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Administrators buried under heavy workloads and those who feel they lack the opportunity to challenge themselves both have something in common: They are at risk of IT burnout.
Experts haven't clearly defined burnout, but it has a lot of similarities to clinical depression. That should ring alarm bells; it's a lot more than just having a bad day at work. A common cause of burnout is doing too much, both in the amount of work and the time spent doing work.
Beyond staffing issues, work politics, bad managers and other personnel issues, some technical practices can help administrators avoid IT burnout by reducing the stress associated with a heavy workload.
Ease your workload with automation
Administrators who find themselves doing the same tasks, especially ones done on a deadline, on a regular basis need to figure out how to change this manual process. Automation can eliminate unrewarding and repetitive jobs that offer no challenge and that take time away from other, more meaningful duties.
For example, an administrator might get requests to create email groups, which requires some effort working out what the requester wants and then beginning the configuration work to set the group up, add initial members, and add or remove members to the group. Administrators might not need to play any part in the process. You can set up notifications to get alerts when a user creates a group to stay informed without being a cog in that wheel.
Allow users to create these email groups, force a naming convention and set up an approval process. Or you can automate the groups based on a logical arrangement, such as the user's department. If automation isn't an option, then let certain staff update the group's members. If nothing else, create a web form with all the fields needed to create a group.
Don't set out to automate the world, but start with quick wins and make part of the process more streamlined and less painful. Where it makes sense, let the users step in to do the work.
Invest the time to complete a turnaround
There's a Catch-22: Trying to improve the situation to spend less time working will require additional work. You also might think you don't have time to implement the change, which is a hard mindset to get past. But, without this effort, the only alternative is burnout.
Ideally, you'll have support to make changes from colleagues, management or even friends, if you are self-employed. Without this assistance, these necessary adjustments will be difficult to implement, but you must strive to find ways to improve procedures and workflows.
Spend a few more minutes writing a PowerShell script that automatically deprovisions a user when they leave rather than manually removing the account. These endeavors will build certain skills and increase job satisfaction when you no longer have to click through to perform mundane tasks an endless number of times.
What else can I do about IT burnout?
I find many IT pros have a difficult time saying no when they are pitched a project. Even when their existing workload already keeps them fully occupied, they will try to find a way to make room for another task.
A more sensible approach is to not agree to a proposal right away. Work out your priorities and a reasonable time to deliver. If there's a conflict with another project, let someone higher up in the management chain decide the priority.
Although these changes can be overwhelming, it's necessary to start somewhere and improve incrementally. It helps to step back over time and see the progress you've made to make the work less of a grind and more enjoyable.
If all of this still seems too hard, then talk to somebody about it. Reach out to a professional for help.