How to Increase Your Team's Performance

Feb 28, 2024 6:22 PM
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I recently began a study on the impact of GitHub Copilot on software engineers' productivity. During this study, I stumbled upon a GitHub article discussing how they assess the productivity of their development teams, which led me down a rabbit hole...

Today, we'll explore workplace stress, multitasking, burnout, and their effects on productivity. Moreover, we'll discuss strategies to mitigate these issues.

To provide reliable information, this discussion will heavily rely on references to scientific articles and data. Let's dive in!


SPACE Framework from GitHub.

GitHub measures the productivity of software teams using various metrics from different categories:

  • Satisfaction and well-being, measured by stress levels and staff turnover
  • Performance, gauged by quality, absence of bugs, and customer satisfaction
  • Activity, quantified by the number of lines of code, PRs, builds, and story points
  • Communication and collaboration, assessed by the discoverability of documentation and expertise, as well as onboarding time
  • Efficiency and flow, evaluated by the number of work interruptions, waiting time, and software development waste

However, among all these metrics—such as lines of code, number of PRs and their review speed, number of bugs, and customer satisfaction—the most important one, according to GitHub, is Employee Satisfaction and well-being. They dedicate an entire introduction to this metric [12].

GitHub argues that this group of metrics correlates with overall productivity and serves as a predictive indicator. If satisfaction decreases, overall productivity tends to fall after a while [12].

A decline in satisfaction and engagement could signal upcoming burnout and reduced productivity.

I highly recommend reading the original article.

How well-being affects everything else

My psychologist, an expert in stress, including workplace stress, offered an explanation.

Stress leads to an increase in mistakes, referred to as bugs in IT. This results in a decrease in quality and customer satisfaction.

Moreover, our brain's control system keeps us restless, continually distracting us with TikToks, Reels, or news. Unfortunately, neural networks have yet to master writing code while we are occupied with such distractions.

Stress also makes us irritable, affecting our interactions. Toxicity spreads like a virus within a team, damaging healthy communication.

Lastly, stress stifles creativity. Work becomes a task of obedience rather than an effort for efficiency or client importance.

Types of Work-Related Stress

Team productivity is directly influenced by stress. Let's delve into its sources and possible solutions.

I've examined several studies on work stress factors [1], [2], [3], [4], [5].

Across all these studies, the primary stress factors include overwork, insufficient staff and resources, unrealistic demands, and perceived workload. The message is clear – there's always plenty of work.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also identifies several other factors [2]:

  • 54% of workers reported working at a high speed, and 56% worked under strict deadlines;
  • 50% performed short, repetitive tasks;
  • 45% of workers performed monotonous tasks;
  • 44% did not have task variety;
  • 35% had no control over the task sequence;
  • 28% lacked influence over their work pace.


The classification used in this article [4] is notable. It includes a questionnaire for assessing stress factors within your team.

Job Demands

These are defined by the volume of any workload that consumes physical or emotional resources. Factors include the necessity to work overtime, the rigidity and frequency of deadlines, the urgency of tasks, firefighting, and level of responsibility.

Job Control

This factor refers to an employee's ability to manage their time, the sequence of tasks, and the approach to task completion. The absence of strict boundaries can stimulate creativity and innovation [4].

Role Ambiguity

This category includes stress related to the level of uncertainty in work. For instance, the ambiguity of individual and corporate goals and the means to achieve them, uncertainty about how an employee's performance is evaluated, and confusion about processes and organizational structure.

Supervisors’ Support

This is characterized by the support of not just the direct supervisor, but also other, more experienced colleagues. Support involves providing flexibility at work, respecting the employee's ideas and opinions, and offering opportunities for skill development and growth. On the other end of the spectrum are abusive management, coercion to perform tasks, micromanagement, blame shifting, and punishment for mistakes.

Colleagues’ Support

This component is characterized by a safe and friendly atmosphere among peers in the workplace. The employee should feel comfortable asking colleagues for help and should perceive that other colleagues are responsible for the team as a whole. Knowledge and experience sharing should be prevalent within the team.


Multitasking significantly increases workload. It's different to manage one large task with tight deadlines as opposed to several tasks simultaneously.

It's important to note that multitasking doesn't truly exist. Our brain is evolutionarily designed to focus on one task at a time. When we attempt to multitask, we're just switching our brain's focus from one task to another. During this transition, the brain unloads information from its 'operational' memory and loads new information. [13]

The cost of multitasking can be substantial. The Project Management Institute suggests that productivity loss for handling two tasks at once is about 20-40% and this loss grows exponentially with the increase in the number of tasks. [14]

So, still considering taking on another task?


Consequences of Stress

Chronic stress can lead to burnout, which is more than just a decrease in productivity. The World Health Organization (WHO) characterizes burnout as follows:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

In 2019, WHO included burnout in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a professional phenomenon, not as a disease.

What's particularly concerning is the negativity and cynicism towards work, especially when it can impact people's lives. While a company might solve reduced productivity by allocating more resources, cynicism and negativity can affect others. Simply put, burnout is contagious. Adding new people to a pool of burned-out employees is unlikely to solve the problem. Instead, it's likely to result in more burned-out individuals.

Hard Numbers

  • 82% of software engineers experienced burnout in the last 6-8 months of 2021.
  • In developed countries, 35-45% of absenteeism at work was due to mental health problems.
  • The World Economic Forum estimates the global economy's losses from burnout at $322 billion per year.
  • 77% of managers are unaware that their subordinates are experiencing burnout and do nothing to address it.

Good Stress

Does this mean we should completely back off from employees, assign minimal work, open a SPA salon in every office, surround them with care and affection, raise salaries every 3 months, and protect them in every possible way? No.

We need stress. Without stress, we wouldn't even get out of bed. Each morning, before we wake up, our body produces cortisol, a well-known stress hormone that wakes up our brain and body. [10]

My psychologist discussed the difference between being in a "victim" state and a "predator" state. A "victim" is characterized by adrenaline production and a "fight, freeze or flee" response. Conversely, a "predator" produces norepinephrine, which is associated with pleasant anticipation and excitement.

Being in an adrenaline state is stressful for our psyche. It's a state of emergency, a mobilization for a "last gasp before death." Our brain doesn't want to return there, hence the growth of procrastination.

Norepinephrine, on the other hand, motivates us to repeat actions, even despite previous unsuccessful attempts. This hormone is a derivative of dopamine, which produces a strong high.

Our goal is to transition into the predator state since staying in the victim state for long periods isn't healthy.

I recommend reading an article that explores the impact of positive stress on innovation. The authors found a positive correlation with Job demands, Role ambiguity, and Job autonomy. They also noted that this works in an environment based on trust, where management understands that all initiatives carry risks and mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning, not failures. [4]

Another study examined the impact of Agile iteration lengths on stress levels and team performance [11]. The author also considers positive Schedule Pressure factors, such as:

  • Increased motivation in achieving results and demonstrating capabilities
  • Activation of problem-solving skills
  • Mental tension reset at the end of the sprint and starting a new one from scratch
  • Adjustment of task execution time within set parameters
  • Short cycles prevent optimistic estimation and procrastination at the beginning
  • Forces the team to work overtime (questionable, but okay)

Call to Action

  • If you feel tired from work, first and foremost, help yourself. Take a vacation, engage in sports, book a massage. I recommend working with a psychologist, even if you think that everything is okay.
  • Help others. Share this article or simply talk to your manager. Try to convey that flogging a dead horse is pointless. We need quality changes.
  • If you are a manager, don't be like the 77% of managers who don't care[9]. Conduct a survey within your team, start fighting toxic stress. You can find a template here.


[1] Bhui K, Dinos S, Galant-Miecznikowska M, de Jongh B, Stansfeld S. Perceptions of work stress causes and effective interventions in employees working in public, private and non-governmental organisations: a qualitative study. BJPsych Bull. 2016 Dec;40(6):318-325. doi: 10.1192/pb.bp.115.050823. PMID: 28377811; PMCID: PMC5353523.


[3] Tien Rahayu Tulili, Andrea Capiluppi, Ayushi Rastogi,

Burnout in software engineering: A systematic mapping study,

Information and Software Technology, Volume 155, 2023, 107116, ISSN 0950-5849,


[4] Albort-Morant G, Ariza-Montes A, Leal-Rodríguez A, Giorgi G. How Does Positive Work-Related Stress Affect the Degree of Innovation Development? Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jan 14;17(2):520. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17020520. PMID: 31947589; PMCID: PMC7013452.

[5] Moore, Jo Ellen. “One Road to Turnover: An Examination of Work Exhaustion in Technology Professionals.” MIS Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 1, 2000, pp. 141–68. JSTOR Accessed 5 Jan. 2024.

[6] World Health Organisation U. Burn-out an occupational phenomenon: International Classification of Diseases (2019)

[7] Bakker AB, Le Blanc PM, Schaufeli WB. Burnout contagion among intensive care nurses. J Adv Nurs. 2005 Aug;51(3):276-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2005.03494.x. PMID: 16033595.

[8] Forbes. **The Overlooked Consequences of Today's Burnout Problem.**

[9] Burnout in Software Development - Survey Results 2021

[10] Постнаука. **Кортизол и сон**

[11] van Oorschot, K. E., Sengupta, K., & Van Wassenhove, L. N. (2018). Under Pressure: The Effects of Iteration Lengths on Agile Software Development Performance. Project Management Journal, 49(6), 78-102.

[12] Nicole Forsgren, GitHub. Margaret-Anne Storey, University of Victoria. Chandra Maddila, Thomas Zimmermann, Brian Houck, and Jenna Butler, Microsoft Research. The SPACE of Developer Productivity

[13] Madore KP, Wagner AD. Multicosts of Multitasking. Cerebrum. 2019 Apr 1;2019:cer-04-19. PMID: 32206165; PMCID: PMC7075496.

[14] Project management Institute. Agile Practice Guide. 2017