Agencies, make burnout a racing game again

by Ned Hallett
Published on June 2022

Out-of-hours specialists represent a new weapon in the war against burnout. And while wellness initiatives, office perks and salary increases all tackle symptoms, this service gets to the core of the problem.

And well…it’s about time.

The situation as is 

The ‘always on,’ 24/7 world of tech has placed impossible demands on developers and other IT professionals both in agencies and more broadly.

Devs variously cite unrealistic deadlines, the presumption that they’ll stay late to get the job done, management with no clear grasp of their remit, and of course, the dreaded ‘on-call.’

To some extent, it’s always been this way. But in the last few years, the industry has reached breaking point.

The legacy of Covid-19 has been to give many a taste of just how different things might be. People logged on in their pajamas; no planes fell from the sky. Offices were spread around the globe; Monday morning meetings went on just the same.

This is part of what’s driving tech’s own Great Resignation, with only 29% of IT workers reporting a ‘high intent,’ to remain in their current roles, and that number reaching even lower depths in the younger age brackets.

So, caught between the pincers of mental fatigue (62% of IT professionals report feeling physically and emotionally drained) and brighter dreams of tomorrow, what can agencies do to ensure people stick around?

What’s already been tried

The responses to burnout range from the cynical to the downright kooky, with some moderate successes in between.

In this latter category, we find the quasi-medical interventions. Corporate mindfulness has been a figure of fun for some time, but there is clear evidence it decreases employee stress and lessens the impact of occupational burnout. Related are the more vague ideas of ‘wellness,’ and ‘self-care,’ with some workplaces promoting exercise, diet and ‘walking meetings,’ to combat stress.

Some of these are indeed effective, but one can’t help notice the underlying message: the work itself is so demanding that the average individual will not cope.

Or, ‘you don’t have to be Zen to work here, but it helps.’

Towards the bottom of the barrel, the gimmicks emerge.

These are not all direct responses to burnout per say, and agencies have always seen value in bleeding-edge workplace cultures. But it’s certainly part of the deal with office game consoles, exotic pets and candy floss machines. This has led to some decrying the infantilisation of workplaces, and many developers are all too aware of the cynicism behind such approaches.

It’s also worth noting this isn’t mutually exclusive to the wellness craze, with slides and beanbags being the other side of the coin to the more ‘natural,’ office, of which the more extreme examples include living trees, photosynthesizing under flickering halogen.

This is the ‘flowers-for-hours,’ approach. Which brings us on to what we think really works.

It’s about time

Trawl the subreddits and message boards frequented by the technically able and you will find the most precious resource to be minutes on the clock.

Out-of-hours deployments, on-call and the impositions of extra duties running late into the night are the number one grievances.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, few think their problems will be solved by a slide connecting finance to HR.

So, how does out-of-hours support work?

Out-of-hours specialists do things agencies do – except they do them out-of-hours.

They also do things agencies can sort of do (but not really), which means, for example, app developers made de facto DevOps people can hold off on the midnight oil.

In our case, this is achieved via a follow-the-sun support model, bespoke support platform Mission Control, and years of experience functioning seamlessly as an extension of our agency partners’ teams.

Follow the sun

With offices spread across four continents, we’re able to have a qualified engineer on any issue at any time – and never rely on phone-by-the-bed support.

As we like to say, it’s 9am somewhere. 

Mission Control 

Our full-stack support service is powered by bespoke platform Mission Control. This allows us to monitor and triage even the most complex, distributed app, from solutions built on popular experience platforms like Sitecore and Kenitco to entirely custom apps.

We’re a team spanning certified cloud, platform and DevOps engineers, so we can always cover the whole stack.

An agency’s agency 

Supplying these kinds of services to the likes of Ogilvy and Grey, we’ve developed the right culture and skills to slip seamlessly into any team and start adding value.

We can work white label or as your dedicated support partner, keeping you in the loop through dedicated comms. If that sounds good, check out our agency partner program.

Going forward

We believe dedicated out-of-hours support is a fresh approach to the problem of burnout. It gives developers what they want, while ensuring agencies can keep clients happy.

So, if you don’t want to be met with reproachful eyes when you announce 60+ hour weeks will be compensated via cash-prize Tekken tournaments, just get in touch.

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