Challenges and Gratitude: A Diary Study of Software Engineers Working From Home During Covid-19 Pandemic


The Covid-19 pandemic dramatically changed how organizations worked. Microsoft was one of the first to ask employees to work from home (WFH). We developed an anonymous nightly diary study with 435 participants, and we learned about their experiences over the first 10 weeks of the WFH directive. We found the largest challenges were having too many meetings, feeling overworked, and physical and mental health. However, there were things to be grateful for, and many people were thankful for family, increased flexibility, their job, and their team. We also learned that the simple act of reflecting nightly during the study could be helpful: people who reported no gratitude were 22% (p-value=.000007) less likely to report being satisfied that day. Our management used the anonymized, aggregate data to create new programs (such as No Meeting Friday) to address these challenges. We then saw immediate feedback on these programs in the diaries and used that to inform future decisions.


work from home, developer wellbeing, developer satisfaction, covid-19


Jenna L. Butler, PhD

Jenna Butler holds a PhD in Computer Science and specialized in Bioinformatics. She is an Adjunct Professor at Bellevue College in their Radiation Therapy department and is a Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft. Recently Jenna has been working with the Software Analysis and Intelligence (SAINT) team in MSR to study onboarding; working in the services; and the impact of remote work during this time. Jenna most enjoys multidisciplinary work that can benefit wellbeing and health.

Sofia Jaffe, PhD

Sonia Jaffe is a Senior Research Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist. She is interested in a broad range of topics in applied microtheory. Her research has included projects in health economics, matching theory, public finance, and industrial organization. Sonia’s academic research papers can be found at Sonia received her PhD from Harvard University in 2015. She was a postdoc at the University of Chicago before joining Microsoft in 2018.

New Future of Work 2020, August 3–5, 2020
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