Developer Happiness Explored
Written by Janet Swift   
Thursday, 17 March 2022

A Stack Overflow Survey reveals that over 90% of developers feel it is important to be happy at work and 70% of them are currently happy. Almost half of developers think their own home is the ideal place to work - and Stack Overflow suggests that a greenhouse could be the ideal developer habitat. 


The pandemic had a huge impact on our working lives. Rather than a daily commute to the office, developers were asked to stay home and work from there. Once restrictions were lifted there wasn't a resumption of the old normality. Instead we experienced the phenomenon of the Great Resignation with workers in many sectors deciding not to resume their former jobs. In the US in 2021 the tech sector had one of the highest resignation rates, an increase of 4.5% on the previous year.

Against this background Stack Overflow looked at what makes developers happy at work. Commenting on the high resignations rates David Gibson, Senior Data Analyst asks:

What’s driving this trend? It’s certainly not a lack of demand: the last two years have seen unprecedented growth across nearly every technology-driven industry. Strapped teams compounded with the pressures of rapid growth typically translate to high-stress environments for developers. The notion that burnout is the principal driver of the resignation crisis in tech makes sense at first.

Gibson goes on to quote the finding of  previous Stack Overflow survey, which we covered in December 2021, that revealed that 80% of developers are not actively seeking a new job and prompted new questions:

 Are developers actually happy at work? And what makes the difference between happiness and unhappiness: salary, flexibility, intellectual challenge, or all of the above?

Stack Overflow has now surveyed over 350 developers across the globe to find the answers which Gibson presents in his blog post

The first finding is that 70% of working developers are happy at work right now, with over 90% saying it is important for them to be happy at work. There are marked geographic differences: Spain, with 90% happy devs is the happiest country for developers. India comes next (79%) and then Germany (70%), the US (69%) and the UK (68%) which are close to the average.

The survey went on to probe many factors that cause developers to be happy or unhappy at work. The ones that had the most influence were work-life balance, with 58% reporting that a healthy balance made then happy while 40% reporting that an unhealthy balance made them unhappy, and being productive, with a strong sense of productivity making 52% happy and lack of productivity causing unhappiness in 45%.


A fair salary, availability of growth opportunities and  flexibility, productivity, and other top reasons for devs to be happy at work. Lower down the list came work relationships, which when positive caused 36% to be happy and when poor led to only 15% to be unhappy. Company tech stack, a factor that you might expect would be missed while developers were working remotely had less impact, causing 28% to be happy and 22% to be unhappy. 

The pandemic produced a massive shift to hybrid and fully remote work and many developers adjusted to the situation in which home became office. The survey revealed that 45% of developers considered the ideal work environment is in their own home, while 27% say it’s in an office building.

Probing what makes for the ideal work environment, developers put windows, quiet surroundings, bright natural light, and plants at the top of the list. Just give them a chair and you’ve rounded out the top five elements of an ideal workspace. This led to a rather surprising conclusion:


It's interesting that whether you want people around you, or don't want people around you, its not nearly as important as having plants in the environment!

And while Stack Overflow reports that 70% of developers are happy, it needs to be noted that less than 15% are unhappy!


More Information

New data: What makes developers happy at work 

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Last Updated ( Friday, 18 March 2022 )