I am currently in Vancouver (CA) and will soon leave for Seattle (US), where I got the big chance to run the context switches study for my master thesis.

In this study, we want to investigate the context switches and interruptions that developers experience in their workday and their impact on productivity. Therefore, we are observing developers in their workday by shadowing them and writing down the activities they work on and the switches/interruptions they encounter and perform in their work. After the observation session, we are conducting short interviews with the developers on these observations and the correlation between context switches and productivity, e.g., whether they think that certain switches/interruptions are particularly disruptive to their productivity, if they actively try to prevent interruptions and whether and when handling emails and meetings are decreasing productivity.

With the results of this study we hope to gain insights into the correlation between a developer’s activities, context switches and the felt productivity. Furthermore, we hope to be able to determine heuristics in how to automatically identify context switches and their impact on productivity.

The idea for this study stems from the results of a survey that we ran with approximately 350 software developers and that shows that many developers consider themselves more productive when they have few switches that interrupt their focus on a task.