Microsoft: This is how coronavirus home-working is changing our developers' habits

With all its engineers at home because of COVID-19, Microsoft is looking at their productivity and working patterns.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft has run an analysis of the productivity of its Office product engineers during the company's remote-work response to the new coronavirus outbreak.

The company is using the number of completed pull requests as a proxy to measure its engineers' productivity while working from home. While it says it has found no decline in productivity, it has detected new working patterns. 

"Across work items, commits, and pull requests, we're not seeing any declines," said Aleš Holeček, corporate vice president of the Office Experience Organization Engineering team. 

But Microsoft has found a number of trends that appear to have been caused by the en masse shift to remote working, versus the norm where some software engineers might be remote working on any given day. 

SEE: Working from home: Success tips for telecommuters (free PDF)

While it's still early days, Microsoft found that on the week commencing March 8 there was no typical lunchtime dip in productivity. 

In the four weeks leading up to that point, there was a noticeable dip in the number of the builds each engineer output as they workers headed to Microsoft's many restaurants and cafes

Additionally, it looks like engineers are starting work earlier than normal and working later into the evening. 

Microsoft has also found that mid-afternoon peaks in build counts are slightly lower than usual.      

Holeček, who was appointed to his role in February, also noted several changes that Microsoft has implemented to help developers maintain productivity while remote working. Microsoft of course is well placed to enable this with its own collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. 

SEE: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

He also recommends that development teams give developers laptops with the Windows Virtual Desktop to let them remote into their development environment. Alternatively, Microsoft recommends setting up a managed Hyper-V VM on the developer's home machine and using it for direct VPN and remote work. 

For developers who don't need direct access to remote services, there's Visual Studio Online, a development environment in the cloud. 


Microsoft found that on the week commencing March 8 there was no typical lunchtime dip in productivity.   

Image: Microsoft
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