Dave's Blog

Working in a dev bubble(2): from labour camps to youth clubs

August 08, 2018

While I've seen C# salaries rise in Manchester quicker than inflation since 2011 employers also need to think about the non-cash benefits to try to hook in candidates.

It's been a long time since a catering size can of Gold Blend was sufficient.

On-site gym, fruit wall, weekly artisan coffee blends, free meals, Beer Friday, the list goes on.

One firm even have a need for a person to help them select the cheese for their monthly cheese fest to go along with their monthly at-the-desk Gin Trolley and Beer Tap (for when a Beer Fridge just isn't enough).

So far so exciting and so merry.

At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, what is the impact on productivity on such enticing diversions?


MonkeyUser's Focus cartoon reminds me of part of the Joel Test.

"8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?

There are extensively documented productivity gains provided by giving knowledge workers space, quiet, and privacy. The classic software management book Peopleware documents these productivity benefits extensively."

Like MonkeyUser Joel discusses the challenge of getting into "the zone" which is hard if the need to generate a buzz and excitement in the workplace turns it into something approximating a youth club. While no one wants to end up that the other end of the spectrum, a workplace resembling a North Korean labour camp, there is a balance to be made.

I once worked somewhere where, in an office of three people, about ten words were said (not just to me but to anyone) all day. I had focus, but also a sense of alienation so there is a balance to be struck if we are to maintain a level of productivity and not just be in hock to a need to keep team members entertained in what can seem a like a race to the bottom of productivity in order to fill developer chairs.

My concern is that the attention is focused on HR-driven goodies. In my experience many developers respond more stongly to a solid work process where they get well-qualified work, which challenges them, in realistic timescales, and which will actually see the light of day in Production.

While beer is more easily obtained that a quality process and clear road map, free beer on a Friday can only go so far to distract from a chaotic stream of context-switching from fire to fire.