The idea of a software developer working while not being at the computer will probably get some laughs.
But it’s true. Despite what you may think, only 10% of software development is typing.
Almost all of the rest of software development happens away from the keyboard.
Let’s dive into some of the benefits of getting your development team away from the keyboard and how to do that.
Your Team Builds Trust With Each Other
Every time that your team gets away from the office together, they build more and more trust with each other.
When they go to lunch, they may start by talking about work in some capacity — but over time they start to share information about their families and life outside of work.
You may learn that one of your teammates has three kids. Maybe another wants to spend a year traveling.
Whatever it is, the more and more time they get to spend together without having to worry about the wrong person hearing enables them to build trust with each other. The more trust they have with each other, the better they are going to work as a team.
It Helps Your Team Solve Problems
The other 90% of software development involves debugging and solving problems — both of which involve critical thinking.
Critical thinking doesn’t just happen staring at the same screen and problem. You need to give your brain some room to work and if you spend all of your time staring at the screen worrying about how to fix it, you won’t give your brain the space and tools it needs to solve problems.
If you ask any developer, I would bet that many nights they wake up with a solution to one of the problems they are working on and are able to fix it right away the next morning. Or, the solution may have come while they were exercising. Regardless of where they solve it — the real problems usually get solved away from the keyboard.
It Keeps Your Team Happy
According to this Forbes article, the tech sector has the highest turnover rate out of every single business sector. Google and Amazon have a median tenure of around 1 years and Apple has one of the best median tenures at a whopping 2 years.
Considering the demand for software developers right now, it’s not exactly easy to just go out and get the best developers. It’s even harder to keep them long enough to learn your core business so they can start adding a lot of value.
For these reasons, it’s important to keep your development team happy.
Considering they are often just looked at as an expense and unders constant scrutiny for timelines, it’s easy to see how they might want out of a toxic work environment. It’s not enough to just pay market average.
One of the easiest ways to keep them happy is to treat them like people. Show them that you value them, trust them, and appreciate them. Allowing them to spend time as a team, not scrutinizing every expense, and trusting how they manage their time are good examples.
The Payoff Is Exponential
The payoff here is exponential and can even become unmeasurable.
Here are some examples:
- That $50 lunch pays for itself 2 hours later when one teammate gets stuck. Instead of wasting 1, 2, 3, or even 4 hours trying to figure it out — they feel comfortable calling or talking to another teammate with more experience in that area. They trust their team mate to not judge them and are able to solve the problem quickly.
- The more comfortable your team is with each other, the more they are going to be open with each other about what’s not working in their process during retrospective. Process improvements are usually BIG wins in productivity gains.
- If a developer is unhappy and leaves, it has a big impact on project timelines which impacts several other areas often including revenue. It also costs a lot of money to recruit and replace talent to replace them that may end up leaving as well.
- On the contrary, the longer a developer is happy and stays, the more of your core business they will learn and the more they will be able to identify areas for improvement, help innovate, and drive more revenue.
So, this probably all makes sense but you may be wondering what’s next.
I’ve written a few ideas above, but here are just a few more:
Lunches – Let your team go out for weekly lunches. This is such a simple and cheap expense for them to build trust with each other.
Let Them Exercise During The Work Day – This one sounds counterintuitive — but hear me out. The amount of focus required for software development is mentally exhausting. Physical health is often an afterthought and it can be difficult to have the energy after work. Allowing them to exercise during the work day improves their physical and mental health and will give them some needed time for critical thinking and problem solving.
Team Outings – Let your team participate in bigger events every so often. I don’t JUST mean events with the rest of the company either. It’s important to give them some time as a team. Let them go to the movies. Let them go to Topgolf. Let them go to go-karts. What better way to let a teammate know you are frustrated with them than spinning them out in the corner during go-karts — right?
Workations – Let your team go on a short trip to some other location. It could be a cabin, a lake house, or some beach resort. This one will obviously cost more and maybe it’s only an annual thing — but . I went on a workation with a company to figure out how we were going to implement SCRUM and what we needed to do better as a development team. It was 3 days of go-karts, miniature golf, playing basketball against grade-school children in the pool, playing xbox, drinking beer — and oh yea, we were able to have some really difficult conversations with each other about what we needed to improve on and how we could do it. It was the best team building experience to date of my career.
These ideas often get scoffed at because “it’s just more expenses to our expensive team already.”
Instead of thinking with such a scarcity mindset, ask yourself — what if I invest in my development team and it pays off? What if it doubles their productivity? What if they stay longer?
What are some other ways you can help your developers get away from the keyboard?