Software Development and being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

What is a Highly Sensitive Person

A short explanation first to clarify what I mean by a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).

An HSP is a person whose nervous system triggers on a lower threshold. That mean that they realize smaller cues that other people’s brain filters out without them realizing it. Or they need to exert energy and attention to realize them.

Benefits of being a HSP

Being a highly sensitive Person can be very rewarding. You can see and sometimes feel the mood in a room of people. Or when you join meeting. Or when you have a one on one conversation like with your friends. Or in your salary negotiation.

You´re picking up visual and aura cues without needing to do something special, it´s just being yourself.

Being in nature is for many people very calming and grounding.

When I for example walked through the forest in Split, Croatia in the morning, heard the birds, saw the sun glistening on the ocean like 30 meters away it was basically a walking meditation and medicine for my nerves.

Or when I learned scuba diving. The underwater world is so peaceful.

As a highly sensitive person you experience these more intense in a good way. This can make you really happy.

Drawbacks of a being a HSP

Being a highly sensitive person is not only sunshine and roses. As visual cues, noises, the tone of a voice and so on are constantly picked up, it can be confusing, draining and driving you crazy.

If your work environment is not set up in respect to and with recognition of the specifics, it can be very draining. Even if your colleagues and bosses are awesome and you love what you do, it can exhaust you and drive you into a similar state as a burn-out when you e.g. work in an open office plan space with the (tele-)marketing team and the front office nearby.

Is software development harder for a HSP?

This is a difficult decision that in the end you must make yourself. From my own experience as a HSP working in Corporations, Small-medium sized companies and start up is mixed. Those were mixed of production companies, software development companies with one product and technology enabled companies in different Sectors.

The factors I found making the difference:

The office environment

A lot is dependent on the environment when you are highly sensitive. In one Job we had overly intense lightning on the ceiling, I was seat with the back to the only entry and needed to open it when some visited us. Also everyone coming in looked on my screens. And I had to fight to get a second screen to work with.

In another we had okay to good chairs, on big wide screen, good lightning, not sitting at the door and less snoopy eyes.

Guess where I was feeling more at ease

=> When choosing a job, make sure to inquiry about the seating situation, height adjustable desks, good chairs and lightning. If possible visit the office where you will be

The Team

The team makes a huge difference. When you feel at ease with your colleagues, they understanding you and you can talk about issues and challenges you feel way more accepted and seen.

Especially as I get older I understand this part now. When I was younger and less experienced I was ignoring it alot. Now I see the value in it.

=> When choosing your job try to meet the team, have maybe lunch with them and feel the energy and vibe you´re getting.

Remote work options

Remote work is still a thing that challenge companies. May it be because they believe their communication not being up to par, your manager thinking you will just slack off or other reasons. If you are highly sensitive and have you´re own home set up better than your companies office for your needs, then you will want to work from home.

=> When you search your job inquire about option of remote work. May it be a day a week mostly remote, ask. It can greatly improve your experience working with them.

Deep work

Deep work was named by Cal Newport. It´s required to solve harder problems and in general makes your work easier. It´s about being undisturbed, e.g. closing your office door, putting on headphone in dive deep.

=> When you search your job inquire about much time you can expect to spend doing deep work. If they don´t know or say anything above 5 hours/day, get out of there. 5 hours deep work in 1 day is the highest possible and way more likely to be happening by people very experienced with it.

Food options

Although probably minor in comparison find out about the available food options in the companies cantina, places nearby or delivery. You´re likely to have (dis-)likes that affect your daily productivity and wellbeing. If they can´t be met there you need to bring your own lunch or find an alternative solution.

=> When selecting your new job check if available food options match your requirements or if you´re willing to improvise.

Type of company

The type of company can have a big influence on your wellbeing. Corporations can provide a feeling of security by knowing they can pay your salary without problem, you have a more stable plan what to work on and your scope might me more limited.

In a start up on the other hand you might feel less secure if they are not yet highly seeded or profitable, when you need to switch often (maybe even multiple times within a day) between projects, frameworks and technology and might work longer hours under more stress.

=> When your searching for a job think about if you can handle the potentially higher pressure from working in a start up or if the environment in a medium sized company or corporation is a better fit for you.

To summarize:

The work of a software developer doesn´t necessarily need to be overly stressful or hard for a highly sensitive person. But the environment can make it so. Especially a startup like environment with unsecure funding, a lot of hours, high pressure, a lot of energy from the team and a potentially uncomfortable office can turn a job as software developer into a highly stressful one.

What do you think about it? Do your view match this?

Best Frank

Leave a Reply