Programmer Happiness: It's the Little Things
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Finding and keeping good programmers is a challenge for any business. Salary and promotion opportunities aside, sometimes it's the small things that add up. Although not the tipping point, they are part of the larger equation. Putting defection aside, happy programmers code faster and produce less bugs. What are those little things?
Notice the word "proper." Programming starts with the right computer. Companies do not need to break the bank. Decisions about CPU, RAM, hard drives, etc. are unique to each company. Choose wisely because adequate is one step away from problematic. Holding a quick yearly review helps avoid future lost time. Additionally holding honest, reasonable conversations about hardware is rewarding. Productivity is the key measurement, but don't forget to discuss:
- Utilizing multiple monitors to increase efficiency. This affects video card purchases.
- The proper keyboard and mouse. This may be unique to each programmer.
- The use of a UPS to avoid power loss and spikes.
Outside of standard development suites, developers require other applications. Common areas include specialized file zipping/unzipping, complex text editors, graphic manipulators, sophisticated file searching, monitoring tools, and organizational products. These applications increase a programmer's effectiveness. The purchase of these tools should not be a barrier.
Productivity is 50% mental and 50% physical. Programmers remain seated for most of their career. A comfortable chair is a necessity. Most standard office chairs fall short of this goal. Physical health problems translate to lower mental output. Proper desk size, adequate room, and access to natural light are subtle but important factors.
Job flexibility is a rising topic in organizations. Offering work from home options and flexible hours reduces lost effort while supporting a better work-life balance. Flexible hours can include freedom to arrive/leave as necessary, a four day work week, and/or summer hours.
Oscar Levant once said, "Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember."
Along the same lines, John Wooden stated, "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." The sections above are not meant to be an official checklist. They encourage conversation, which leads to higher job satisfaction.