Worried your developers will quit? These are the 5 things that coders say keep them happy at work

Developers reveal what they love - and hate - about their jobs.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor
Image: Getty/Maskot

As the great reshuffle continues to sees many tech workers moving jobs, companies are having to think hard about what they can do to retain key staff and keep their software teams running smoothly.

A survey by Stack Overflow found that 90% of developers believe it's important for them to be happy at work. With as many as three-quarters of developers either actively looking for a new job or open to new opportunities, employers should take note of what keeps their software teams sweet – particularly as competition in the hiring market becomes more ferocious.

The key takeaway? Money isn't everything – but it certainly helps. When asked what was most likely to make them happy at work, 210 of the 350 developers quizzed (60%) cited salary or paycheck. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that demand for software pros has seen tech salaries reach record highs in recent months.

SEE: Developer jobs and programming languages: What's hot and what's next

That's not to say that developers are driven by salary alone: only 37% of developers surveyed said that their salary was a direct driver of unhappiness of work. Evidently, coders see value in their work beyond the numbers on their paycheck.

Another big driver of workplace happiness is the ability to have a work-life balance, cited by 58% of developers surveyed. Likewise, 52% of developers believe flexibility with work makes them happy in their jobs – an important factor for employers that are considering the introduction of a full-time return to the office.

Developers also like feeling productive at work: 52% cited productivity as a happiness driver, with Matt Kiernander, technical advocate at Stack Overflow, saying that the ability to get things done played "a much more critical role in team happiness than we probably realize".

In fact, feeling unproductive at work was number one (45%) among the factors that cause unhappiness for developers – even above salary, which came in fourth (37%) after a lack of work-life balance (40%) and a lack of growth opportunities (39%).

The demand for productivity shouldn't be a surprise, Kiernander added: "When I code, I don't like disruptions in my flow state. Constantly stopping and starting makes me feel unproductive. We all want to feel like we're making a difference, and hitting roadblocks at work just because you're not sure where to find answers, is incredibly frustrating."

Image: Stack Overflow

Growth opportunities rounded out the top-five factors for ensuring developer happiness. All employees want to feel that their careers are going somewhere and they are learning new skills along the way, and developers are no different.

Developers are happy... for now

The good news is that, for the most part, developers seem pretty content with where they are right now. According to Stack Overflow research, approximately 70% of working developers are currently happy at work. India, the US, Germany, Spain, and the U.K. were identified as the countries that are home to the happiest software engineers.

But bosses will need to move in step with the rise of hybrid working and evolving employee expectations if they hope to sustain this positive trend. This shift means taking new working preferences into consideration.

"All in all, developers value flexibility," said Stack Overflow. "Not every work environment works for everyone in the same ways. Still, 45% developers say the ideal work environment is in their own home, while 27% say it's in an office building. As if we needed further evidence that hybrid work was here to stay."  

Editorial standards