Employees who can choose their Operating System are happier, use less Windows
Based on a survey of over 6,000 nerds.
Most of us have worked for a company which mandated that we use a specific (often highly locked down) computer Operating System. More often than not, a version of Windows.
You hated it, right? Yeah. Me too.
But how prevalent is that actually?
And, as a follow up question, what correlation is there (if any) between a persons reported level of general happiness… and whether or not they can choose the OS they use in their job?
Also… what is the difference in commonly used Operating Systems among people who can (or can not) choose their OS?
Let’s find out!
The following data was obtained from polling done between January 22nd and February 9th, 2023. A few details about the polling conducted:
6,022 people answered the questions.
This is significantly larger than the vast majority of national polls conducted during Presidential Elections in the USA (most of which have less than 2,000 respondents).
The poll was presented to audiences of several shows and news sites in order to obtain a large, diverse sample of computer nerds.
The questions were wide-ranging, 100% optional, and no personal data was collected.
Ok. First, the big question: What percentage of nerds can choose the Operating System they use for their job?
Turns out a slim majority of those who took the poll (over 6,000 nerds) can, indeed, choose their own OS.
54.7% can choose their OS
45.3% can not choose their OS
And this appears to be a very good thing. Because, as we also found out, there is a noteworthy correlation between the ability to choose your work Operating System… and your reported level of general happiness.
Nerds who stated that they could choose their own work OS reported to have 7.1% higher levels of general happiness than people who could not choose their work OS.
Does that prove that the ability to choose your work OS directly improves your happiness?
No. No, it does not.
But it’s a noteworthy correlation. And it does seem somewhat reasonable to assume that increased levels of freedom in your job (such as choosing your own OS) could lead to overall feelings of happiness.
It would be interesting to do a study of computers users at a company which does not allow employees to choose their Operating System. Implement a new policy where they can choose their OS, and measure their reported happiness level both before and after the change.
Until such a study is conducted, it is difficult to do much more than make an assumption based on the strong correlation as noted in that chart above.
See also: “The least happy computer users: Those running Arch Linux & Firefox”
Which brings us to another thought:
Is there any difference in what OS people use regularly (meaning they use a given OS at least once per week) when they can (or can not) choose what OS they use at work?
Turns out… oooohhhh, yeah. In a big way. Check this out.
If you can not choose your work OS:
You are significantly more likely to use Windows.
And slightly less likely to use both Linux and macOS.
What this data appears to suggest:
If people have the freedom to decide what OS they use at work… they dump Windows and start using a more Linux (or, to a lesser extent, macOS).
It also suggest that, by and large, people who want to use Linux or macOS are going to find a way to do it throughout their week — even if their job forces them to use Windows.
Note that the only Operating System to see a significant drop when it is not forced on users… is Microsoft Windows.
Which, I am going to assume, many of you saw coming.
Just the same, it’s interesting to have data which backs that up.
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I couldn't use Windows productively at my work. It is too limiting for me and too slow to maneuver for my systems administration work. There's likely potential to improve, but I have so many tools on my non-Windows computers that are easy to get. Even easier on macOS with homebrew, when I used that for a time
For myself, Windows is really the only OS that I cannot use productively. Largely, I realize that this comes down to discipline and self-regulation. Windows makes me irrationally angry. I cannot handle the pop-up notifications that seem to constantly occur, the radically inconsistent and cluttered UI (there was a time that I had this complaint about default Linux, but Linux is customizable so it's not truly a problem), the ribbon, and the inability to know how the system will behave within the next 5 minutes. More importantly, Windows breaks in ways that I had heretofore never seen anywhere. For example: updates making the system unable to boot, updates breaking the ability to receive updates, sudden and inexplicable absences of required components, and sudden and inexplicable changing of nearly any setting. I say this as someone who has used a very wide variety of operating systems both professional and hobbyist. I never seen anything as bad as Windows has become anywhere else. This is actually a bit of a tragedy as Microsoft's Windows NT (which is really just a slightly more different VMS) is technologically quite sophisticated. There is no reason for any NT system to be as bad as Windows now is. From my perspective, it would seem that Microsoft is actively attempting to kill Windows and grow the macOS and Linux user bases. As Microsoft essentially is the Linux Foundation, I suppose this shouldn't be surprising...
Hopefully, SerenityOS will save us all.