Since the onset of the pandemic and the changes in working patterns that resulted from it, employee welfare has been boosted to the top of the agenda, with this new mindset seeming to be lasting. According to the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 75% of employees believe senior leaders prioritize well-being as part of business operations.
These are steps in the right direction, but the needs of employees vary from sector to sector. With the typically siloed nature of their work and pressure to keep on top of a rapidly evolving technological landscape, developers can be left exposed to work that negatively impacts their welfare. For many developers whose well-being is suffering, extra support is required, and an effective developer community can help provide the solution.
The need for developer communities
The idea of sharing software and offering peer support through developer communities is nothing new. In fact, as early as the 1950s, the source code for software was often included as part of any purchase, allowing it to be modified to each organization's individual needs. This reflected the origins of modern computing in the academic sphere, where openness and collaboration across organizations is vital, and best practices are shared.
Burnout in the tech industry
An old idea is capable of tackling today’s problems. A recent report by Haystack Analytics found that 83% of developers have suffered from burnout. Of course, one shouldn’t immediately assume correlation equals causation, but the current tech talent shortage cannot be discounted as a strong contributing factor for this extremely high rate.
An increasingly large and unrealistic workload is being placed on individual developers who do not always have the capacity to tackle it. Beyond the detrimental impact on welfare, it is worth remembering that developers working in these high-stress environments are likely to be less motivated and productive – limiting their ability to add value to the wider business.
Developer communities can provide individuals with quick access to knowledge and solutions, leading to greater efficiencies that can help them better overcome the challenges of being a modern developer.
Addressing isolation in the tech industry
For a developer struggling to get to grips with a complex field, like Kubernetes, or having to wade through mountains of maintenance work to meet deadlines, the impacts of this pressure will only be exacerbated by feelings of isolation. Indeed, 57% of cloud developers highlighted the steep learning curve and knowledge shortages around Kubernetes as a challenge, according to Civo’s research.
Isolation can become rife in an industry that does not take a collaborative approach to work. Developers in such isolation can experience negative effects on mental health as they likely feel overwhelmed by challenges in such a complex sphere. By providing developers with a community, individuals will realize they are not alone and work with their peers to tackle the technology challenges they face daily, allowing for best practices to become widely adopted and social connections to be formed.
The future of developer support
The mentorship, encouragement, and backing that such a community provides are fundamental types of support for many developers today and increasingly into the future. In fact, Statista predicts that by 2024, the global software developer population will have grown to 28.7 million, an increase of 3.2 million from 2020. This is a sizable rise, with many developers new to the industry entering the field. Having access to a mentor’s first-hand insights will enable these new entrants to solve problems better, even outside of coding. Understanding how to properly structure workloads and set deadlines is a key aspect of preventing work from becoming insurmountable and enabling developers to mitigate the stresses and strains of their role.
Building a developer community
Developer welfare does not exist in a vacuum. The recent discovery of the open source Log4J vulnerability reignited discussion about how businesses can benefit from “the flexibility, accessibility, and scalability of community-driven software, without relying on overworked, under-supported maintainers”. One positive effect of the Log4J crisis seems to be a growing industry consensus that investment and support in open source developers need to be a priority, particularly if we are going to ensure the continued cybersecurity resilience of organizations that rely on open source software every day.
For businesses looking to establish their own developer community, there are key features that can heighten the benefits it has to developers. Firstly, lowering tedium. Value-added work is often cited as a fundamental aspect of job satisfaction. If a worker feels they are contributing in an important and valuable way, they naturally feel more engaged. For developers weighed down by the often tedious and monotonous requirements of maintenance work, a resource-backed community that can provide them with tools, advice, and best practices to cut down on the time required for such work is going to be of great use. These tools, in turn, will lead to more time spent on the creative, value-added aspects of the job developers find most rewarding, such as building new features and applications.
Second, fostering a sense of collective help. In other words, allowing the community to share best practices and support its members autonomously. Without a technical team online to provide advice and answers for queries as and when they appear, developers using a product will likely try to find the support they require elsewhere online. For many organizations, the responsibility for support will likely fall within the remit of a technical support team. As the community and user base grow, however, more existing community members will be able to respond to these queries, whatever the chosen medium or forum, helping to keep lines of communication open and foster community engagement. Recognition of such efforts by community members is crucial in sustaining this process, as are setting ground rules for codes of conduct and what fellow users should expect from such support.
With remote working conditions now common, with teams dispersed around the globe, and the growing concern on mental health and employee welfare, there has never been a better time to build an engaged developer community who appreciate the product or service you offer. Those that do it the best will be helping developers to no end.
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Alternatively, you can read more about the power of community in our research: