Want to keep developers happy and productive? One change to their working day could be the key

GitHub's survey checks on the wellbeing of developers who have been working from home for the past year.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Developers working remotely hate disruptions and don't feel helped when they need to hop on yet aonther video meeting, Microsoft-owned code sharing site GitHub has found in a small but interesting survey. 

Most of us know that interruptions can break a train of thought or workflow. After a small disruption, it can take 10 minutes to get back into a piece of work. But it also affects how we feel when working from home. 

GitHub found that developers had an 82% chance of having a good day when they had minimal or no interruptions. With constant interruptions, that figure dropped to 7%. 

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The style of survey was interesting. GitHub recruited 40 project contributor engineers to participate in a two-week-long survey where they'd be prompted once or twice a day to complete a quick survey. It was uncertain whether respondents would keep up with the survey, but some reported they liked taking the short survey because it reminded them to quickly reflect on their day. 

All respondents worked remotely, but otherwise they came from different levels, geographies, teams and products. It asked respondents to say whether their day was awesome, good, OK, bad, or terrible.  

GitHub then mapped responses to each contributor's GitHub activity, such as pull requests, comments, pushes and so forth in order get a picture of their productivity. So the survey attempted to check the well-being of developers, what contributes to that feeling, and how that impacts productivity. 

Too many Teams and Zoom video meetings was a problem for developer productivity. With two meetings per day, developers had a 74% chance of progressing their goals, but with three meetings this dropped to 14%. 

"Developers who average just one meeting per day have a 99% chance of knocking out high quality work – it really is about getting focus time and connecting with our colleagues to brainstorm ideas," GitHub senior researcher Eirini Kalliamvakou said

And if these disruptions affect output, that also affected how developers felt about the day they had. Kalliamvakou noted that developers who pushed more code and more pull requests had a higher chance of feeling good. 

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GitHub undertook the survey as part of its Good Day Project, to find out what helps developers have a good day. 

The survey also encouraged participants to engage in daily reflection to improve productivity. And GitHub gave each participant daily reports of their own answers, which helped encourage daily reflection.  

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