Negative Programmer, Negative Code, Negative Impact
When the real world and the stressful coding world collide, what are the consequences for your emotions, job, and society?
Coding is a brutal machine. As rewarding as it can be, and as fun as it can be to learn in both an institutional and home environment, coding as a career whether it be freelance or for a company such as Google, is harsh AF.
Depending on where you live, it is not badly paid. Some coders say after around 5 years, they can expect to earn around 50k, which can continually go up. Companies such as Google generally treat their employees well too, with health benefits, free food, free gym membership and more. But all these little niceties do not help to water down the fact that coding is a brutal career to take, and very few people can hold up.
Not to mention, the real world can be very stressful. You go to a stressful, high-demand, high-skill workplace, and then must go home and help with family, cook meals, and maybe even continue coding a side-project. The inanities of the real world as well as the stresses of your job collide, and this turns into depression and anxiety quick.
And when you come to work feeling run down, you do not operate at your full potential. This can harbor problems, sometimes making a few mistakes in code is fine! Your editor may catch it, or you may realize that your output is not matching the one you want. But what if you do not catch the error? It slips through the cracks.
A faulty program is released, and it becomes your fault. Sometimes, the impact can be minor, but other times the impact of a faulty program can be catastrophic.
We are going to look at several driving factors towards programmer negativity which turns into sloppy code, as well as the consequences of producing said sloppy code. We will also show how you can help mitigate programmer negativity and improve your mental health seismically!
1. Coders work long hours.
This is fluid, some coders say they work 40 hours a week. Fair enough. Others say they work 60 hours a week. Gross. Take a look at stories from Reddit, and you can see that some coders work 12–18 hours a day. No.
That is a disgusting amount of time to work, who wants to work that amount of time? Regardless of how much you are getting paid! We’re human beings, not human doings. We deserve some downtime.
It gets worse with the bigger companies too. Working for a small outfit is generally a 9–5 but maybe not the best paid position. But hey! You’ve got a life.
Working for a large company, particularly game companies, rely on long hours which stretch far beyond the office. You will generally take work home with you and continue trying, and mostly failing, to solve a problem.
According to TechRepublic “The practice of overworking developers is particularly bad in certain fields, such as the video-game industry, where working weeks can stretch to 100 hours as games near completion.”
After 8 hours at the office and another 8 at home, you will fall flat on your face trying to find a solution to certain problems.
One developer described it as “after six hours I’m just burning myself out trying to force myself to focus. At 8 hours I can feel physical pain and it will take me whole evening to recover when I get off the clock.”
It gets worse if you’ve got a family, you want to be able to spend time with them but you just can’t! Work commitments come first, right?
Sure, whatever. But it is not natural for your body and will create conflict between you and other household members.
You can mitigate this by planning your days out better, set specific times for coding and then set some time aside for taking a break. Even try the Pomodoro Technique, the idea of working for 25 minutes, and taking a break for 5. This helps you to recharge and helps keep you going through an inevitable long day.
But overall, try and avoid long days, it’s as simple as that. Let other people help you, take breaks, schedule your day better. It’s vital.
2. Coders work under harsh conditions
You may think that coders work under full autonomy, managers believing that coders are perfect and should be capable of solving the world’s problems. The truth is, and as immature as this may sound, managers are bitches.
They just want want-want-want, right? They give a twos-up to your personal needs, and by shoveling more crap towards you when you’re already overflowing, it doesn’t help you.
You’ll generally have a dozen or so projects to complete on ridiculously harsh timescales, and projects involve a lot of planning and consultancy, even before implementing a design solution.
Not to mention, once these solutions are implemented you may have the added stress of maintaining them or helping to maintain them.
No matter how good your iterative development process is, you are sure to encounter stress and harsh conditions. Even though software development is the definition of a desk job, that can be tough on your body.
Constantly sitting wreaks havoc on your bones, which develops into aches and pains, and is anyone who is in pain happy? God no, unless they’re a sadist.
The American Cancer Society also says “People who sat the most were more likely to die from 14 different diseases.”
Regardless of what chair you’re using, whether it be a cheap plastic affair, or the PosturePerfect 3000, you’re still sitting, and this will gradually grind you down.
Did you know that sitting also has emotional effects too? Negative ones, that is.
In your workplace, consider getting yourself a standing desk at both home and work, so you can work on your main projects and side-projects without grinding yourself down. If your manager is at all abusive or lacking understanding of the timescale you need to complete projects, team up with some employees and get them told!
3. Mental health conditions are prominent in the coding community
We are not saying you have a mental health condition, not at all. If you are, it is perfect valid too!
Studies have found that rates of ADHD, bipolar, depression and autistic spectrum disorder tend to run higher in the coding community, as these conditions tend to be associated with higher intelligence.
Believe it or not, most coding companies try to hire smart people, not idiots.
However, the fact that a lot of coders will have one of these conditions will have an impact on their emotions and how they deal with situations.
Software development is a very stressful — sometimes almost toxic — environment, where existing mental health conditions can be easily compounded.
InfoQ says: “According to the International Journal of Social Sciences, software developers have a considerably higher chance of experiencing fatigue, burnout, anxiety, and stress, compared to their colleagues who perform mechanical tasks. “
And while it’s easy for most of society to tell someone with a mental health condition to ‘get over it’, it’s not that simple.
When you’re struggling more than most, and being asked to work flat out, you’re not going to produce results, are you?
You’re just going to feel it harder than most, which can at best turn into sloppy code. At worst, it can exacerbate an existing mental health condition and require therapy and counselling in order to maintain some semblance of normality.
It is particularly important we look out for those in our workplace who have mental health conditions. Ensure they have access to support services and help try to take the load off them a little bit.
But remember, don’t put yourself under any more stress while trying to help them. And if you have a mental health condition, look out for signs of increased stress and anxiety during your working day.
4. Coding errors can have major consequences.
All these factors: working hours, poor working environment, bad management, workload, mental health and bodily symptoms all work together to make us less alert and more susceptible to creating errors.
These errors can have major consequences. In 1990, a single line of C that was incorrect lead to 50% of AT&Ts phone network crashing. 75 million calls went unanswered, some may have been conversations while others mat have been more urgent.
It also created a financial situation, where calls went unanswered, and sales could not be made and more.
Coding errors have also been responsible for reporting people dead, as what happened in 2003 when a software glitch at a hospital incorrectly declared 8,500 people as six feet under.
And in 1986, a line of incorrect code in the Therac-25 radiation machine killed four people and left two with lifelong injuries pertaining to radiation poisoning.
So while we immediately associate code errors with game glitches and bugs, and perhaps hacking attacks, there is a significant human cost to code errors.
And who knows? One day, you could be a victim of one of these catastrophic errors, which leads to a fatal explosion, no income, medical error and more.
A coding error can very much kill you.
Therefore, look after yourself, so you can keep the world moving with your awesome coding skills!
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