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GDC 2002 Moderator's Report: Developer Quality of Life Roundtable

Making Work Enjoyable

The participants also discussed ways in which a company's work environment can be made more comfortable for everyone involved. Suggestions included:

  • Disseminating information. To make sure that everyone gets "the big picture" about the company's status, the projects, etc.
  • Careful hiring practices. A participant said that his company gave current employees the opportunity to meet new recruits and veto their hiring, which helps ensure that all team members can coexist peacefully.
  • Imposing strict limits. Participants reported that some younger developers under their supervision had to be thrown out of the office, or they would work all the time. People must learn to break away from work even if they don't yet have families and homes; otherwise, they will have trouble adjusting if and when they do.
  • Organizing social events, especially during crunch times. After overtime marathons, developers may not care to spend evenings with each other; however, going to a movie as a group one afternoon during crunch will help recharge the batteries before the deadline.
  • Having more than one person working on a problem. In addition to the obvious advantages to the company (i.e., no lost knowledge when a person quits), this practice helps avoid frustration: what bogs a given developer down for days may be solved much faster by another, and vice-versa.

Conclusion: Gaining Control

Participants solved their personal quality of life issues in many ways: by starting their own companies (and thus building corporate cultures in tune with their values), by becoming freelancers to control their working hours, by reaching management positions from which they can ensure reasonable schedules, by working as hard as ever but only on projects they cared about, and so forth.

The one thing that all of these approaches have in common is that they allowed the people who adopted them to increase the level of control over their own lives. This is probably the most important insight drawn from the session: feeling dispossessed is the worst detractor to quality of life.

Please note that the IGDA is committed to action in this area; if you support the goal of improving quality of life for all developers, please join the association at www.igda.org

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