The pandemic and open source

GitHub report: Developers remain productive during quarantine

Sarah Schlothauer
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How does working remotely affect productivity and well-being? A special report from GitHub took a look at the stats, how developer productivity is holding up during the pandemic and how it has affected contributions to open source.

On May 6, 2020 GitHub published a special Octoverse report. It examines how developers are working during the COVID-19 pandemic and patterns that have been seen since developers began working from home.

How does working remotely affect productivity? It turns out that working remotely has positive effects on production, although it may lengthen the number of hours that developers work. Let’s take a look at some of the data provided by GitHub.

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Production has increased

The good news is that according to the number of pull requests, comments, and activity on GitHub, developer activity has increased during shelter-in-place orders.

Although meetings have shifted from in-person to video conference calls, devs have been resilient to the changes and able to adapt.

In response to the data, GitHub’s Nicole Forsgren writes:

Our analysis shows that people are resilient to change: developer activity was consistent or up, even through this crisis. Organizations that can adapt their processes and procedures—and embrace new ways of working as quickly as their teams—will be resilient and successful, too. Preparing for this includes introducing flexible tools and processes to plan and track work such as enhancements, tasks, features, and bugs, which will help support developer productivity anywhere work happens.

The following image shows the number of pull requests per active user in 2020 versus 2019. The regular downward dips denote a weekend.


Pull requests per active user. Source.

Devs are working more hours

One of the downsides of working from home, according to the statistics GitHub found, was an increase in working hours.

GitHub looked at over 40,000 organizations from around the world with paid Team accounts or a GitHub Enterprise Cloud account. They found an average of an extra hour of work added per day, according to the first and last git pushes of the day.

An increased workload can lead to burnout and affect developers’ mental and physical health.

Maintaining mental health

Of course, productivity is nothing without mental well-being. According to a report from GitLab earlier this year, 90% of remote workers would recommend it to a friend.

Despite the extra hours, the March 2020 report from GitLab shows that 32% of developers who work remotely have reduced stress, and 26% report improved health.

So, the benefits of working from home should be weighed against any potential extra work and the possibility of chronic overwork.

SEE ALSO: Why soft skills are important for developers

Open source solutions

One of the effects of sheltering-in-place is the vast amount of open source solutions that have emerged.

For instance, open source video conferencing tools are a popular type of project that help devs work remotely, without having to use Zoom or Slack. Devs are lending their efforts towards secure tools such as Jitsi Meet and BigBlueButton.

In addition to these tools, many developers have also taken it upon themselves to use their skills in order to help track the COVID-19 pandemic and make data easily accessible via public projects.

The influx of open source solutions also shows that developers are readily collaborating with one another and engaging with the community. GitHub found that “27.62% more open source repositories created this year in late March compared to last year”, even when including weekends.

Read through the special report from GitHub and view the data.

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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