It’s official: UK developers worked more than ever in 2020

GitHub’s 2020 State of the Octoverse report shows that developers worked more than ever this year as remote working became the norm around the world.

It’s official: UK developers worked more than ever in 2020
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It should come as no surprise that software developers have worked more in 2020 than recent years on record, as the UK government imposed various lockdown measures which have welded engineers to their laptops for longer each day and also into the weekend.

Findings from GitHub’s State of the Octoverse 2020 report showed UK developers working more hours this year than before.

GitHub aggregated data from more than 35,000 paid organization accounts that see monthly activity each month on its platform through September 2020. These are mostly based in the US (41%) with Europe and Asia accounting for 35% and 17% respectively.

Developers work longer days, and weekends too

By measuring the time and number of pushes made between a developer’s first and last Git push to any repository’s default branch during a day—a push window—GitHub estimates that developers are working more than before the pandemic. As stated in the report:

We see increased development work—both time spent and amount of work—across all time zones we investigated. Developers may be taking advantage of flexible schedules to manage their time and energy, which contributes to this sustained productivity. We caution that if work happens at the expense of personal time and breaks to maintain a healthy work life balance, this pace may not be sustainable in the long run.

In the UK specifically, users in that time zone saw push volume begin to dramatically climb in mid-June, where it remained elevated year-over-year throughout the summer. Put bluntly in the report, “people in the UK time zone are working longer hours and also doing more starting in June.”

Push windows across the UK started to get noticeably longer in mid-March before leveling off at three minutes longer than the previous year through August, representing longer working days for developers.

The report also found that virtually all developers work weekends, with the average UK developer working 3.7 hours on Saturday and Sundays and their US colleagues working 4.3 hours on Saturdays and 5.4 hours on Sundays.

Commit volume also spikes at weekends, which may “represent an increase in the amount of personal work, such as open source, hobbies, and education,” the report speculates.

Interestingly, the US west coast saw the most developer hours occurring this year. “This may be driven by tech’s culture of overwork (with two strong tech centers located in this time zone), or trying to work across several time zones with other colleagues, stretching from Europe to Asia. This could be concerning for long-term sustainability and burnout,” the report notes.

The weekends are for open source

Another trend the report found was developers shifting from their day jobs to open source projects during the evenings and weekends.

“The longer work weeks we see now may continue, even after we return to traditional workplaces. In particular, the new “night shift” is more common,” the report says.

While developers do often walk away from their work on holidays and weekends, open source project activity spikes during those times. “This suggests that open source is viewed differently from other work and may be an outlet, providing a great opportunity for people to learn, grow, be creative, and engage with community,” the report says.

This could provide developer leads with the impetus to examine policies around external work, to allow time for learning, including moonlighting policies that allow for external projects.

Avoiding burnout

The report does reiterate that while all of this may be good news for business leaders, the risk of burnout to developer teams is as high as it has ever been.

The report advises three things to help stave off burnout:

  • Take a few minutes each day to reflect on something you’re grateful for. Some developers report that this has a positive impact on their frame of mind.
  • Instead of managing your time, manage your energy. Identify patterns that help you maintain higher levels of energy, and optimise for those. If you’re a morning person, get your important tasks done then. If you hit your stride in the late afternoon or evening, see if you can arrange with your team to take a later shift.
  • Support flexible, sustainable work schedules and watch for signs of burnout in team members. This helps keep our teams and ourselves happier and more productive.


Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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