Should the tech industry talk more about mental health?

In the past years the topic of mental health has become a lot more prevalent - at least in my personal filter bubble. And while the tech industry too began to talk more openly about mental health, it’s still not without stigma.

What’s your perspective on the topic? Do you have a story around mental health you’re willing to share? And what are things we as members of this industry can do better to provide a safe space to talk about mental health?

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I struggle to put this into coherent words but from my personal experience I have the feeling that project-based work for a third party - speak classic project work for a customer - creates a fertile ground for unhealthy work practices.

The deadlines looming over ones head. The conflicts when deadlines are missed or features become more expensive than expected. The expectation to get things done as quickly as possible.

I’m not saying that this always results in an unhealthy work culture but it certainly doesn’t help in fostering more healthy practices and requires active countermeasures.

I’ve been doing product-focused development for the past two years, where the company earns it’s money in part through the work we put into this product, and I must say that life has become a lot more relaxed.

Obviously this is just my personal experience but I feel that the “classic project work” is dysfunctional at it’s core.

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I agree that more people should speak about it or reach out for help - especially those who are part of any group who are at increased risk (that includes men as a group).

I think one of the things that leads to stigma is that people often think things like depression are caused by ‘mental issues’/trauma, whereas there is increasing evidence (and research) into depression being caused by gut issues. There is a good book on this called the GAPS book, which stands for the Gut and Psychology Syndrome.

Things like microbial infections can impair gut function, which can interfere with mineral absorption such as that of selenium, or interfere with other brain function such as neurotransmitters.

This is why I always encourage people to look after their health overall and take a more holistic approach… as often this can be of huge benefit to anyone going through any kind of mental health issues.

If anyone ever fancies a chat btw, my PM’s are alway open. I would like to think I am pretty easy to talk to :blush:

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One of the issues I have with the whole tech scene in this regard is that the “work” is never ending and we are taught that this is expected if you want to succeed.

Read books outside of work, do courses, side projects, contribute to open source, work as a consultant on the side, write a blog, …

It really annoys me. It’s this “Always Be Coding” mentality that puts so much pressure on me. Of course at some point the pressure gets too much and I start to crack.

It almost feels like this is the “burden” you have to take on when you decide to work in tech. Any hour of free time should be spent in front of the computer growing and improving your “craft”.

It sucks and as somebody who suffers from depression, it really is a contributing factor to my ongoing issues. When is it enough? When am I really a good programmer? If I only do my 40hrs at work and don’t read or develop any side projects, I suck. But even 40hrs a week almost take me to my limit sometimes.

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It’s also something I struggle with sometimes. My job is 42.5h/week and during this time it’s expected that I work productive. But then I should keep myself updated, and there are almost unlimited things still to be discovered and learned. The sheer amount of information to consume seems overwhelming. And then there are still some other interests, family, and also sports should be done to survive all the sitting during worktime.
There is very little time left left in a day where I “should” not do something, which makes me feel stressed, which leads to bad sleep, making it even worse.
I think next year I’ll start working part-time, after 10 years of professional software development it’s sometimes too much, even if basically I still like what I’m doing

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Fascinating topic @wolf4earth.

The following is presented from the perspective of 20+ years as a software (product) developer with respect to improving mental health in the industry:

  • A need to humanize the industry:
    Do you think there might still exist the mythical belief that tech people are seen as robots or a weird caste that have no feelings?
    Additional empathy would certainly help an individual who is suffering stress or mental issues.

  • A need to learn how to learn
    What you technically know today might not be relevant in 6-months. Most popular programming languages are evolving faster these days. Java, Angular, NodeJS, etc. Reactive programming might be an industry standard soon, if not already. Then there is ML (Machine Learning), AI (Artificial Intelligence), DL (Deep Learning).
    If you want to be technically good, marketable, grow and maintain employment security you need to be on top of the latest tech in your field. I used to buy tech books on languages. But more often than not by the time I was finished the book there was a new version of the language out. (yes I’m a slow reader!). Or that the book I had just bought was already legacy. I spent years chasing my tail trying to keep up with all of it and spent hours off the clock. Still do. And still I feel that I don’t know enough. So I started to read about learning. Recently I decided to timebox (45mins a day) personal time spent on learning tech outside work hours.
    Then there is the Business. Business does not want or need to know the technical details of a requirement. On the flip-side however, tech people do need to know at least the basics of the business if not actually become business experts.
    This leads to two learning curves for (product) tech people:
    – learn the business domain
    – keep up with the tech.
    If we can learn how to learn we might be able to free up time for other activities.

  • A need to be a craft
    The tech industry is seen as exactly that - an industry. Like a factory. Developers are on a product line and there is very little room for creativity because the product or feature is already known. The requirement is given to you. You just need to “implement” it. But implementation is complex, unique to each feature and very rarely happens out of the box. It is a craft. You need to be creative.
    The industry needs to present itself more as a craft than an industry thus reflecting the true nature of the work that is done. Think of Watchmakers, Stonemasons or Carpenters.

  • A need to value your skills
    Do you think most countries and companies underpay the tech workforce?
    Read any job offer. 5 years+ experience in about 20 different technologies and then some nice to haves, all for 30,000Eur (price will vary) plus some cheap or free food (including pizzas) and maybe a bus ticket.
    You need to know a lot and to have industrial experience as well. Yes, there are some very good companies out there and they may pay very well. But are they the exception or the norm? For example, if I work in a really bad company does that mean my salary should reflect the worth of the company or the worth of my skills?
    Most of us in the industry probably under-value our experience and knowledge. Each of us should realize our true monetary worth.

I’m getting carried away now, so I will stop here. The above are my personal opinions (and rants) not in any particular order.

However, some advice I could offer to anyone feeling stressed, demotivated or disillusioned would be :

  • talk with your employer and try to agree some time you can allocate during your workday so that you can learn and grow. Even if it is only 30 minutes, it’s something. This should be seen as an investment from the employers point of view and be part of your development plan in the company. This could also include anything like paying for trainings, conferences, access to online learning platforms, books, etc.
  • timebox personal time spent learning tech (I just started this so not sure how much it will help me). I’m hoping this will help me focus.
  • decide your worth and then defend it
  • accept that coding for 8+ hours a day is unproductive, you are not expected to code for 8+ hours a day.
  • meditate - I’ve recently started this practice and it is having a positive impact
  • do some physical exercise
  • eat less processed foods and sugar
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hi @Rainer - have you worked in the same company for the 10 years? 42.5 hours seems like a a long week. Is that standard? Do you have sufficient holidays during the year?

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42.5 hours seems like a long work week, though if it’s 42.5 with lunch breaks (1 hour every day) then it’s really only 37.5 hours, which is the standard in Denmark where I’m situated.

Nobody is productive 8 hours a day. I keep coming back to this comic.

Most of my day goes with thinking. At my work we also make it a virtue to do project briefs before any code is ever thought of or written. In the project brief time is also time to read documentation and make a game plan for how to implement something.

On top of that, we are also encouraged to use LinkedIn Learning or similar services to be better versions of ourselves. This can then be reflected in our daily stand-ups where you can write “I’m working on X and will be learning about Y today”

I think we are doing well on talking about mental health and we are encouraged to take mental health days, if need be.

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hi - @ohm, I’ve never heard of Mental Health Days before. How does that work?
We have a 40h week, not including lunches, in the office where I work. We have a certain margin for flexibility but as long as you are available during core hours and the work progresses we have no major issues. We are also encouraged to spend time learning when appropriate and usually let the team know during the daily.

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Yeah, at my last company nobody was counting hours. We did scrum and at the beginning of a sprint we would agree to how many points we could handle, then the project manager choose tickets worth the total amount of points and when we were done with all of those we could do whatever with our time. Most of us did technical debt stuff, but you could also just play games or whatnot.

At my current company we don’t take Fridays that serious, so we normally do a lot of fun stuff while only working part time.

Mental health days are just sick days - you tell your manager, that your not feeling 100% and need to take a day to revitalize yourself.

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I worked for 4 different companies. I’ve got 4 weeks of holiday now. So far i had worktimes between 40 and 42.5h, and 4 or 5 weeks of holiday. Current company is worst regarding this, but also highest paying.
As single this would be ok, with family I feel it’s difficult. Usually I leave home at 5:30 am so I have some family time at the evening.

If only… :smiley: It’s not including any breaktime.

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