as a developer.
If your company provides low-cost or free therapy sessions, take advantage of them. You can schedule a traditional, in-office therapy appointment each week. Or, if you travel a lot, research your out-of-state, remote therapy options, like meeting with a licensed therapist via telehealth.
Developers must set boundaries to preserve their mental health. It’s so easy for developers to take on heavy workloads and subject themselves to long hours to get projects done and prove themselves.
However, an overwhelming schedule and workload do nothing but amplify stress, prompt burnout, and exacerbate mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Setting boundaries can ensure you’re working on terms that allow you to put yourself first.
Define the work hours and workloads you’re comfortable with and communicate them to your boss. Let them know what you need to do your best work. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a position that no longer serves you or your mental health.
If you code remotely, set work hours and let your family know your schedule to ensure they don’t disturb you during work. And once those work hours pass, socialize, spend time with your family, and dive into the other things that are most meaningful to you.
Yes, developers may come up against mental health hurdles. However, with the efforts of IT company leaders and developers, workplaces can become much more supportive of mental health and wellness.
About the author:
Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.
Ready to take charge of your dev career?
Join Europe's leading job platform for software developers!