JavaNew Survey Reveals Developers Anxious to Return to the Office

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A new survey from continuous code improvement platform make Rollbar shows that developers are eager to return to the office. Find out why.

Some thought the work-from-home trend would last forever. But as we’ve pushed past the one-year mark in the coronavirus pandemic, Big Tech is looking to revert to a more traditional office setting. And while you may think that developers are not looking forward to leaving the comfort of their home offices, the newly-released results from a Rollbar study suggest otherwise.

Developer Working from Home

Image Courtesy: Daudi mukiibi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The recent work-from-home transition was anything but gradual. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, offices shuttered, and workers were asked to set up shop in their homes. As this remote business experiment progressed, speculators believed it would be the future. Big Tech took this speculation one step further when Facebook, Twitter, and Square gave their employees the option to work from home indefinitely, while Google made no rush to return to the office either.

However, things have changed as Google is now speeding up its return to the office setting. Although it gave employees the freedom to work hybrid schedules last year, the search engine giant is pulling back on that promise. Not to be outdone, Amazon will begin to bring back corporate workers in June and hopes that most of its domestic workforce will follow by early fall.

Is any of this news surprising? Not if you followed Google’s and Amazon’s real estate practices over the last year, as both purchased a considerable amount of real estate. They’re not finished yet either, as Google plans to invest $7 billion in data centers and office space before the year ends.

Will all of Big Tech head back to the office? No, as IBM is sticking to a hybrid schedule for 80 percent of its employees that features three office days per week.

Rollbar Study: 41% of Developers Anxiously Await Office Return

As Big Tech buys up land and plots its office return, it seems that 41% of developers are warm to the idea, provided the setting is safe.

Rollbar, a continuous code improvement platform, confirmed this notion by releasing the results of its recent national survey of 950 engineers and developers. Propeller Insights is the research firm that conducted the study, which sought to gain insight into how developers felt about working in a corporate setting once again versus the comfort of their homes.

Brian Rue, Rollbar’s CEO, and co-founder had this to say about the study:

“We just passed the one-year anniversary of sending employees home to work remotely as a safety measure. What many thought might be temporary has turned into a long-term situation. Our research shows that some developers have struggled with remote work while others have thrived. But nearly half said that they are ready to head back to the office. Those who have grappled with isolation, and balancing work and home life, are especially keen to return to shared workspaces.”

Challenges of Working From Home for Programmers

When asked if the pandemic affected their jobs, 77% of developers said yes. Answers to this question differed significantly according to age, with 90% of Gen Z and 52% of Boomers giving an affirmative answer. As for how the pandemic affected their jobs, the top answer (noted by 23% of developers) was that it increased software demand, resulting in a larger time commitment towards monitoring and fixing bugs.

While 18% said they worked longer hours since COVID-19 appeared, 20% reported shorter schedules. As for budgets, 17% of developers said they saw theirs slashed, with most of those cuts coming in the Midwest.

Longer hours and smaller budgets weren’t the only challenges of working from home, as 20% of developers said they were stressed from having to work with smaller teams than usual. A worse work-life balance was listed as an issue by 22% of those surveyed. Remote work was listed as harming mental health for 19%, and 10% said it created problems with their family life.

What Developers Missed Most While Working Remote

When asked what they missed most about working in an office, 78% of developers listed the inability to collaborate with team members, which topped the list. This need for face-to-face collaboration seemed to affect workers across all demographics.

Rollbar CTO and co-founder Cory Virok commented on this finding:

“Coding is a team sport. It is easier to get someone to review or talk through code in person – you can also whiteboard. This is harder to do spontaneously and over a videoconferencing connection while working from home. The situation is similar when it comes to fixing bugs. Developers want to run through their thought processes in person. It’s always easier to do this in the office than on Zoom.”

Developers’ Reaction to Remote Work Is Mixed

Almost half of the developers surveyed (48%) said remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic was a new experience. Whether it was a positive experience seems to differ depending on who you ask.

Some (34%) said they love remote work and hope to continue doing it after the pandemic. As mentioned, 41% would rather return to the office.

Younger developers seem to yearn more for the office setting than their older counterparts. Those in the Northeast (49%) said they hope to ditch their home office for a more traditional setting, while only 37% in the South said the same.

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