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DevOps culture fosters employee engagement but also fatigue

Adopting an always-on DevOps culture can be both a boon and burden for employees. A company must be sure to forge a balance between customer satisfaction and employee health.

The beauty of DevOps is it has the potential to put multiple teams on the same page. While that means good things for the final product, it also means good things for the well-being of a company's employees – as long as their workload is kept in check.

According to Network Computing, research shows employees at enterprises that mature through the continuous integration phase of DevOps are "more engaged and happier with their work." There are a few reasons for this, the simplest being that those employees better understand the work that they're doing and how it affects the business's final product, both in terms of quality and speed of development. This also gives employees a sense of accomplishment, as they can draw a direct line from their work to increased customer satisfaction and increased business value.

That level of employee satisfaction requires a delicate balance, however. Success doesn't come without hard work, and if companies aren't careful, that hard work can quickly get out of hand and lead to burnout.

When committed to DevOps culture where quick fixes and turnarounds are the name of the game, workers often find themselves in an "always-on" role where they can be called upon at any time of day to address any issues that may arise with their product. Company and management sympathy dictates whether DevOps will ultimately be a help or a burden to employees, and ultimately businesses. After all, employees being woken up in the middle of the night to fix something that needs to be addressed now, aren’t going to be particularly effective at work the next day.

Part of what can help with this (besides empathy and the understanding of the importance of work-life balance in general) is how, if at all, management chooses to compensate employees for extra work and who's responsible for addressing it. Etsy, for example, offers an opt-in program in which employees can have their sleep patterns tracked using fitness trackers, and this data can in turn be used by their managers to determine who gets scheduled for on-call duties. Hosted server monitoring service Server Density, meanwhile, allows employees who deal with an out-of-hours call incident to be off-call afterwards for 24 hours.

More than anything else, businesses need to build a DevOps culture in which people aren't afraid to speak up if they're becoming overly fatigued. Since employees may be reticent to say anything, management needs to pay attention to warning signs based on workload and employee performance, and do their best to protect workers' health and safety.

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