Pandemic programming: How COVID-19 affects software developers and how their organizations can help

Paul Ralph, Sebastian Baltes, Gianisa Adisaputri, Richard Torkar, Vladimir Kovalenko, Marcos Kalinowski, Nicole Novielli, Shin Yoo, Xavier Devroey, Xin Tan, Minghui Zhou, Burak Turhan, Rashina Hoda, Hideaki Hata, Gregorio Robles, Amin Milani Fard, Rana Alkadhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
113 Downloads (Pure)


Context: As a novel coronavirus swept the world in early 2020, thousands of software developers began working from home. Many did so on short notice, under difficult and stressful conditions.

Objective: This study investigates the effects of the pandemic on developers’ wellbeing and productivity.

Method: A questionnaire survey was created mainly from existing, validated scales and translated into 12 languages. The data was analyzed using non-parametric inferential statistics and structural equation modeling.

Results: The questionnaire received 2225 usable responses from 53 countries. Factor analysis supported the validity of the scales and the structural model achieved a good fit (CFI = 0.961, RMSEA = 0.051, SRMR = 0.067). Confirmatory results include: (1) the pandemic has had a negative effect on developers’ wellbeing and productivity; (2) productivity and wellbeing are closely related; (3) disaster preparedness, fear related to the pandemic and home office ergonomics all affect wellbeing or productivity. Exploratory analysis suggests that: (1) women, parents and people with disabilities may be disproportionately affected; (2) different people need different kinds of support.

Conclusions: To improve employee productivity, software companies should focus on maximizing employee wellbeing and improving the ergonomics of employees’ home offices. Women, parents and disabled persons may require extra support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4927-4961
Number of pages35
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Crisis management
  • Disaster management
  • Emergency management
  • Pandemic
  • Productivity
  • Questionnaire
  • Software development
  • Structural equation modeling
  • Wellbeing
  • Work from home


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