Sunday, July 21, 2024

Are Developer Workloads Increasingly Unfair?

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ALSO SEE: Does Every Developer Deserve a Mental Health Day?

Let’s face it, working as a developer can be a daily grind.

If you’re a developer and feel like your workload is increasing, you aren’t alone. RBS announced 1,000 technology job cuts in September 2010 and HP announced another 1,300 jobs being cut in October 2010. Job cuts like these across IT organizations have happened before in the early 90’s and after the dot-com bust. The difference this time is that companies aren’t in any hurry to rehire because they anticipate a long, difficult economic recovery.

And companies have learned to do more with less. Therefore, if you’re now carrying the load of two or three people’s responsibilities, don’t anticipate returning to a normal workday any time soon.

Even if you love your job, this constant piling on of work can be disheartening. Some veteran developers may even feel like their soul is being sucked out as they see their coworkers lose their jobs – while they’re left behind, still gainfully employed, yet suffering under the weight of an ever-growing work load. It seems to just keep piling up.

I endured and survived a major layoff in the early nineties and was on the other end of it this decade. It isn’t fun on either side.

The survivors still have a paycheck, but face the uncertainty of a changing company landscape and the divvying up of work amongst the remaining coworkers. Those who were laid off face the uncertainty of a dismal job market in the wake of a layoff.

After surviving my layoff, I remember talking to a recently cut teammate and it went something like this.

Me: You are actually lucky to have been let go.

Lucky Guy: Oh, how so?

Me: You wouldn’t believe the amount of work they are piling on us since the layoff.

Lucky Guy: Really? You wouldn’t believe the bills that are piling up on me.

Okay, so having been laid off has raised my awareness (and sensitivity) since then. I now realize “Lucky Guy” wasn’t so lucky after all. I was the real lucky guy to still have a paycheck.

But I’ll admit, it’s hard not to complain when you have a long list of projects, bug fixes and on-call responsibilities. You feel badly about bemoaning your increasingly frustrating situation.

Yet what if you could reclaim your soul and make your job more bearable? There may not be a remedy for getting executives to turn the hiring faucet back on, but you can change the way your team works together to lessen the stress and deal better with the workload.

The easy (and popular) thing to do when a team feels like they’re being crushed with work is to moan about it. My four-year-old likes to stomp her foot and yell “not fair!” when she feels slighted. We all don’t have the luxury of acting out like a little kid and instead need to act like grown-ups and deal proactively with the situation.

Those of us who have been around a while and lived through layoffs realize that, although group commiseration may make everyone feel better in the short term, the complaining ultimately makes things worse.

You know what’s worse than being overworked? Being overworked with a bunch of bitter people that make snarky comments about every decision that management makes.

Instead, everyone should come to the realization that life isn’t always fair and try to work to find ways to be more efficient and effective. Here are three immediate steps you can take to improve your work situation after an major layoff.

First, work on time management. This is something that can be done on your own, regardless if other team members would rather wallow in their misery or not. Keep a daily journal of your time, from the moment you step into the office until you sign off for the day.

And if you have to continue working in the evening, track those tasks as well. This serves the purpose of identifying gaps in productivity that can then be fine-tuned.

Now it’s important to be honest and stick with your tracking for a full week. It will be a pain, but it will pay off. So things like checking Facebook and texting conversations with your friends need to be accounted for.

Of course, it won’t be easy to swallow the results, but through this task tracking you’ll likely see areas where time is being unnecessarily wasted and you can start to move these activities outside of work.

You may also find through examining your journal that there are work tasks where you could be more efficient. Many developers find themselves jumping from task to task, and therefore lose time having to leave a coding project, then trying to come back to it later. Maybe set aside a period of time each day where you focus on one task and take no phone calls and don’t answer emails.

Second, find ways to operate as a team more efficiently. If you don’t follow a development methodology, consider implementing an approach like Agile to crank out more code. Make sure you’re never reinventing the wheel. Reuse code. Instead of building from scratch, be smart about buying software that may have just the features you require or at least can be easily customized.

You may want to engage a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) expert. When CMMI is applied to an existing software development process, it allows for an effective approach toward improving them.

CMMI has become synonymous with quality improvement, but don’t forget it all started with improving the process of software development. There’s a lot of good information and help out there on this topic.

Third, work to find better ways to communicate, especially priorities. Miscommunication can be a real time killer. Make sure everyone’s work responsibilities and project assignments are crystal clear.

If a business user is going directly to a developer requesting changes to applications – instead of not going through that developer’s manager – then there’s a communications issue needing to be addressed. Put in place clear processes for communicating assignments and tracking progress.

After improving your time management, and finding where process improvement makes sense, along with streamlining communication of priorities, you just might find you spend less time suffering under your difficult situation and you have more time to reach out and console your laid off former teammates.

ALSO SEE: Are these Developer and IT Salaries Believable?

AND: Do Developers Need to Brown-Nose To Advance Career?

AND: Why Developers Get Fired

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