Satisfaction and Performance of Software Developers During Enforced Work From Home in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mar 9, 2023

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the daily lives of software engineers were heavily disrupted as they were abruptly forced to work remotely from home. To better understand and contrast typical working days in this new reality with work in pre-pandemic times, we conducted one exploratory (N = 192) and one confirmatory study (N = 290) with software engineers recruited remotely. Specifically, we build on self-determination theory to evaluate whether and how specific activities are associated with software engineers’ satisfaction and productivity. To explore the subject domain, we first ran a two-wave longitudinal study. We found that the time software engineers spent on specific activities (e.g., coding, bugfixing, helping others) while working from home was similar to pre-pandemic times. Also, the amount of time developers spent on each activity was unrelated to their general well-being, perceived productivity, and other variables such as basic needs. Our confirmatory study found that activity-specific variables (e.g., how much autonomy software engineers had during coding) do predict activity satisfaction and productivity but not by activity-independent variables such as general resilience or a good work-life balance. Interestingly, we found that satisfaction and autonomy were significantly higher when software engineers were helping others and lower when they were bugfixing. Finally, we discuss implications for software engineers, management, and researchers. In particular, active company policies to support developers’ need for autonomy, relatedness, and competence appear particularly effective in a WFH context.

  • Daniel Russo
  • Paul H. P. Hanel
  • Seraphina Altnickel
  • Niels van Berkel

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