How Happiness Impacts Software Developer Productivity

A chart measuring software developer productivity levels

Key research regarding software developer productivity was undertaken in late 2022, with the results highlighting a significant correlation between software developer happiness and productivity.

Happy developers are more likely to produce better and more effective code during their sprints, reducing code churn. They are also more likely to remain with their employers and not actively seek new opportunities.

With development talent notoriously high in demand, the necessity to attract and retain developer talent has never been stronger. In fact, 1 in 3 developer roles remain unfilled. So if you hire or manage software developers, this blog is made for you!

What is software developer productivity?

Defining software developer productivity can be daunting for companies if they’ve not managed a development team before. Some companies look to metrics of hours worked, individual performance, or the quantity of code in order to measure productivity. However, this will not ensure you are getting the best out of your development team.

In the world of developers, it is quality over quantity. Instead of measuring lines of code or the number of commits, focus on whether deadlines are being hit or if problems are being solved quicker. Pushing for KPIs focused on high output could lead to a higher code churn. Code churn is a normal part of a developer process and is a metric to show how often code is having to be edited. However, if the team is writing lots of lines of code and they are consistently having to be reworked, that is an issue. Therefore, the quality of the code and low levels of code churn can be a key metric of productivity.

Each project will have its own individual complexities, so businesses should be cautious of focusing on outputs exclusively. Any measurements of software developer productivity should be moulded for each project.

How to measure software developer productivity

Before the project starts, it is helpful to set out parameters regarding how productivity will be measured.

Key ways you can calculate productivity include:

  • Levels of code churn
  • Deployment frequency
  • Cycle time
  • Mean lead time for changes (MLT)
  • Mean time to recovery (MTTR)
  • Change failure rate (CFR)

Some barriers to productivity can be from scope creep. Essentially, this involves a sprint’s planned targets not being hit due to unplanned work being added. Scope creep can delay a project and create a loss of productivity.

Other barriers can also be due to developer experience. This can be directly linked to developer happiness which can largely affect the productivity levels in a team. Therefore, the happiness of your development team should be of paramount importance to you!

How software developer productivity is linked to happiness

If your company is coming up short, there are things you can do to improve developer productivity. One of the main aspects to increasing developer productivity is by taking note of happiness levels across your team.

A landmark study by Zenhub found that software developer happiness is crucial to productivity and engagement.

Some of the survey’s key findings include:

  • Good work-life balance is one of the biggest factors in where they will stay in a job
  • Developers want to spend at least half of their working week designing, coding and debugging
  • Up to 70% reported losing at least 3 hours a week in waiting on delayed feedback from management

Another study in 2021 found that developers who are happier are more likely to be productive as they are able to focus on their work. Developers often work in sprints where they have to be agile and work quickly to meet deadlines. They also need to efficiently adapt in any given scenario.

You want to be able to push your developers to innovate and meet high standards, to ensure your business has a competitive edge. By ensuring your team is happy at work, you ensure they are productive. Developers are more likely to produce higher quality outputs if they are happier at work.

How to increase software developer happiness

Developer happiness isn’t just directly linked to software developer productivity levels, but also to retainment. If you are not focusing on keeping your developers happy, you will struggle to retain the best talent. This will inevitably affect the overall productivity of your development team.

There are numerous ways to aid happiness levels, which will then increase developer productivity.

Work-life balance

This is a key area for both developer happiness and retainment. Zenhub’s study found that 24% of developers say work-life balance is the biggest reason for staying with their current employer. In addition to this, 21% feel an unmanageable work-life balance would make them look for another job. Ensuring developers are happy and balanced in their jobs is paramount to retainment and productivity.

Place of work

Around 60% of developers feel they are most productive when working remotely full or part time. Allowing developers autonomy of where they would like to work will increase their productivity.

Number of meetings

According to Zenhub, attending meetings take up 35% of a developer’s time. This ultimately takes them away from coding, commits and deployments, and correlates to 44% of developers believing that they spend too much time in meetings. A way to improve software developer productivity is to curb unimportant meetings or ones which are not directly linked to an individual developer’s role.

Working on meaningful projects

As we have established, developers love showing off their skills and having pride in their work. If your development team works on projects that will have an evidently significant impact on the company, this will increase happiness and pride levels. The quality of projects is a big factor in software developer happiness, with 27% of developers who are extremely satisfied in their jobs reporting to spend most of their time on meaningful projects.

Why software developer happiness is so important

Developers are well sought-after professionals. They are very high in demand. Their happiness levels are crucial as it can both improve overall developer productivity and also be a way to increase retention. By being so in demand, developers can easily move between companies if they do not feel happy or appreciated.

Development roles are highly technical and often have a crucial and deeply rooted impact on business performance. From company websites to apps to internal communication systems, software developers cover it all. An integral part of any IT team, developers maintain and deploy systems as well as test and debug software. If you want to ensure you have the most up to date and innovative software around, ensuring high levels of software developer productivity is key.

Furthermore, demand is high due to the acute skills gap the technical market is currently experiencing. This is due to a whole host of reasons including Brexit and tighter immigration laws restricting the number of development professionals coming to the UK. With so many roles remaining unfilled and 74% of developers actively looking for new roles or at least being open to new opportunities, retention, and recruitment is at the forefront of many employers’ minds. Thus, making software developer happiness of paramount importance.


If you are looking to increase your developmment team’s capacity by contracting or permanently hiring a new software developer, please contact us today.

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