Developers’ mental health and productivity: let’s talk about it.

Arnaud Lachaume
Cica-Laure MBappéLink to author's LinkedIn profile
June 25, 2021
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It's difficult to preserve one’s personal balance whilst maintaining good productivity. Let's talk about developers' mental health and productivity.

Table of Content

As you can see in the title, today’s topic is a hot one. 

I have seen lots of posts, articles, discussions on Product Hunt, Indie Hackers, and about how difficult it is to preserve one’s personal balance whilst maintaining good productivity. And it’s probably never been as true as lately with the special times we have been going through. 

Development teams are always under pressure to meet deadlines and deliver great-quality software. Especially in small agencies or small teams.

We know that our work model has been burst since the pandemic and a lot of changes may be irreversible. We won’t come back full-time to the office as if nothing happened. We move toward a more hybrid work model where everybody has to find his own place.

And this raises two very important questions:

  • What about developers’ mental health?
  • How has developers’ productivity been impacted?

I made a little research and guess what:

Times have changed. (breaking news!)

The software sector is increasingly requiring new skills as technology evolves. Software developers have to keep up with the evolving work environment and the pressure of more work and most importantly, more widespread work - physically and virtually.

In this short article, I’ll just share my thoughts on these 2 hot questions. If you are a developer and you find it cozy here, read on.


zoom meeting work from home


“Smarter products need smarter development”

A survey conducted by Forrester Consulting clearly shows that in order to be innovative, the traditional development methods are not enough anymore. The companies have to level up their skillset to match customer expectations. Today, customer experience is at the center of the software development cycle. 

As you may know, it’s hard to keep up.

This pressure of having a smarter development impacts directly developers. New process, new technologies, new skills, that’s a lot to take in and keep up with!  If the transition to new company culture is not done carefully, the gap between the decision-makers and the developers widens, resulting in disagreements, work overload, burnout and usually a workplace that you don’t want to be a part of anymore.

What an optimistic future...

Companies have to ensure a healthy office environment and company culture. A company that has set workplace wellness measures is more likely to keep its teams motivated and happy and hire more enthusiastic team members.

What developers really want! 

When looking for a job, developers have needs too. The 2020 Stack overflow survey showed that after the technologies needed and the company culture, 43.9% of developers consider flex time or a flexible schedule as a job priority. Over 33% of developers are considering the same for remote work options.

These results were published before the pandemic crisis, so we can only guess that these numbers peaked in 2021.

It proves that developers are more likely to put their mental health ahead of work performances… And frankly, who could blame them for that?

Developers don’t want to be stuck in a chair Mon-Fri from 9 to 5. They have a family, some of them have children or just want to have a life apart from work.

job priorities 2020 stack overflow
2020 Stack Overflow survey - Job priorities

It makes sense.

Is developers’ productivity fairly measurable?

On the other hand, companies must reach economic and financial goals. To do so, they will look into the productivity of their teams.

There are many reasons to measure individual productivity. Estimate the deadlines, see what can be achieved as a team, and figure out how we can do more by optimizing the delivery process.

However, the manager relies on key metrics that 1# doesn’t have the same standards in another company, 2# does not reflect all the aspects of the project. Each project is so unique, that it would take a different productivity measurement method for each client. Tickets are piling up, lots of iterations are required. Also, individual productivity is hard to measure when you work as a team.

Can we really measure individual engineering productivity? In this article, Gergely Orosz states that measuring productivity comes with a context. For example, a new developer can take time to execute tasks, it’s normal. But if it’s a veteran developer, something else might slow down the process and block him from finishing the task. Hence the impacted productivity.

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Help yourself to beat the struggles

Despite all the identified issues, the same QT survey shows that 65% of interviewed companies are concerned about their developers’ wellness. Not a big number, but it’s a starting point for raising awareness for all the developers out there that struggle with their mental health.

I’m not a psychologist, but I suggest you take care of your mental health well. For me, it should come first. Eat well, sleep well, work out, repeat. If you have identified it for yourself or a colleague, go to a qualified person to talk to in your company or consult a professional.

There are a lot of developers sharing about mental health on social media. On Youtube, Traversy Media did a great video about it.

Well, that’s it for now. Don’t hesitate to speak with us on Twitter.

Oh, here’s a virtual hug - we know you want it! 


virtual hug Monster&Cie