Category: Well-Being

Today was a Good Day: The Daily Life of Software Developers

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.

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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.

Why you need to know your priorities to reach a work-life balance

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…

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The Work Life of Developers: Activities, Switches and Perceived Productivity

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.

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FlowLight: How a Traffic-Light Reduces Interruptions at Work

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.

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David Allen: Why you should keep things off your mind to get into “the zone”

What is productivity? Many would describe it as the time you spend in “the zone” when you get things done. The time you are fully present, totally engaged with what happens, time you spend in the productive flow. But how to get there? David Allen, one of the responsible people that elicited my interest in researching productivity, talked about his time-management method getting things done in on TED a few years back.

Being appropriately engaged with what is going on

The secret to stress-free productivity, according to Allen, is to be totally committed and engaged with just a single thing at a time. The more that is on your mind at the same time, the more inappropriately you are engaged, and the less you can focus on just doing the thing you should be doing. It may sound counter intuitive or even awkward, but the key to being able to fully engage with the current project/task is to park everything unrelated to the task on a separate list that you regularly revisit in the right time and trust that it lets you never forget a thought or idea.

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Spending time in the mountains makes you happy

According to an Austrian Psychologist, people who regularly go for hikes in the mountains are happier. The positive effect already starts after 3+ hours and reduces negative feelings such as fear of failing or lack of energy.

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Why there is no “I don’t have time for that”

We all have this in common: We live in a busy world. And we all have got the same 24 hours to spend. While (at least in theory) we can choose what to spend our time on, most of us are always in a hurry. And we often excuse ourselves with: “I don’t have time for that.” But that’s not entirely true…

I was regularly thinking or saying “I don’t have time for that.”. Was. Until I saw a Ted talk by Laura Vanderkam, a time management expert, who studies how busy people spend their lives. She discovered that extremely busy people, such as a woman with multiple kids, a houshold to take care of and a very successful career, still had time to go for a hike on a Wednesday – a weekday!

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Cope with Stress and Control your Performace in any Environment

In my strive to make people more productive, less stressed and generally happier at work, I’ve found an interesting article on Business Insider who interviewed Eric Potterat, a former head psychologist for the US Navy SEALs. He mentions that one similarity of “elite people”, whether they are athletes or military members, is how they cope with stress. He describes that people who control stress can control their performance in any environment, and that anyone can learn it and turn it into a habit.

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How you can become more active at work

Are you often feeling stressed during your work days? Do you never really find the time to do sports and train your body? You are not alone, but there are many easy things to be more active and healthy at work.

Walk-Meetings

Meetings don’t have to be held in a dark and boring meeting room. Get your meeting partner(s) up and go out to take a walk. I usually take paper and pen with me (yes, they still exist! 🙂 ) to take notes.

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Work Hard, Play Hard: How to find the perfect work life balance?

tl;dr: I don’t know. But YOU should achieve it!

Some swear on only working a few hours each day, but have maximum focus and productivity in that time. Others would never work on weekends, to get time off for friends, family, sports and leisure. On the other hand, there are many successful people who are working 90 hours a week. There is a famous quote that Bill Gates never took a day off until he was 31.

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5 Ideas to Reflect about 2016.

A warm welcome to 2017!

I’ve recently backed BetterBack, a fantastic gadget for a better posture and back pain relief and I am looking forward to receive the BetterBack in April 2017. Katherine, the creator of BetterBack cited Amber Rae who suggested five ideas to reflect about 2016 that help plan a better 2017:

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Be productive like a boss with ambient background noise

Are you working in an open-space office with a lot of background noise? Can you just focus better if you hear your background mumble, like in a coffee shop? Or are you more relaxed when you hear birds sing or the sound of water?

Then, Noisli is for you! Noisli is a free and very simple service that lets you enable/disable different sounds to listen in the background. You can choose from birds, forest, wind, sea, fire, train waggons, coffee shop, and so on.

I’ve been using Noisli for the past 1-2 years and I’ve found it extremely helpful in times where I have a hard time to focus on my task. Also I cannot listen to music for a whole day when I am in the office, but I can listen to birds much longer.

I recommend everyone to try it out 🙂

How Stress is affecting your Decision-Making

The World Economic interviewed Guideon Nave, researcher at Warthon, on the impact of stress on how fast and how good we make decisions.

Find the transcript on the WEF website and learn why you should not go to the supermarket when you are stressed and what a baseball bat math quiz helps to analyze reactions of stress.

Creative hobbies can boost productivity

An interesting read on TheNextWeb summarizes recent research which has shown that actively pursuing hobbies in the spare time is not only fun and helps with work-life balance, but can also boost productivity and the IQ. These include playing an instrument, playing strategy games and exercise regularly.

Read more on TheNextWeb.com.