Emotions and Perceived Productivity of Software Developers at the Workplace


TSE paper on emotions

Emotions are known to impact cognitive skills, thus influencing job performance. This is also true for software development, which requires creativity and problem-solving abilities.

In this work conducted by Daniela Girardi, Filippo Lanubile and Nicole Novielli from University of Bari (Italy) together with Alexander Serebrenik (Eindhoven University of Technology), we report the results of a field study involving professional developers from five different companies in the Netherlands. We provide empirical evidence that a link exists between emotions and perceived productivity at the workplace. Furthermore, we present a taxonomy of triggers for developers’ positive and negative emotions, based on the qualitative analysis of participants’ self-reported answers collected through daily experience sampling. Finally, we experiment with a minimal set of non-invasive biometric sensors that we use as input for emotion detection.

We found that positive emotional valence, neutral arousal, and high dominance are prevalent. We also found a positive correlation between emotional valence and perceived productivity, with a stronger correlation in the afternoon. Both social and individual breaks emerge as useful for restoring a positive mood. Furthermore, we found that a minimum set of non-invasive biometric sensors can be used as a predictor for emotions, provided that training is performed on an individual basis. While promising, our classifier performance is not yet robust enough for practical usage. Further data collection is required to strengthen the classifier, by also implementing individual fine-tuning of emotion models.

The paper is published at the Transactions on Software Engineering journal and it is available here.