Full disclosure, I’m not a developer or a DevOps professional so some of the terms I use might not be correct. I’m a product marketer who is trying to learn more about a facet of development work.

I’ve read that up to 50% of developers' time is spent on invisible work - those things that aren’t directly traceable back to code commits or other productivity metrics. Interpersonal components like helping teammates or asking for help or discovery components like experimentation or hunting down solutions. I don’t know how accurate these numbers are, so if anyone has different ones with sources, that would be appreciated.

Given the importance of this type of work and how much of it is invisible, what are the strategies or approaches that you use to make this work visible?

  • 1
    The trick is you don't need to measure this directly. Modern approach is based on Theory of Constraints - where you start with bottlenecks and then address those bottlenecks. And usually we use Accelerate metrics to locate bottlenecks in Software organizations. Generally, I'd recommend reading "The Goal" first if you haven't done so already.
    – taleodor
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


There is a brilliant talk and blog on this "invisible work" called Being Glue.

Every senior person in an organisation should be aware of the less glamorous - and often less-promotable - work that needs to happen to make a team successful. Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills. Left unconscious, it can be career limiting. It can push people into less technical roles and even out of the industry.

If you don't track it, you can feel like you worked so hard all day, and then you look back and have a hard time figuring out what you ACTUALLY achieved. (You definitely get this feeling in management positions too).

A few ways I've used to track this invisible work and make it more visible:

  • Use your calendar religiously. For example, you get a ping on Slack asking for help / some pairing. Instead of just jumping on right away, create a calendar invite for it, even if its 15 minutes away from now. This allows you to go back over your calendar and see when you paired with folks throughout the week.
  • Use your teams work tracking system. For discovery style work, this should be tracked in your teams work tracking system (eg. JIRA). You want to be able to produce an artifact this work is done, eg. describing tradeoffs and what you learned. This not only makes the work visible, but it adds additional value to your team as they can understand your decision and tradeoffs you are making.
  • Look for opportunities to pair with and teach others. Instead of spending many hours hidden away trying to debug a problem, is there anyone on your team that you could hop on a screen share and work on it together? Drop a Slack message in your team channel "hey i'm about to debug this bug if anyone wants to pair with me". Even if nobody joins, at least your work is visible.
  • Keep a diary of what you are working on. Set a reminder every hour or so just to make some notes. Refer to this when you have your manager 1:1's or team standups to give people an idea where you have been spending your time. Giving specifics is much better than "I was busy speaking to a lot of people".

There isn't a lot of work that stays invisible if you are using these techniques!

  1. Keep track of your time in a spreadsheet--I use LibreOffice Calc or Microsoft Excel to do this. I usually round to the nearest 15 minutes in the Start and End columns. The Time column automatically calculates the delta, and the total at the bottom is automatically updated. Example: enter image description here
  2. Also, include a project in your bug tracking/issue software (eg: Jira) for miscellaneous or ad-hoc requests/problems, and track unexpected events there as tickets.

1:[enter image description here]

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