‘How Was Your Weekend?’ Software Development Teams Working From Home During COVID-19

ICSE 2021 |

The mass shift to working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way many software development teams collaborate and communicate. To investigate how team culture and team productivity may also have been affected, we conducted two surveys at a large software company. The first, an exploratory survey during the early months of the pandemic with 2,265 developer responses, revealed that many developers faced challenges reaching milestones and that their team productivity had changed. We also found through qualitative analysis that important team culture factors such as communication and social connection had been affected. For example, the simple phrase “How was your weekend?” had become a subtle way to show peer support.

In our second survey, we conducted a quantitative analysis of the team cultural factors that emerged from our first survey to understand the prevalence of the reported changes. From 608 developer responses, we found that 74% of these respondents missed social interactions with colleagues and 51% reported a decrease in their communication ease with colleagues. We used data from the second survey to build a regression model to identify important team culture factors for modeling team productivity. We found that the ability to brainstorm with colleagues, difficulty communicating with colleagues, and satisfaction with interactions from social activities are important factors associated with how developers report their software development team’s productivity. Our findings inform how managers and leaders in large software companies can support sustained team productivity during times of crisis and beyond.

A Tale of Two Cities: Software Developers in Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Tale of Two Cities: Software Developers in Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic—Dr. Denae Ford Robinson, Invited Seminar @ CMU HCII The mass shift to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way many software development teams collaborate, communicate, and define productivity. Since the early months of the pandemic, we have been collecting data on changes in developer productivity, pivots in strategy to remote onboarding, and recommendations on how to better support work during this time along social and technical axes. In this talk, I will present findings from several empirical studies with over 4,509 responses about the challenges and triumphs software developers have had amidst unconventional work-from-home circumstances and how some developers have taken the pandemic as a call to use their technical abilities to support a broader social good. I will close with open questions about hybrid technical work and how remote work will continue to evolve. Speaker's bio: Dr. Denae Ford Robinson is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research in the SAINTes group and an Affiliate Assistant Professor in the Human Centered Design and Engineering Department at the University of Washington. Her research lies at the intersection of Human-Computer Interaction and Software Engineering. In her work, she identifies and dismantles cognitive and social barriers by designing mechanisms to support software developer participation in online socio-technical ecosystems. She is best known for her research on just-in-time mentorship as a mode to empower welcoming engagement in collaborative Q&A for online programming communities, including open-source software and work to empower marginalized software developers in online communities. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University. She also received her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Graduate Minor in Cognitive Science from North Carolina State University. She is also a recipient of the National GEM Consortium Fellowship, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and Microsoft Research Ph.D. Fellowship. Her research publications can be found under her pen name 'Denae Ford'. More information about her latest research can be found on her website: http://denaeford.me/