Vancouver’s Blackbird Interactive (BBI), creators of the award-winning Hardspace: Shipbreaker and developer of the upcoming Homeworld 3 and Crossfire: Legion, are implementing a studio-wide four-day work week beginning in April of 2022.
“Without our crew we are nothing. They are the most important asset to our studio and their mental health is the most important thing to them and therefore to us. Burnout in our industry is real and a common problem. Even worse, it’s a problem that can’t be effectively treated, only prevented,” BBI’s CEO Rob Cunningham explains.
In addition, BBI will be giving employees the option of extreme work location flexibility.
“So we did a four-day work week trial with multiple project teams and collected every bit of before and after data we could: code and content submits, task estimates vs. actuals, mental health surveys, verbal comments, interviews, and monitored the outcome closely. The results were stunning. Productivity did NOT drop and literally everything else improved: quality, effectiveness, efficiency, morale, interpersonal relationships and so on. It was an overabundance of positivity. Making a four-day work week our new policy moving forwards was an absolute no-brainer.”
The four-day work week was an idea that came from the feedback of developers themselves, in fact, not from management.
“We’re a studio that is very employee driven,” Pam Lee, Blackbird Interactive’s Director of HR said. “Great ideas come from everyone, regardless of your background, discipline, and experience level. The idea of the four-day work week literally came from our employees. When we asked employees to give us feedback on some retention ideas, the four-day work week was by far the most popular one. We were ready to consider some out of the box ideas and this was one that the leadership team felt we had to look into. We’re an agile company and within a couple of weeks we set up the four-day work week pilot with two of our projects. We recognize that we have to create systems that allow flexibility for our employees to be able to thrive both professionally and personally.”
The studio has already benefited from the new pace of the work week, in fact.
“Our team was under huge pressure and on the verge of burnout due to the nature of working from home during a critical period of production, with the added stress of Covid on top of that. When the trial was over it was obvious the four-day work week saved us. I don’t think we could have got to where we are today without it.” Jessica Klyne, Lead Producer on Hardspace Shipbreaker said.
“Arrangements that respect work/life balance are absolutely going to be a competitive advantage for Blackbird, but it’s also important to share what we’ve learned. It would make us really happy to see other studios join us in this healthier, more effective way to create games.”