Informatics Seminar Series
Fall Quarter 2021

Friday, October 1, 2021

“Take a Deep Breath – Benefits of Neuroplasticity Practices for Software Developers and Computer Workers in a Family of Experiments”

Birgit Penzenstadler
Associate Professor
Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract:
Computer workers in general, and software developers specifically, are under a high amount of stress due to continuous deadlines and, often, over-commitment. We investigate the effects of a neuroplasticity practice, a specific breathing practice, on the attention awareness, well-being, perceived productivity, and self-efficacy of computer workers. The intervention was a 12-week program with a weekly live session that included a talk on a well-being topic and a facilitated group breathing session. During the intervention period, we solicited one daily journal note and one weekly well-being rating. We replicated the intervention in a similarly structured 8-week program.

The intervention showed improvements in participants' experienced inner states despite an ongoing pandemic and intense outer circumstances for most. Over the course of the study, we found an improvement in the participants' ratings of how often they found themselves in good spirits as well as in a calm and relaxed state. We also aggregate a large number of deep inner reflections and growth processes that may not have surfaced for the participants without deliberate engagement in such a program.

The data indicates usefulness and effectiveness of an intervention for computer workers in terms of increasing well-being and resilience. Everyone needs a way to deliberately relax, unplug, and recover. Breathing practice is a simple way to do so, and the results call for establishing a larger body of work to make this common practice. We briefly try it out during the talk (optional participation).

Bio:
Birgit Penzenstadler is faculty at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and Lappeenranta Lahti University of Technology, Finland. She has been researching the relationship between sustainability and software engineering for a decade. Software systems inform and shape our future, and consequently, software engineering holds the key to transitioning towards a sustainable global society. Her recent research focuses on how neuroplasticity practices can support improving their presence, creativity, and overall resilience.

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