Where attention goes, energy flows — enhancing individual sustainability in software engineering
Paper in proceedings, 2020
Software engineers are plagued by the same troubles as many others in highly skilled jobs and digitized environments: Ever-expanding to-do lists, time to market pressure from management, deadline- driven development, continuous interruption during working tasks, and the juggle of balancing that with other areas of life (physical, mental and emotional health, family, household, finance, friends, hobbies and community service). These demands of life in combina- tion with a seemingly ever-increasing pace wear or burn out many people in the long run. Specifically, as software engineers, this also leads to decreased creativity and less efficiency in problem-solving. Generally offered solutions are reducing screen time and spending more time outdoors, both of which are hard to do within the work of a software engineer. On a meta level, if the developers of the systems that run most of our world do not develop individual sus- tainability with a balanced pace of life, that imbalance propagates into the systems we develop (similar to Conway’s Law). We argue that mindfulness practices like yoga poses (asanas), breathing prac- tices, and meditation exercises can help individually, and even more effectively in combination. In this exploratory paper, we discuss related work that explores the application of these mitigations in other application domains and propose a research agenda to explore their use within software engineering education and practice.
Engaging with mindfulness practices in the context of software engineering promises to enhance creativity and cognitive problem- solving skills, leading to more efficiency and effectiveness during software development and increased individual sustainability. This, in turn, leads to better team spirit as well as increased economic profit, both in terms of maintaining human capital and customer contract deliverables.
Social and professional topics