Solo UX Designer Burnout

culture

#1

I need some advice…
I’m currently working as a solo Product Designer desperately trying to establish aUX culture at a 100+ yr old company as we begin building out a digital product development team. Due to recent layoffs and its resulting strategic re-alignment, I’m currently juggling Product Management, UX Research, Content and Marketing Strategy, and Visual Design responsibilities for our two iOS apps.

This multiple hat wearing is taking it’s toll. My weekly focus is split between analyzing results, managing our external marketing team, designing a complete UX/UI overhaul for one app, and educating stakeholders on the importance of building a multi-disciplinary development team and the necessity of incorporating UX practices to our design process.

Needless to say I’m burned out. I’ve taken mini-vactions, long lunches, and have read every article on creative/emotional burnout I could find. The problem is that I still need to produce deliverables (personas, competitive analysis, user surveys analysis, wireframes) in the few weeks.

tl;dr: I’m burned out from being the only UXd doing the work of 4 people and I need a job (quitting isn’t really an option). What can I do? How do I communicate to my stakeholders that this isn’t sustainable (other than my constant requesting that they hire more people)?


#2

Hi, sorry you’re having such a challenging time. Perhaps it’s time to have this exact conversation with your management? They need to be aware that splitting your attention 50 different ways is not the best use of your time. They will not get good results long term and are obviously at risk of losing a valuable resource. If you can put it in terms of lost business value you might get their attention. Also, be clear about the benefits of hiring a more focused team to compliment the work you’re already doing. I know it’s hard, but if you can take your emotions out of the equation and make a strong business case you might be able to create a new opportunity. Otherwise it’s time to cut your losses and move on. Hope that helps!


#3

Sometimes you just can’t change the whole organization yourself. To start you will need a strong ans close ally, someone from higher management who can support your cause. Changing a companies culture is a hard task and it will happen slow.
If you feel that you can’t make this change it’s ok to give it up, and go to work for an other company with better design culture. There are many of them out there. And remember that you made the first steps, so the next designer after you will have a better chance. And they will take it more seriously, because of you leaving the company.
And a personal advice at the end: you will have to take care about yourself too. I personally recommend traveling. It worked for me every time. After a real burn out you will need at least one month off. I know, it’s a long vacation, but you have to do it for yourself.


#4

You’re certainly in a challenging situation there, an extreme example of something many of us go through. Both the responses you’ve received have elements I agree with. It seems to me that you need to convey to management that the current situation is not sustainable by anyone - they need to understand you are working beyond what is reasonable and this is not only unsustainable, it won’t lead to the outcomes they hope for.

A big factor in this is that the company is undergoing a process of change for which they have little or no reference point. Steering a company into digital product development is hard, and they need to learn what is doable and what isn’t. You’re the one doing it, so they need to know from you what’s right and wrong. In that, I agree with maryshaw’s point. The hard thing for you is conveying that to them without sounding like you’re just complaining for the sake of it.

That’s where pasztor_david’s point about an ally comes in. The move to digital producer development is likely being driven by one or more people towards the top of the company (I don’t know how large the company is, but this applies to any size). You want to help them achieve their aims but you need to explain to the driver of the new policy in the company that the current process won’t succeed without more human resources. If the company can’t invest in that, then it needs to rethink its aims and how to achieve them.

If you can identify and enlighten one person who has an investment in your success - it could be your immediate superior, it could be senior management, it could be a board member (careful with that, though) - that you need support to carry out the program the company has in mind, it becomes their responsibility to bring that to management.

While it can seem daunting to put together a case, it doesn’t have to be really complicated. My immediate reaction to your post was that it is obvious that having one person do four or five jobs does not make good business sense. If you present the issues in terms of a business case, and emphasise what CAN be achieved with proper resourcing (and it sounds to me like you are sufficiently self-aware, organised and committed to do this) then it makes it hard for the company to ignore your points. I think this is what maryshaw means by taking the emotion out of the issue.

At the same time, I’d say you should let your passion shine through. You care. That’s not something the company wants to lose, and it’s not something you should hide.

If push comes to shove, you can ask for a meeting with management that includes an advocate for you, someone who has gravitas and an industry understanding who can help you explain why the current situation is not sustainable. While our industry does not yet have a formal structure that provides that kind of support, there are people who can do this. I’ve done it myself, once in person and once by providing a written statement.

Ultimately, you do have to look after yourself. If the stress of this job is too much and the company won’t support your needs, you do need to consider moving on. The very way you’re approaching this makes you someone very employable. You have multiple skills, an understanding of what can and can’t be done and a commitment to make things work. I’d hire you. But job-changing is a scary prospect and a last resort.

Give the company the chance to really understand what is and isn’t working about your current situation. Give the management person most committed to the new policy what they need to understand and explain a more practical approach. Make sure your immediate superior is in on this, if at all possible. Be clear about what is going wrong, why and what you think can address the issue - clarity of analysis and suggesting solutions will help you come across as professional rather than just complaining.

And if it comes to the crunch, walk away knowing it’s the company that failed, not you.


#5

I love this idea.

It has occurred to me that it has worked for me a couple of times in the past, although I didn’t actively seek the support. Just having someone else to listen can sometimes make things more manageable too.


#6

Thanks to all for the advice. Just writing down and getting clear on the issues I’m experiencing was helpful but hearing from seasoned professionals also put things in perspective. I’m reaching out to potential allies, staying focused on solving the problems I’m best suited to, and handing back work I can not confidently manage with the explanation that It’s for the best for the product, but also best for my mental health. And while I can’t take a month off anytime soon, planning my next trip is good enough for now.

Again, thanks!


#7

staying focused on solving the problems I’m best suited to, and handing back work I can not confidently manage with the explanation that It’s for the best for the product

Great insight. Personally I am someone who likes to be helpful in any way that I can but you’re right solving problems you are best suited for in the long run is best. I relate to wearing multiple hats. Seeing what is mine vs what is theirs has helped me lessen my load at work. I think I have taken on not only “user” experience but my co-workers and stakeholder’s experience which isn’t my job. Luckily we hired our first project manager in the history of the company and that has helped a great deal.

At work I created a meeting called the UI/UX Meeting to make sure user experience does not get forgotten about. And although this meeting has turned into a work to do meeting, we do touch on ux and I do get feedback about ui that otherwise would be given to me via email or support tickets.

Right now I’m trying to focus on how I can “shape” my job with the work that has come my way. Understanding how your company works and it’s culture can be used to your advantage I think to create the work environment that fits you. Things pop up that is right up my ally if I can take advantage of it signing up for things I want to do before I get handed tasks not in my job description.