Time pressure and well-being in software engineering: evidence from software repositories, experience sampling, and prior literature.

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Martti Ahtisaari Auditorium L2, Linnanmaa, remote connection: https://oulu.zoom.us/j/68619537091

Topic of the dissertation

Time pressure and well-being in software engineering: evidence from software repositories, experience sampling, and prior literature.

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Miikka Kuutila

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Empirical Software Engineering in Software, Systems and Services (M3S)

Subject of study

Software Engineering


Professor Robert Feldt, Chalmers University of Technology


Professor Mika Mäntylä, University of Oulu

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On the causes, effects and possible ways of detecting time pressure in software engineering.

Popular and academic sources have indicated that high-pressure work environments are commonplace in the software industry, leading to stress and burnout. One cause of stress is time pressure, not having enough time to complete a task at hand. In addition to effects on well-being, time pressure affects software development processes, productivity, and quality. Synthesising prior evidence and providing real-time data to managers could help to minimize the detrimental effects and optimize productivity.

This thesis aims to investigate and give a comprehensive view of the existing body of knowledge on the effects of time pressure in software engineering, including processes, methods, and individual developers. Additionally, we aim to investigate ways to link time pressure and work well-being to software repositories to understand the well-being of software developers better. The research consists of two branches: a review branch and a primary study branch. In the review branch, prior knowledge related to sentiment analysis and time pressure was analyzed with bibliometric studies, making a systematic map and a systematic literature review. Studies were conducted using software repository mining, sentiment analysis, experience sampling, and interviews in the primary study branch.

Results from the review branch indicate, among others, increased productivity and decreased quality under time pressure. The causes of time pressure can be divided into technical and social factors, with errors in cost estimation, project management, and company culture being the most common causes. The results from the primary study branch show the limiting effect of individual differences on the prediction of well-being. Other findings include the detection of work rhythms through mining time stamps of code commits and the prediction ability of chat activity over chat sentiment on developer productivity.

While the research for this thesis could not find clear links between repository variables and developer well-being that would work at a team level, possibilities to study these links further are established. Future work related to time pressure in software engineering should focus on contextual factors such as company culture and trade-offs between productivity, quality, and well-being within different time scales.
Last updated: 1.3.2023