back to article Stressed-out IT workers, software devs – we're not being funny but have you tried rebooting your breathing?

Software developers and IT workers can improve their sense of well-being and their perception of themselves if they partake in mindful breathing, a trio of boffins have found. Birgit Penzenstadler, assistant professor of software engineering at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology, Richard Torkar, professor of software …

  1. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    "Sleep deprivation is often worn as a badge of honor [among developers],"

    Engineers unfortunately are subjected to tons of manipulation techniques that are designed to extract as much value as possible for as little money.

    Often, especially for younger devs, when they count the unpaid overtime, they would find they probably wouldn't be much worse off financially by stacking shelves in a supermarket, but had more time for doing things they love, like development.

    That's why we have things like IR35 and regulatory capture in many areas lobbied by big tech, to minimise the possibility of engineers going their own way.

  2. Martin Summers Silver badge

    What would stop me being stressed out is

    1. Not having arseholes treat IT professionals like second class citizens within the company

    2. Not having 'urgent' (read not actually urgent) demands thrown at them by said arseholes.

    3. Not having an expectation of unpaid on call or out of hours support by default. Just because.

    Sort those things and maybe just a few more and then just maybe, IT pros will have time to breathe.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is real?

    Did somebody actually receive money/credits for this drivel?

    Where the hell are the Ig Nobel guys when you need them?

    Speaking of sleep deprivation, my work is actually investing in sinus surgery (balloon sinuplasty) for me so I can sleep better.

    The doctor said "you may hear bones or cartilage breaking during the procedure" and I replied "I sure as hell better! for all the decades of anguish it's caused me!"

    That was not a response he was expecting.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: This is real?

      Speaking of sleep deprivation, my work is actually investing in sinus surgery (balloon sinuplasty) for me so I can sleep better.

      A farmer would take a horse to the vet if it couldn't plough.

      My view is that a worker should be paid enough to be able to take care about themselves. If the workplace is paying, then it means they want you to feel that you owe them and so hope that they will extract more value from you and that you will remain loyal.

      Corporations tend to keep wages low and then drop "benefits" on top, to make you feel good about them, how thoughtful and caring they are. It is natural for humans to respond in the same way and that's what they are exploiting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is real?

        "A farmer would take a horse to the vet if it couldn't plough".

        Unless it's cheaper to shoot the horse and get a new one. Which is the case these days with overseas outsourcing.

        Also a farmer has a working relationship with his horse. Your HR department doesn't give a shit about you and the execs probably don't even know who you are.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: This is real?

          Unless it's cheaper to shoot the horse and get a new one.

          Also a farmer has a working relationship with his horse.

          You are kind of contradicting yourself. The truth is that nobody cares about you, especially if you are at a big corporation. If you think they care, then they are just good at making such impression. The moment they don't need you, they'll let you go without blinking.

          Their foremost goal is to make money, anything else are just means to further that goal.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cheap option

    It's sure to be cheaper than providing developers with individual offices, which would cut even more of the stress.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Breathing exercises...

    ...isn't that basically a fag break?

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Breathing exercises...

      and if they don't smoke, they can grab a straw from the canteen and breathe through that. One day it will be the last one...

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Breathing exercises...

      Yes, however this is the high tech marketing friendly version complete with a catchy name: "Rise 2 Flow" and its own 'app' - so no reduction in screentime or time away from the screen.

      I suggest from a cursory look at the website, this is being packaged up in it a nice subscription service offering...

      Opportuity for someone, it seems rise-2-flow,com is available and they haven't trademarked the name etc...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My work e-mail inbox looks like this

    HR: "We care about your mental health"

    Project 1: "Email about something which is very important to the company and has to be done yesterday"

    Project 2: "Email about something which is very important to the company and has to be done yesterday"

    HR: "We care about your mental health again"

    Project 3: "Email about something which is very very important to the company and has to be done last week"

    HR: "We do care about your mental health, we really do"

    Project 1: "Emergency!!!11!!1! Immediate response required!!!1!!1"

    But at least they care about my mental health.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: My work e-mail inbox looks like this

      Exactly like my inbox

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My work e-mail inbox looks like this

        Inboxes full of chasing in IT are trivial compared to "ah, Dave good to see you, when you've got a minute can you take a quick look at something for me?".

        Shit like that erodes your mental health like a glacier.

    2. FozzyBear

      Re: My work e-mail inbox looks like this

      Oh, So you're the new IT starter I haven't been able to say G'day to yet due to the workload. Don't worry I think we will be working together on project #4, It was due last month

  7. Little Mouse Silver badge

    A mere sticking plaster

    Unfortunately, I've seen with my own eyes how "Mindfulness" mumbo like this is dished out to people as the solution to their mental health issues. Unqualified but well meaning pastoral carers - e.g. at schools - then don't even notice if someone has actually come to them with a genuine mental health issue that warrants further attention from someone actually who knows what they are doing, because they believe that Mindfulness, Breathing Apps and "boosting confidence" are the cure for all mental ailments.

    We can all benefit from a bit of personal time-out, to be sure, but breathing slowly etc only helps to lessen the symptoms of whatever it is that is actually ailing you. It doesn't address the underlying problems.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A mere sticking plaster

      Yeah, this pop-psych crap is a scam. The effect is essentially a placebo, the study is essentially comparing a self induced no-brake sweatshop to forced breaks. The lack of a control group mentioned by the others shows how they missed this.

      That said the real reason these studies are so prevalent is it offers our employers a cheaper alternative to us receiving and using any mental heath benefits we have, while ostensibly helping them stay in compliance with state mandated break times.

  8. sharpwolverine

    We aren't going to reduce your load. We aren't going to pay you more. Just breathe better.

    Sounds just like something a manager would say.

  9. Steve Button Silver badge

    Where's the control?

    You need to have a control group who got 3 x 7 minutes of relaxation followed by 20 minutes of... more relaxation, before you can conclude that the mindful breathing is the thing that has shown an improvement.

    My suspicion would be that either would make you more relaxed and aware. Kinda, like no shit Sherlock.

    So, taking a break to relax makes you more relaxed.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Everyone keeps skipping a key paragraph...

    That MS study that is making the rounds? Right in the intro:

    " However, these analyses, like much of the previous research on remote work, virtual teams and telecommuting, are non-causal and are therefore unable to separate the effects of remote work from the effects of pandemic-related confounding factors, such as reduced focus due to COVID-19-related stress or increased caregiving responsibilities while sheltering in place. "

    So not exactly the slam dunk for in-office they keep yammering about.

    Actual result:

    "We had a massive change in both cultural and work habits and *something* cause our communications patterns to shift."

  11. ShadowSystems

    My favorite relaxation methods...

    In order of reverse lethality:

    1. An inflated punching target with the sand in the base & the boss' face painted on the head section of whatever representation is silk screened on to the plastic. It's very fun to beat the shit out of "the boss" without actually landing myself in prison.

    2. The boss' face tacked to a dart board & copious darts thrown/hammered into the picture. You know my frustration level is a bit too high if I'm screaming "Die MotherFucker, DIE!" at it while sending a stream of incomming from a roofing nailgun.

    3. Replacing all the character maps of the bad guys in Doom/Quake/W:ET with images of the boss & upper level managers so I can pretend to be shooting them with plasma cannons, bazookas, machine guns, & flame throwers. It's pretty much a given that I'm in dire need of a vacation at this point.

    4. My work space is covered in random scraps of paper with various doodles & equations on them. The doodles of devices, the equations of ballistics. This stage means they should be running for safety, calling those nice young men in their clean white coats, or both.

    5. My work space is suspiciously clean, neat, & tidy. There are no personal belongings anywhere. It's as if I've already taken all my personal gear home prior to some event that will almost certainly get me fired &/or arrested. At this stage It's Too Late. Best evacuate the building just to be sure. Not that it will matter, I didn't leave a bomb inside. Instead you should be checking why your bank balance has suddenly INCREASED by an order of magnatude from an anonymous depositor, why there are a pair of first class plane tickets to some tropical location without extradition treaties in your name, and the company's coffers have recently been debeted by said deposit amount. Because the embezzlement trail will lead straight to your desk & your presumed alibi won't be worth a hill of beans.

    6. I've found the codes to the Orbital LART & your cellphone number. Kiss your arse goodbye.

    *Deep calming breaths*

    Damn it, those last two are already on MySkippy'sList. I'll have to come up with something else just as amusing. TTYL, I'm off to the drawing board!

    *Inserts a giant, glowing, blinking, scrolling marquis SARCASM tag for the irony deficient*

    1. Alistair Silver badge

      Re: My favorite relaxation methods...

      *Inserts a giant, glowing, blinking, scrolling marquis SARCASM tag for the irony deficient*

      I suspect this icon represents an irony supplement of sorts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My favorite relaxation methods...

      Considering your previous comments about your need for screen readers and other nonvisual aides (my condolences), I'm particularly concerned about #2...

      Also a hint - the traditional projectile motion equations in physics textbooks explicitly do not account for air resistance. Real horizontal distance traveled before impact with ground is approximately half of what the equations would predict based on angle and muzzle velocity. At least for potatoes. (Yes, I've experimentally verified that.)

  12. a_yank_lurker

    Work Life Balance

    Too many Silly Valley sweat shops and their spawn forget work life balance is needed for the long term health of employees. This means minimizing unpaid overtime and keeping the work to about 40 hrs with rare excursions to beyond. It also means keeping pointless interruptions to a minimum and allowing physical space for developers to work (no cube farms); an office with a door. Also, better overall project management is a required; when everything is urgent nothing is urgent.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Being an IT worker is not the problem.

    Other people are the problem.

    The universe needs intelligent life like a hole in the head.

  14. trindflo Bronze badge

    Recent acolyte

    This deep breathing is something I recently discovered myself. Perhaps if I wasn't so arrogant I might have remembered sooner that I'd learned this from Jack LaLanne decades ago.

    What was different for me was that I was watching my blood pressure and dreading getting on medication. I'd gotten morbidly obsessed with it and was tracking with spreadsheets when the obvious hit me that it was taking way too long for my stats to recover after any exercise. And I started breathing in an exaggerated manner. This is what Jack LaLanne referred to as dynamic breathing:

    I do it particularly when I exercise and during the recovery period. If you are monitoring your blood pressure and have some regular exercise you do, and your doctor hasn't expressly warned you against breathing, give it a try and see if you notice a difference.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Recent acolyte

      I'm pretty sure most doctors would be ok with breathing. They seem much more concerned about a lack of it.


  15. tiggity Silver badge

    Physical activity

    "found physical activity was the most popular way for software developers to address stress"

    I'm sure lots of devs* would like this to be a minute of no consequnces, no holds barred combat versus manglement

    * Those with the appropriate fighting skills / physique to make full use of the opportunity.

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