What do software engineers do in their free time?

Having a range of hobbies is key to good mental health so let’s explore what software engineers do in their free time. With a busy work schedule, it can be difficult to put time aside for the things you enjoy doing. 

Making sure you get some downtime away from work commitments prevents burnout and makes you generally happier. People aren’t restricted to specific hobbies due to their occupation but some may lean towards other outlets than others.

In their free time software engineers tend to: 

  1. Code personal projects
  2. Write 
  3. Play board games
  4. Read books
  5. Play video games
  6. Cook 
  7. Work out 
  8. Listen to music
  9. Spend time with family

Let’s take a closer look at these hobbies and understand why they are particularly popular among software engineers. 

What do software engineers do in their free time?

Yoga class

In their free time, software engineers code personal projects, play video games, cook, work out, listen to music, watch TV, and play board games. Reading and writing are also fan favorites in the developer community. Software development can attract a particular type of personality so it makes sense for hobbies to be similar across parts of the industry.

Let’s explore each of the downtime activities and look at why they may be popular among programmers.

1. Personal projects

A lot of software engineers get into the industry because they love to code. It’s fantastic to be able to get paid for something you are also passionate about. 78% of all developers say they code as a hobby.

The industry changes so quickly that there are always new tools and languages to experiment with. You may not get to explore the latest and greatest technology during working hours so that is why many of them do it at home. 

Plenty of people in the industry also moonlight as freelance developers and enjoy growing a business during their free time.

2. Writing

Software engineering is a creative endeavor so it makes sense that developers enjoy expressing themselves in their free time. Some people journal every day as a way to clear their thoughts and express their emotions. Others enjoy writing blog articles and researching new topics. 

If there is a technical concept you don’t know much about, the best way to understand it is by writing. You learn a lot in the research and writing phase so it has a knock-on effect of making you a better developer. 

3. Board games 

Whether it’s Catan, Risk, or Dungeons and Dragons, board games are a great way to spend time with your friends. It’s certainly more active than a passive hobby like watching TV but it’s incredibly rewarding. 

Board games are infinitely more personal than console gaming and a great way to catch up with friends. More complex board games appeal to software engineers because they love a challenge and working through big problems.

4. Cooking

There are few better pleasures in life than cooking yourself and some friends a mouth-watering meal. The smells, tastes, and sounds are all enough to melt away a stressful day at your computer.

Not only is cooking a great hobby if you want to stay healthy but it saves you a tonne of money. For logical thinkers like developers, cooking allows you to focus on one small task at a time and bring it all together to work towards delivering some software, sorry I mean food!

5. Reading

Reading is such an awesome pastime. You can do it completely free of charge with a library membership and it brings hours of uninterrupted joy. The best thing about books is that there is something for everyone. Whether it’s fantasy, fiction, biographies, or the history of the world, you’ll always find something worth reading. 

Software engineers enjoy the detail and it’s probably why books have such a wide appeal. Movies miss out on a lot of stuff and there is nothing better than appreciating the source material. 

Reading is also a great resource for improving your development skills. Not only do you learn new stuff but it’s there as a future reference too. 

6. Sports and Exercise

Software engineering can be stressful and there is no better remedy than exercise. It’s a great way to clear your mind after a busy day staring at lines of code. Getting outdoors also has the added benefit of reducing the likelihood of needing glasses.

Often people that don’t like exercise just haven’t found the particular variety they enjoy. Some people love running, others the gym, yoga, or group classes. I’d highly recommend giving a variety of stuff a try and just see what sticks – there is something for everyone

Playing sports and exercising is also proven to be great for your mental health. The overall effect is a dose of positivity added to your day!

7. Music

The best thing about music is that you don’t have to do anything to enjoy it. Simply turn on your favorite tracks, get comfy, and enjoy. Music is great at triggering memories and emotions and is a perfect way to spend your free time.

Unlike some of the other hobbies that software engineers do in their free time, you don’t have to be good at anything to enjoy music. Although people who do play instruments tend to love doing so. 

You can also mix and match music with other hobbies. Whether it’s working out, cooking, reading, or even programming, there is always a tune to suit the mood. There is nothing better than getting into the groove when coding and having your favorite playlist on in the background.

8. Family Time

Spending time with your loved ones is always a good way to spend your free time. Software engineers tend to work overtime too so it makes that time even more precious. Working from home has been a godsend for many business programmers looking to steal some extra time with their families.

It can be easy to over-work and sometimes the simple things in life are the most rewarding. 

9. Gaming

Most software engineers are under 30 which aligns almost perfectly with the demographic that game the most. 57% of gamers are under 35 years old and 55% of them are male – it matches perfectly with the software engineering demographic. 

No wonder so many software engineers wear glasses, they spend all day in front of a computer screen and then the evenings in front of a console. Of course, it’s a stereotype that all programmers, like any occupational people, have a wide range of hobbies.

Do software developers have free time?

Software engineer in a clock

It’s all good wanting to have hobbies but do software engineers have the free time to enjoy their pastimes? Finding time away from work can be difficult and people often report not getting enough personal time. 

Software developers do have free time despite working overtime at least once or twice a week. Programmers have around 50+ hours of free time during the week to enjoy their favorite hobbies. Although this may vary depending on how long their commute is and if they work extra hours.

There are 168 hours in a week. If we subtract the 40 hours we work, plus 90 minutes a day for commuting, that leaves 118 hours. Then subtract 8 hours for sleep per day and another 90 minutes a day for eating, we are left with 51 hours.

So if software engineers complete a standard workweek they should have 50+ hours of free time. Of course, this is broken up between before and after work which can make it feel like significantly less time.

If you have a family, finding free time for your interests can seem like a difficult challenge. However, it is definitely beneficial for your mental and physical health to take some time for yourself during a busy week.


Every software engineer is different so understanding what they do in their free time is difficult without stereotyping them all. The old cliche of a gaming obsessed developer just isn’t true. Most software engineers have a wide variety of interests that include writing, reading, cooking, exercise, and coding new personal projects. 

If you are a developer don’t feel pressured to spend all your free time coding. Go out and explore other things you may be interested in. After all, you spend all day in front of a computer so mixing it up can’t hurt.


Software engineer overtime frequency

Coding as a hobby

Video game player demographics