Pandemic programming: How COVID-19 affects software developers and how their organizations can help
Journal article, 2020

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.


Disaster management

Work from home


Crisis management

Structural equation modeling

Emergency management




Software development


Paul Ralph

Dalhousie University

Sebastian Baltes

University of Adelaide

Gianisa Adisaputri

Dalhousie University

Richard Torkar

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Software Engineering (Chalmers)

Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study

Vladimir Kovalenko


Marcos Kalinowski

Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro

Nicole Novielli

University of Bari Aldo Moro

Shin Yoo

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

Xavier Devroey

Delft University of Technology

Xin Tan

Beijing University of Technology

Minghui Zhou

Beijing University of Technology

Burak Turhan

University of Oulu

Monash University

Rashina Hoda

Monash University

Hideaki Hata

Nara Institute of Science and Technology

Gregorio Robles

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

Amin Milani Fard

New York Institute of Technology

Rana Alkadhi

King Saud University

Empirical Software Engineering

1382-3256 (ISSN) 1573-7616 (eISSN)

Vol. 25 6 4927-4961

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Software Engineering

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified



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