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Most Developers Are Eager for Face-to-Face Collaboration with Colleagues

By Brian Rue, CEO and Co-founder of Rollbar

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than a third of Americans worked from home during the pandemic. Among high earners, like developers, the figure was more than double that.

As vaccination rates rise in the U.S. and businesses begin thinking about moving employees back into the office, we wanted to know how working from home affected the work-life balance of developers, and how they felt about returning to work in person.

We teamed up with independent survey research firm Propeller Insights to conduct a national survey of 950 developers and engineers across the U.S. Here's what we found out.

The vast majority of developers (77%) said the pandemic impacted their jobs significantly. Gen Z developers were most affected (90%), and Boomers were least affected (52%).

Developers miss face-to-face collaboration with colleagues

Perhaps the most striking finding from the survey is how many developers miss collaborating with colleagues in person. More than three-quarters-78%-said this is what they miss most about working in an office environment.

This is not surprising. Coding is a team sport. It's easier to get someone to spontaneously review or talk through code in person. It's harder over Zoom. The same is true when it comes to fixing bugs. But working from home has made this kind of collaboration more challenging.

Effects on work

Developers cited an increased demand for software as the top way the pandemic affected their work life, requiring them to spend more time monitoring for and fixing bugs. Nearly a fourth (23%) of the developer survey group cited this challenge, which includes 28% of Millennials and Gen Xers.

But not all developers struggled with an increased workload. While 18% said that they have been on call for more hours each day, week or month since COVID-19 hit, slightly more (20%) said their hours have been reduced during the pandemic.

Close to a fifth (17%) said their budgets have been slashed. Slashed budgets were most pronounced in the Midwest, where nearly a fourth (23%) of developers noted this challenge.

Remote work has led to struggles with work-life balance

Finding the right work-life balance has been tricky for developers working from home during the pandemic-about half of whom (48%) said working remotely was a new experience.

  • 22% said they have less work-life balance working remotely.
  • 20% said they are more stressed at work because they have a smaller team.
  • 19% said that remote work has adversely impacted their mental health.
  • 10% said remote work has had negative consequences on their family life.

Workplaces provide a structure that work-from-home (WFH) environments don't. Yet many American businesses sent employees home to work remotely more than a year ago. At the time, most did not expect that to be a long-term situation. In the WFH world, people can't just leave at the end of the day, so it can be difficult to establish boundaries and prioritize self-care.

And yet, many would prefer to keep working from home

All of the challenges above notwithstanding, developers clearly have mixed feelings about remote work. While 41% are eager to get back to the office as soon as it's safe, a third (34%) said they enjoyed working from home and would prefer to keep doing so.

Interestingly, age and geography played a role here: Younger developers were more eager to go back to the office than older developers, and developers in the Northeast (49%) were more excited to get back to the office than developers in the South (37%).

This is good news for businesses that are looking to hire developers, which can be a challenge. Hiring remote developers allows companies to expand their talent pool - not just to new cities, but also into new countries.

Some developers have struggled with remote work while others have thrived. As this research illustrates, this year brought a lot of growing pains. But employers and their employees adapted. It seems unlikely that technology companies in particular will return to the full-time in-office model that existed before the pandemic. However, as this research shows, developers clearly value in-person collaboration, so businesses must continue to make space for that.



Brian Rue 

Brian Rue is the CEO and Co-founder of Rollbar, a SF-based provider of real-time error monitoring Software as a Service, where he leads the company's overall strategy and direction. Brian founded the company with Cory Virok in 2012. Prior to Rollbar, Brian was the CTO and Co-founder of Lolapps, a leading publisher of independent games on social networks and mobile platforms. Brian attended Stanford University where he studied Management Science and Engineering.

Published Monday, June 07, 2021 7:33 AM by David Marshall
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