The real problem

The real problem is being a developer involves a number of things that are so incredibly detrimental to human health and there is no real way to get away from this.

The first being sedentary a huge amount of time, something humans have not evolved to do. The brain starts to shutdown and it’s harder to concentrate and think if you haven’t been moving around. I think programmers probably have to do more intense thinking than other sedentary jobs.

Another problem with being a developer is that it is very isolating, it’s just you and the screen! Sure you can talk to people online but it is just not the same as meeting people face to face, else why doesn’t everyone in the developed world do it. Why not have a cup of coffee and Skype with a friend, but no, people still go to the coffee shop. Humans are social and have a need for direct human to human contact and we fall apart mentally without it. I suppose working in an office you have other people to talk to but your there to work and to do the work you have to shut up.

Lack of sunlight, especially in the winter is a problem as the only hours of sunlight tend to be the hours your inside working. Again we evolved to need sunlight and a lack of it isn’t good.

Technology is changing very fast as soon as version 1 of an application is completed version 2 is being produced and version 1 is consigned to history. Programming languages and frameworks come and go, of which there are so many. It’s a complete minefield, most people can’t deal with constant change they need stability.

So there we have it sedentary all day, isolated all day, lack of sunlight all day, constant change. That is a terrible combination and it’s not surprising that when trying to make a career out of writing code it ends up making you ill.

For many of us programming should just be a hobby, simple as that, work on a small project like a game or something and enjoy it with no deadline to meet, put it in an app store, share it with people and maybe even make a little money out of it.

But a full time job is something else and something most of us should really just decide it’s not worth pursuing.


Oh man, I know how you feel.

It gets harder and harder everyday to keep up being a “professional developer”. As you said, there’s just too much to learn, too much change, and not enough time, or at least time to be healthy at the same time.

I’m actually feeling that I enjoy support or teaching others about code than I do actually coding. It’s getting too much. As far as sunlight as well and the work culture pressures, it brings to memory when we had Hurricane Sandy in NY. A lot of companies closed their offices until things were settled. A lot of people didn’t have electricity, water or worse depending on where in NY you were. At the agency we used to work at, we only had one “official” day off before it was decided that business must go on and we all had to work from home that week. I hadn’t gone outside for days, stressed because of my job making me work from home and the process wasn’t as smooth compared to in office, and I experienced what my first panic attack felt like.

I didn’t even know what it was when I had it. I thought I was going crazy. Just felt like I was going to die or something really bad was going to happen, and burst into tears for “no reason”. I’ve worked in other types of jobs before, office jobs, working with kids, all before I became a developer and I had NEVER felt that before.

And here I am a few years later trying to juggle this career and maintain mental health as well. Definitely hard.

I’m beginning to think it isn’t worth it either…

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I agree with you but a lot of people work at desks using a computer. So these issues extend to many jobs, not just developers.

I really think having flexible hours is a must. You should be able to take a 2h break and go for a run and exercise if you need to. Your company should also provide the best hardware. I’ve also seen companies offering “unlimited” vacation time. If you bust your ass for 2 months… you should be able to take a vacation… no questions asked.

I’ve been thinking about changing careers myself. I have no idea what else I could do.

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Yep, I agree. Being a developer - when you think of it - is one of the most boring jobs one could have. Sure, it’s great to solve problems and be creative, but when you work over 4 hours a day sitting in front of your screen, typing code, designing stuff, whatever… it’ll kill you. At least, it’s killing me right now.

Another thing that I’d like to add without hijacking this thread, is a lack of patience I have developed over time.

Designing things and writing code used to be something fun, but I feel that I’m constantly repeating myself when I’m creating something new. Thoughts like “I already did this before…” are crossing my mind and the result is that I simply don’t finish anything anymore.

We’re working with computers and we can solve problems really fast. I’ve been getting used to that by now and I sometimes struggle with real life situations that need more time. Instant coffee anyone? Why isn’t it going faster, I want it NOW!

I’m glad I’m aware of it, so it makes it easier to deal with. However, I’ve got about 30 unfinished projects right now. I’ve been deleting many, many projects in the past because they weren’t finished by the end of the day.

I really have to write things out and take baby steps in creating something. Think about a navigation in 2 days, a footer for a website within another day, et cetera. But it’s hard. Patience is really something I need to practice. I have to accept that I’m no superman who can finish things within one day. Those days are gone.

It’s funny how many people can do it though, they can code all day, what have they got that we haven’t? Different genetics I guess.

It’s the sitting down so much that causes the most problems I think.

I can relate to this viewpoint.

I’ve just had a few weeks of vacation. Have worked a lot outside in the garden and to be honest that feels a lot more fulfilling than coding right now. Also did one day of volunteer work involving physical labour and that felt good for hours afterwards. It was great doing something hands-on with other people instead of staring at a screen all day.

I agree that programming would be more fun as a hobby. But what else can one do? I feel like I’m too old (42) to start with something completely different, like gardening. I’m probably wrong about that, but burnout/depression makes it so hard to start with something new also.

I often feel like I have a window of opportunity after having vacation, once I get into the routine again change seems even harder.

I think it’s when you go back to being sedentary it then becomes hard to change, you basically have to keep moving.

Think about it, it wasn’t that long ago in human history that we had to do physical work most of the day to actually survive, we had no choice but to move around and we haven’t evolved out of that.

I think you could start something new but it probably means a paycut at least at the start which I guess you might not be able to afford.

But 42 is not old at all that is for sure.

I agree with you but a lot of people work at desks using a computer. So these issues extend to many jobs, not just developers.

Except, to be productive you need to keep posture. You don’t get up to find a file, answer the door, talk on the phone, work with papers (looking down), etc. You keep the same posture all day, and that’s insane.

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I agree with you.

I’ve been working in web development for the last 15 years and I’ve never had a job where I sit at a desk only part time… It’s always 8 hours a day focusing on abstract problems. I’ve worked with hardware engineers who spend time working with their hands… soldering and building things… and sometimes I wish I could do that kind of work… just to get a change of pace from time to time.

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I’ve realized that this is one of the things I liked most about freelancing (basically just running my own consultancy). I worked 10 hour days most of the time, but that included some driving, a couple different offices, client meetings, and very few days where I sat in a chair for 10 hours straight. Sure, sometimes I spent 20 hours in a row coding, but then I could take the next day off or just answer emails or do billing from a coffee shop. That year was great (aside from the fact that I didn’t quite make ends meet…)

So yeah, unless you can introduce some variety, coding sucks. Especially fully remote.