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The Real Cost of Interrupting Your Development Team

  • February 1, 2017
  • By Drew Hendricks
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Developers spend hours staring at a computer monitor as they build and troubleshoot applications. Whether they're designing workflows or examining lines of code for errors, these professionals often need to concentrate to accomplish their daily tasks.

Unfortunately, peace and tranquility aren't reality in many workplaces. Employees are rushing rapidly from one office to the next, phones are ringing, and people are speaking, often in not-so-hushed tones. This is in addition to the occasional interruption of a coworker rushing into the developer's work area to ask questions or check the status of a project.

As with engineers and other high-tech professionals, focus is essential to developers. By fully supporting your development team's need to get into the flow and stay there, your leadership team can boost productivity for better results. Whether your business has tech talent like designers, developers, data scientists, and the like, this support can mean the difference between making and losing money.

Michael Solomon, co-founder of 10x Management, the first talent agency for tech talent explains, "The cost of knocking one of your devs out of a flow state can be huge. Depending on the individual, it might take minutes or even hours to get back into that heightened state of productivity. If you do that once, no big loss. But when that happens many times per day, the financial cost is huge. This is one of the reasons companies are shifting to remote talent for certain roles. It is a simple equation: The fewer distractions, the higher the productivity."

Here are a few ways these interruptions cost your business.

Lack of Daily Productivity

Nobody wants to pay an office full of people to stare blankly at their screens. Yet, every minute a team member lacks the ability to concentrate is a minute wasted. Studies have shown that it takes an employee 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track following an interruption. The length of recovery time increases and decreases depending on how related it is to the current task, but small interruptions can add up.

For best results, businesses should give developers the freedom to shut off from email and in-office interruptions for long periods of time. If a developer doesn't respond immediately to an email, don't pick up the phone and call or stop by to chat. Instead, invite the employee to respond at a time that's most convenient.

Project Delays

Even when a project is small, a delay can come at a cost to your company, especially if it leads your clients to see your business as unreliable. You may find that they choose a different business for their next project, assuming you can't meet a deadline. If your software is customer-facing, delays could mean that you don't get the app on the market in a timely manner, forcing you to wait longer for the cash flow your app could bring.

Businesses that succeed are those that shield developers from the cause of these delays. One of the biggest culprits is scope creep, which is the process of adding things to the project after it's already underway. Before developers even begin work, the scope of the project should be outlined and everyone should sign off on that scope. Changes to the project should be resisted at all costs, with the promise of addressing any issues in a post-release version. Of course, as with most rules, there are exceptions to this, but they are few and far between.

Job Dissatisfaction

Talented developers have numerous choices when it comes to their work. With so many companies now giving employees flexible work hours or telecommuting options, a business without those amenities may find itself unable to compete for top talent. Even when choosing contractors, teams may find that many developers prefer to work on their own terms.

Over time, the cost of recruiting and retaining talented developers can add up. If you're continually onboarding new developers, it may be time to take a look at the work environment. Ask your developers how they feel about their work situation and take their feedback seriously. You may find that your open-plan layout is scaring off developers, who would rather work from home or with an employer who provides a private work area. If you don't ask these questions, you're losing productivity with each developer you need to replace.

Businesses need to invest in the environment and tools their developers need to do their work. When they do, they'll enjoy more productive project teams who create products that bring in money. As businesses grow increasingly more collaborative, it's important to also realize the importance of giving workers the peace and quiet they need to focus and complete their daily tasks.

"This is not true for everyone on your team, but most people doing creative work need to get in and stay in 'the flow state" (aka the zone),'" Solomon says. "It will increase your productivity, save you money, and amplify the satisfaction of your employees. It is one of the easiest things to do and it has little to no downside."

About the Author

Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media, and environmental addict. He's written for many major publications, such as Forbes and Entrepreneur. Drew has also been quoted on GuestPost.com.

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