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posted by girlwhowaspluggedout on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the i-thought-those-perks-were-meant-to-keep-us-at-the-office-until-dawn dept.

lhsi writes:

"Research done by the Free University of Bozen-Bolzanohas in Italy concluded that happy software developers are better at solving analytical problems. 'Even simple and short activities', the researchers note, 'may impact the affective states of software developers.'

Many large software companies have been providing various perks to developers, hoping that they will become more productive. Based on a study of 42 students from the Faculty of Computer Science, this research seems to validate that practice. Its findings suggest that 'the happiest software developers are more productive in analytical problem solving performance.' This is in contradiction to previous studies, most of which concluding that negative affective states foster analytic problem-solving performance.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Marneus68 on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:18PM

    by Marneus68 (3572) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:18PM (#14873) Homepage

    I'm tempted to say that this might be the same for any kind of work really. A happy worker is a productive worker.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:26PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:26PM (#14880)

      I would argue that it has a bigger effect on software developers' productivity that it would in non-creative jobs, like movie projectionist. Whether the person projecting a movie is happy or sad is largely ineffectual on their work. When a software developer is demoralized, you can get some truly awful code.

      • (Score: 2) by lhsi on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:09PM

        by lhsi (711) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:09PM (#14902) Journal

        I would argue that it has a bigger effect on software developers' productivity that it would in non-creative jobs

        This is essentially the crux of the study. The participants who were happier did better at the analytical tasks - a skill that is very important for programming.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by tynin on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:22PM

    by tynin (2013) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:22PM (#14877) Journal
    This is in contradiction to previous studies, most of which concluding that negative affective states foster analytic problem-solving performance.

    This reminds me of the quote:
    The beatings will continue, until morale improves!
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by pbnjoe on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:13PM

      by pbnjoe (313) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:13PM (#14910) Journal

      Yeah, it would make sense that beating, if you will, people into doing something faster would increase the speed of their output in the short term, but then they'd doubtlessly get stressed and upset, leading to apathy and decreased performance in the long run. (Also c'mon that's unethical, heh)

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by gishzida on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:55PM

        by gishzida (2870) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:55PM (#14922) Journal

        Guess you've never worked in a "right to work" state... the employer has all the cards. They will do what they like and get away with it. Like it or get another job.

        The truth of the matter is many of these kinds of employers don't want you to stick around for long because a long term employee might cost them money... which means smaller management bonuses so they don't care if they are abusive.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by EvilJim on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:58PM

        by EvilJim (2501) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:58PM (#14952) Journal

        it's only unethical in some countries, in other's it's standard business practice.

  • (Score: 1) by CHALLNGEACCPTD on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:24PM

    by CHALLNGEACCPTD (1974) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:24PM (#14879)

    I am happiest in silence, free to develop. I don't want activities. I want to be left alone; steered as needed.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Fluffeh on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:28PM

      by Fluffeh (954) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:28PM (#14881) Journal

      That's what makes you happy. This study isn't about whether music and a mini-bar make better programmers, it's about whether being happy makes one a better programmer.

      For some people, music and a mini-bar make the happy, for others, it is silence and being free to develop. It comes down to "When you get what makes you happy, you will work better." and honestly, it seems a bit of a no-brainer.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by tlezer on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:46PM

        by tlezer (708) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:46PM (#14890)

        I think this is right. The problem is that even if HR or PHB understand this, they may try to apply a one size fits all methodology to engender happiness.

      • (Score: 2) by Random2 on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:20PM

        by Random2 (669) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:20PM (#14913)

        Yeah, if my skim of the article is correct (hurray non-paywall!) they had each of the participants self-identify their 'relative happiness' levels with some special tests and then had them perform a task. They then analyzed the tasks to determine how well they were done and if it correlated to how 'happy' they were.

        They didn't see much of a correlation for the 'creative' tasks, but there was one for the 'analytical' tasks, such as software development.

        It wasn't that they were adding stimulus to 'make the participants feel a certain way' (which they spent a large chunk of the article arguing against), but instead determined what state they were in as they went to perform work (doesn't appear to say if they let the participant 'work as they felt comfortable').

        --
        If only I registered 3 users earlier....
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by ticho on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:38PM

    by ticho (89) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @09:38PM (#14886) Homepage Journal

    Well, duh!

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by pbnjoe on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:07PM

    by pbnjoe (313) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:07PM (#14900) Journal

    that being happy not only helps devs solve things analytically, but it helps anyone do most anything. More motivation and willingness, less thought time spent on their worries, etc. should lead to actions being done better and faster, no?

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by prospectacle on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:09PM

    by prospectacle (3422) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:09PM (#14904) Journal

    A lot of work and study environments do almost nothing to promote a productive mental state. But surely this affects every other task and subject.

    I bet most everyone here could name five things that help them work better on mentally-demanding tasks. Two or three of these may be rendered almost impossible by the way the office they work in is designed and laid out. These factors won't always be the same thing for each person, but strong trends would emerge if you asked ten people.

    These factors could then be tested quite easily, if you had the time and volunteers. You could do puzzles and assignments of different kinds. Some of this research has been done, but surprisingly little from what I can see, especially given how important it is.

    What are your top five? Mine top five are:
    - Sticking to the same task for at least an hour at a time (if there's that much work in it).
    - Having a short break from concentrating after no more than an hour and a half, to refresh.
    - Being distracted for even a minute when you're in the zone can set you back five or ten minutes due to lost momentum and clarity. This might be reading a website, or someone talking to you. Being interrupted a minute out of every ten therefore leads to no work being done.
    - I can listen to something at the same time as working, but not watch or discuss something.
    - Get enough sleep

    --
    If a plan isn't flexible it isn't realistic
    • (Score: 1) by KineticLensman on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:22PM

      by KineticLensman (3762) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @10:22PM (#14915)

      My five...
      Quiet environment
      turn off email phone and messaging
      Coffee a short walk away
      Freecell for a micro break without leaving my work zone
      Considerate cow-orkers

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by carguy on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:28PM

        by carguy (568) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:28PM (#14937)

        Physical (assembly line, etc) productivity has been extensively studied, going back well over a hundred years, here's a bibliography starting with Taylor,
            http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/ obo-9780199846740/obo-9780199846740-0027.xml [oxfordbibliographies.com]

        I've seen a confounding result too (sorry, can't remember the reference)--when workers were studied (at least in the early days), they responded to the additional attention by increasing their productivity. This led to a number of false positives in terms of modifying the work environment for higher efficiency. Once the study and the researchers left the factory with an updated production process, productivity returned to the original level.

        At a later date, workers were wise to researchers with clipboard and stopwatch. They might sandbag (slow down) to give a false baseline for the study.

        Are there any parallels to the present time, with respect to mental/analytical work?

        • (Score: 2) by prospectacle on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:43PM

          by prospectacle (3422) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @11:43PM (#14946) Journal

          You make a good point. Motivation is one factor that's hard to test and control, and goes beyond environmental/procedural considerations.

          This is a whole other kettle of fish, but I think progressive mutualisation is probably a good way to motivate people (ie a small proportion of an employee's salary is paid in equity. Over time it reaches some reasonable maximum level of ownership per-employee. So over time more productive work means more profit). If the balance was right it would probably work out more profitable for the original investors as well, due to increased productivity and loyalty of the workers.

          --
          If a plan isn't flexible it isn't realistic
        • (Score: 1) by gidds on Wednesday March 12 2014, @01:53PM

          by gidds (589) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @01:53PM (#15256)

          I think that's the Hawthorne Effect [wikipedia.org], where workers improve their performance in response to any change in their environment (positive or negative), simply because they know they're being studied.

          A sort of Heisenberg principle for social experiments...

          (Though it seems that some of Hawthorne's initial results may have had other explanations.)

          --
          [sig redacted]
          • (Score: 1) by carguy on Wednesday March 12 2014, @03:19PM

            by carguy (568) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 12 2014, @03:19PM (#15315)

            Bingo, this section of the Hawthorne entry was particularly interesting, Interpretation and Criticism [wikipedia.org].

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by germanbird on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:53AM

      by germanbird (2619) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:53AM (#15000)
      I found Paul Graham's essay on Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule [paulgraham.com] to be very enlightening. His basic premise is that maker's need longer chunks of uninterrupted time to be able to get work done than manager's do. His analogy of meeting/distraction being like an exception really struck home with me. I realized that I have something of a startup time to get settled in and back into the flow of whatever I am working that I incur every time I get interrupted. Since then, I've tried to adopt aspects of his schedule, either by working from home or working late to get that uninterrupted time. Thankfully my managers understand this and have tried to consolidate meetings to one or two days a week. So I guess that doesn't really answer your question, but I'd say my number one thing that helps me get work done is an environment free from interrupts from other people (either interacting with me or others around me).
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by JMV on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:12AM

    by JMV (3741) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:12AM (#14988)

    why does it always seem that the university studies always contradict what we see in real-life?

    example: my office decided to go with a 'open' work environment where we're all stuck in 4x6 half cubes so we can collaborate more... I was in a semi-private lab environment (with 2 - 4 other people working on the same projects as I) for the last 15 years... I was happy there. Now, I'm just looking for a new job opportunity and doing what's necessary to keep my job.

    I guess you could say that I'm not the most effective problem solver or creator anymore.

    • (Score: 2) by Daniel Dvorkin on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:51AM

      by Daniel Dvorkin (1099) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @02:51AM (#14999) Journal

      How does your experience contradict the study?

      --
      Pipedot [pipedot.org]:Soylent [soylentnews.org]::BSD:Linux
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by prospectacle on Wednesday March 12 2014, @03:03AM

      by prospectacle (3422) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @03:03AM (#15002) Journal

      Open plan offices create tangible, measurable savings (office-space per employee), and they create larger, more serious losses (mental-productivity per employee, job satisfaction, etc), which aren't as tangible or measurable.

      What kind of person would this appeal to? I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

      --
      If a plan isn't flexible it isn't realistic
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday March 12 2014, @04:06PM

        by VLM (445) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @04:06PM (#15342)

        "(office-space per employee)"

        Is that necessarily true? I've seen some huge sweeping spread out loud open plans and some tiny, but quiet, little rabbit warrens of quiet little cubicles.

        I've worked in both environments. I got a lot more done in my quiet 6x6 cube than in a 16x32 open plan shared with eight other guys.

        I think the office spare per employee can be nearly constant other than crazy extremes. It is possible to roll changes in that ratio along with changes in style.

        Its like width of cars. Yes there are wider and narrower cars. And there are styles of cars which tend wider or narrower. Yet the width of the car is a very small contributor to the total cost of a certain style of car. Length is probably slightly more correlated.

        "We're implementing a new style. Along with continuing the trend of packing them in like sweatshop workers."

        Is the recent open plan fad so dense that you're literally rubbing elbows? That might be my confusion. There's no way I could possibly work under conditions like that.

    • (Score: 2) by githaron on Wednesday March 12 2014, @04:13PM

      by githaron (581) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @04:13PM (#15344)

      Happiness is different things for different people.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12 2014, @04:36AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12 2014, @04:36AM (#15024)

    Look, Abe Maslow studied motivation 71 years ago, and as it turns out, people need some things to keep them happy before they can be creative and productive.

    1. Physiological needs: Air, water, food, sleep, etc. If you're not sleeping and eating regularly, there's no way you're productive.
    2. Safety: health, security of body, property, etc. If other people are constantly raping you and stealing your things, there's no way you're productive.
    3. Belonging: family, friendship, sex, etc. If you have no friends, your family hates you, and you can't get laid, there's no way you're productive.
    4. Esteem: self esteem and respect from others. If you have low self esteem and your coworkers hate you, there's no way you're productive.
    5. Self-actualization: problem solving and creativity. Only after you have fulfilled all your other needs do you have the ability to be truly creative.

    So let's see if I can rank myself on Maslow's hierarchy: my coworkers hate me, I can't get laid, I have no friends, and my family disapproves of me unconditionally. So yeah if I can't get past level 3 on the hierarchy, it's no wonder I'm not productive.

    Now I would consider getting raped, but that would just reduce me to level 2. Fun fact: I spent my childhood constantly sleep deprived because I grew up in a poorly heated, insect infested apartment and the insects would crawl on me while I was trying to sleep. So I've lived at level 1 too.

    Shiny happy productive people can go fuck themselves, mmkay?

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12 2014, @11:04AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12 2014, @11:04AM (#15167)

      I disagree with sex being on this list. I have all other things, and I don't feel like I need to have sex. Maybe it's just me, no sex drive. Fine. Guess I must be very lucky!

      What is missing though is alcohol, good music and some pot once in a while. Missing those, now that would make life miserable for me.

      • (Score: 1) by timbim on Wednesday March 12 2014, @01:16PM

        by timbim (907) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @01:16PM (#15239)

        Not even a tingle down there? Have you seen Megan Fox?

      • (Score: 1) by TK on Wednesday March 12 2014, @07:27PM

        by TK (2760) on Wednesday March 12 2014, @07:27PM (#15459)

        I think alcohol is covered under esteem.

        and I don't see why you were modded down. Your description fits the general theme of the comments: "happiness is different things to different people".

        --
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