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Report: Software engineers have only 10 hours per week for ‘deep work’


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What are software engineers spending their time on? With talent shortages at an all-time high, and epic shifts in where and how we work, everybody wants to know how happy engineers are with their jobs. A new report conducted by Retool and Wakefield uncovered insights into how engineers save time, increase productivity, where they lose time and their preferences around how that time is spent. 

Engineers are splitting time between core coding responsibilities, communication processes, complex testing, and even assisting with hiring, leaving them with only around 10 hours of “deep work” time per week. To save time, engineers are turning to open source code more than ever. Almost 90% of the engineers surveyed view open source code as at least somewhat essential to their day to day. More than 80% of developers are actively pulling open source code into their work (via StackOverflow or otherwise) at least once per month, and almost 50% are doing it at least once per week.

Non-coding responsibilities also consume engineers’ time. More than 30% of developers say they’d prefer to spend less time recruiting and interviewing.

The human element of collaborative engineering is another issue. It takes nearly an entire week for code to make it from concept to production. Getting simple feedback is just as challenging. Fifty-seven percent of developers say it takes more than four hours to get a pull request through code review, and 26% say it takes more than a day. Unclear lines of ownership can slow processes, as well. More than 30% of developers say figuring out who exactly owns a piece of code — and the associated need to acquire context — can take more than a work day.

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Contrary to the popular narrative that most employees want to continue working from home, many software engineers prefer to work in the office. Surveyed engineers generally did not see an increase in productivity working from home, and 68% of software engineers working at companies with fully in-office policies feel more productive working on site.

The report is based on a survey of more than 600 software engineers, including both ICs and managers.

Read the full report by Retool and Wakefield.

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