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Work Like a Developer, Live like a Human

POSTED 1 year ago
For developers who think working like crazy, is crazy!

We wear those bags under our eyes like a badge of honour.  We’re commended for pulling an all nighter on the client’s website and don’t think twice about spending all weekend on side projects. Developers seem to eat, sleep and breathe code.
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We’ve had the luxury of working remotely long before other departments. We have the power to hit that ‘go live’ button or pull the plug before we even get out of bed, but we also have the responsibility to answer that call when something’s gone wrong before we even get out of bed. We don’t even hate it. In fact, we love what we do so much that we do it for fun in our free time as well. 

OfferZen’s 2021 State of South Africa’s Software Developer Nation Report, which you can read here, notes that more than 50% of the 3500 developers they interviewed, code as a hobby. The way we make a living requires a lot of practice and keeping up to date with new languages and trends. So when side projects take up all our weekends and free time, when do we have time for anything else? While coding for fun is an excellent way to upskill yourself, it’s become the norm to such an extreme that doing anything else for fun seems pointless. 

That same OfferZen report also notes that 50% of the developers they interviewed are looking for a good work-life balance in their day jobs. If we’re using the ‘life’ part of that balance to do more coding, maybe we’re doing it wrong. 

Perhaps it’s the very nature of our jobs that drives us to be this way - because anything is possible, we should do everything all the time. It’s easy to feel under constant pressure to keep improving and exceed expectations when all you see and hear about is the next big thing. Any downtime used to scroll through social media is filled with stories about work wins from colleagues and friends, and we forget that people usually only post their wins. By comparing ourselves to others, we put more pressure on ourselves. 

One of our team members, Xoliswa Shandu, says: “I find other people are able to leave their work at work and do other worldly things but in the digital space we don’t have that clear distinction because we are able to take our work home. I enjoy my life outside of work and I hardly share the things that I do in fear of people thinking I am not ‘productive’ with my time. Other people choose to join online courses in their free time and I would rather sit and read a fictional novel or just spend the day shooting my kids with a water gun and just laze around.”

Taking a break might actually make you a better developer in the long run. Once you’ve had a real break - one that doesn’t involve learning Python - you can return to your screen with a refreshed mind. According to an article on Lifehack, accounting firm Ernst & Young conducted a survey which found that people who took more vacation time performed better on year-end performance assessments and enjoyed better job satisfaction. 

The article talks about how the office - which in our case is our laptops - is not the place for inspiration. We need to get out of our work spaces and give our brains a break because when we switch off, we create room for new ideas to be sparked. 

Imagine strolling on the beach with your human friends having conversations about things you hadn’t thought about since you started working on that new side-project. Did you watch the big game? Have you tried that new dessert everyone’s tweeting about? All this new information, completely unrelated to your skill set, might be the very thing that sparks your next big idea! If you’re a developer, you build solutions for people. So get out there and see some people. 

You could start small, by keeping Saturday mornings for your side project but make sure you leave the house to have lunch outside - even if it’s just in the backyard. Drive your mom to the shops, try a funny (but safe) Tik Tok challenge, cook a gourmet meal and take the neighbour’s dog for a walk. When you’re done, post pics and videos on your stories so other developers can see that there is life out there beyond the code. If we all start doing it, perhaps we can un-peer pressure ourselves into living like computers. After all, we’re just humans who can’t keep having code for breakfast.

Author: Xoliswa Shandu. Editor: Chandre Partridge.