As knowledge workers, we rely on our ability to concentrate and complete our tasks efficiently and effectively. However, with the constant influx of new information, interruptions from co-workers asking for help and distractions, it can be a major challenge to stay in focus for more than a few minutes at a time. Balancing all the different activities and duties and constantly recovering from interruptions throughout the day can be taxing on workers, resulting in higher stress, reduced motivation and more errors. In addition, finding such a balance can be challenging due to intricacies of everyday work, such as unplanned tasks or problems coming up, the natural need to collaborate frequently within and across teams, personal preferences on when and how to communicate and work, as well as trends towards remote/hybrid work.Read more →
Category: Productivity (page 1 of 3)
A couple of years ago, I’ve started experimenting with walk meetings for the first time, and briefly wrote about them in my blog. Little did I know back then that I would suddenly have way more time to walk, and that being outside was the only relatively safe way to talk to people face-to-face, and to limit risking an infection with COVID-19.
At work, spending an entire day in meeting rooms at the office or in a Teams or Zoom-meeting at the home office is certainly not very appealing, and spending that time sitting is actually quite unhealthy. After all, our bodies are not made for sitting, but we’re nonetheless sitting on average 9.3 hours a day, and this was before the pandemic!Read more →
Recently, Abi Noda and I talked about our Book chapter in the ‘Rethinking Productivity in Software Engineering‘ book on our research to better understand software developers’ perceptions of productivity, and how these insights might be applied by managers and team leads in software teams.Read more →
Staying motivated and continuing information flow and knowledge exchange is very challenging during a pandemic, especially for teams which are not used to the remote-only setting.
In this blogpost that we published in the Balzano Informatik AG Blog, I write about the four new tracks we’ve introduced at Balzano Informatik AG to foster continuous learning and knowledge exchange for our work on ScanDiags.Read more →
I am thrilled to announce our most recent paper on how we are helping developers become more productive and enable better work habits through reflective goal-setting. IT was recently accepted to the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering Journal.
Co-Authors: André N. Meyer (University of Zurich), Gail C. Murphy (University of British Columbia), Thomas Zimmermann (Microsoft Research), Thomas Fritz (University of Zurich).
You may download the pre-print here.Read more →
I am proud to have been given the chance to author three chapters in our new productivity book, which is the result from a thought-provoking and discussion-intensive Dagstuhl Seminar in 2017. It was edited by Caitlin Sadowski and Thomas Zimmermann, and is available for free (OpenAccess). In the book, software engineering researchers review and discuss productivity, by covering definitions and core concepts related to productivity, guidelines for measuring productivity in specific contexts, best practices and pitfalls, and theories and open questions on productivity. You’ll benefit from the many short chapters, each offering a focused discussion on one aspect of productivity in software engineering.Read more →
I am excited to announce that another paper that I’ve worked on during my second internship at Microsoft Research was just accepted to the IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering Journal.
Abstract: What is a good workday for a software developer? What is a typical workday? We seek to answer these two questions to learn how to make good days typical. Concretely, answering these questions will help to optimize development processes and select tools that increase job satisfaction and productivity. Our work adds to a large body of research on how software developers spend their time. We report the results from 5971 responses of professional developers at Microsoft, who reflected about what made their workdays good and typical, and self-reported about how they spent their time on various activities at work. We developed conceptual frameworks to help define and characterize developer workdays from two new perspectives: good and typical. Our analysis confirms some findings in previous work, including the fact that developers actually spend little time on development and developers’ aversion for meetings and interruptions. It also discovered new findings, such as that only 1.7% of survey responses mentioned emails as a reason for a bad workday, and that meetings and interruptions are only unproductive during development phases; during phases of planning, specification and release, they are common and constructive. One key finding is the importance of agency, developers’ control over their workday and whether it goes as planned or is disrupted by external factors. We present actionable recommendations for researchers and managers to prioritize process and tool improvements that make good workdays typical. For instance, in light of our finding on the importance of agency, we recommend that, where possible, managers empower developers to choose their tools and tasks.
Design Recommendations for Self-Monitoring in the Workplace: Studies in Software Development
I am excited to announce my first paper to the CSCW conference!
Abstract: One way to improve the productivity of knowledge workers is to increase their self-awareness about productivity at work through self-monitoring. Yet, little is known about expectations of, the experience with, and the impact of self-monitoring in the workplace. To address this gap, we studied software developers, as one community of knowledge workers. We used an iterative, user-feedback-driven development approach (N=20) and a survey (N=413) to infer design elements for workplace self-monitoring, which we then implemented as a technology probe called WorkAnalytics. We field-tested these design elements during a three-week study with software development professionals (N=43). Based on the results of the field study, we present design recommendations for self-monitoring in the workplace, such as using experience sampling to increase the awareness about work and to create richer insights, the need for a large variety of different metrics to retrospect about work, and that actionable insights, enriched with benchmarking data from co-workers, are likely needed to foster productive behavior change and improve collaboration at work. Our work can serve as a starting point for researchers and practitioners to build self-monitoring tools for the workplace.
Co-Authors: André N. Meyer (University of Zurich), Gail C. Murphy (University of British Columbia), Tom Zimmermann (Microsoft Research), Thomas Fritz (University of Zurich)
You can download the pre-print here.
PersonalAnalytics, our self-monitoring tool, is available on Github here.
Screencast of my talk that I recently gave at Tasktop. I talked about how we aim to improve developer productivity by increasing their awareness about their work, interruptions, habits and goals.
Click here to access the full blogpost by Patrick Anderson from Tasktop
Sensing Interruptibility in the Office: A Field Study on the Use of Biometric and Computer Interaction Sensors
Knowledge workers experience many interruptions during their work day. Especially when they happen at inopportune moments, interruptions can incur high costs, cause time loss and frustration. Knowing a person’s interruptibility allows optimizing the timing of interruptions and minimize disruption. Recent advances in technology provide the opportunity to collect a wide variety of data on knowledge workers to predict interruptibility. While prior work predominantly examined interruptibility based on a single data type and in short lab studies, we conducted a two-week ﬁeld study with 13 professional software developers to investigate a variety of computer interaction, heart-, sleep-, and physical activity-related data. Our analysis shows that computer interaction data is more accurate in predicting interruptibility at the computer than biometric data (74.8% vs. 68.3% accuracy), and that combining both yields the best results (75.7% accuracy). Read more →
One topic that many software developers in our productivity studies are very vocal about are meetings. For example, in an online survey with 379 developers, 58% described meetings as a waste of time – one of the main reasons for feeling unproductive. In this blogpost, I explore reasons why meetings are so unpopular, especially for developers, and discuss why I think meeting agendas could make your meetings more efficient and successful!
I am often thinking and talking to other people about how to reach a balance in work-life; a balance that I sometimes reach, but often cannot hold for long. The reason is that I often lose track of what really matters, what brings me forward, and what I enjoy doing. I start to say ‘yes’ to all requests, start to work long hours, stop my exercise routine, and slowly find myself (again) fighting against the storm of work and obligations…
This work has been conducted by André Meyer (UZH), Thomas Zimmermann (Microsoft Research) and Thomas Fritz (UBC). This research has been published to the industrial papers track at the ESEM’17 in Toronto. Thomas Zimmermann will present it on Thursday, November 9th, 2017 at 1pm in Session 4B: Qualitative Research.
Studying Developers’ Perceptions of Productivity instead of Measuring it
To overcome the ever-growing demand for software, we need new ways of optimizing the productivity of software developers. Existing work has predominantly focused on top-down approaches for defining or measuring productivity, such as lines of code, function points, or completed tasks over time. While these measurements are valuable to compare certain aspects of productivity, we argue that they miss the many other factors that influence the success and productivity of a software developer, such as the fragmentation of their work, their experience, and so on.
This work has been conducted by André Meyer (UZH), Laura Barton (UBC), Gail Murphy (UBC), Thomas Zimmermann (Microsoft) and Thomas Fritz (UZH).
Many software development companies strive to enhance the productivity of their engineers. All too often, efforts aimed at improving developer productivity are undertaken without knowledge about how developers spend their time at work and how it influences their own perception of productivity and well-being. For example, a software developers’ work day might be influenced by the tasks that are performed, by the infrastructure, tools used, or the office environment. Many of these factors result in activity and context switches that can cause fragmented work and, thus, often have a negative impact on the developers’ perceived productivity, quality of output and progress on tasks.
Update 2022: The new modern hybrid workplace scenarios show that finding a balance between deep work and collaboration is more important than ever. Since we are still receiving strong interest from companies and individuals for using the FlowLight, we revived the project. Learn more here!
Original post: I am extremely happy to announce our newest project, FlowLight, a traffic-light-like light for knowledge workers to reduce their interruptions at work, and makes them more productive! The research project, published with the title “Reducing Interruptions at Work: A Large-Scale Field Study of FlowLight”, was conducted in close collaboration with researchers at ABB. It was also awared with an Honorable Mention award.