Photo: Bloomberg (Getty Images)
While the worst of the pandemic is clearly over, a few years of getting people to work from home has shown that many people are happier and even work better when they can do it where they live. So decisions to force employees back into the office will understandably face resistance from across the workforce, and video games are no exception.
Activision Blizzard has confirmed to the game developer that their own plan, first revealed in this Twitter thread by @LeastMyHairIsOk, will see Activision Publishing employees asked to return to the office on April 10 while Blizzard employees do so would do on July 10 (King employees meanwhile resigned in July 2022).
It’s worth noting that neither Activision nor Blizzard employees will be forced to go back to the office full-time, as “employees from both departments are required to be in the office three days a week.”
However, this is still a major concern for both current and potential employees as not only are people still getting sick and dying from Covid, but three years of remote work has shown many skilled workers in the gaming industry that they can do their jobs quite well without the health risks, commuting, and other frictions of having to travel to a specific location to get all your work done while dodging a global pandemic and battling a cost-of-living crisis.
LeastMyHairIsOk — a Blizzard customer support rep — spells it all out on his Twitter thread, pointing out other issues that have arisen because of, or at least alongside, the pandemic. I collected their tweets here:
The majority of employees at ABK have no interest in returning to office, either full-time or part-time. That’s not to say that nobody sees the value in an office environment, but overall we’ve decided that the risks don’t outweigh the benefits.
Get rid of the giant elephants in the room – COVID continues to be a threat to life and abilities despite government guidelines. It is a widespread, disabling disease and many of our employees or their families are at high risk of complications from contracting it.
In addition, the WFH regulations have resulted in employees having more time since they do not lose it by commuting. Lower fuel/insurance costs plus the ability to live further away from the expensive cities we work in equals a more effective net wage.
This is vital as we are currently going through an inflationary crisis which ABK could not help with. The cost of living has skyrocketed across the country, and employees are feeling the strain as several departments take effective pay cuts annually despite “raises.”
To escape the pressure of rising CoL and stay safe, staff have made cuts. They have moved farther from our offices in expensive cities, sold or avoided buying vehicles, and changed the way their households handle things like childcare and schooling.
For over a decade, lower-income departments have asked leadership to include annual CoL adjustments in pay to prevent this, but have been denied and our most recent meetings last month suggest there are no plans to do so this year to change year.
Two to four months is not enough time for the company to change this attitude, even if they are willing to do so. Even if that is the case, there is not enough time for those who made the difficult decision to move to uproot and return.
The leadership is unprepared for what is likely to happen – an exodus of talent if we find work elsewhere. Other tech jobs pay better and offer WFH, and it’s clear our thoughts on the subject are irrelevant. What incentive do our employees have to stay at ABK?
This means the rest of us have to work harder, which lowers morale. That means we have to re-hire or outsource, which also means product delays and less polished products to be released this year. All of these factors will result in even lower wages for employees next year.
This RTO plan doesn’t even affect my department, Customer Service, which has been granted full WFH with no involuntary RTO plans. However, I feel obliged to stand up for my colleagues in solidarity. We see each other and support you.
Our staff have consistently done an excellent job despite the downsides of WFH since the onset of COVID. Putting them back in power to risk sickness and death on the flimsy justification of “better cooperation” is unscrupulous.
ABK leadership is either maliciously aware of all of these factors or actively incompetent. We’ve had record profits for consecutive years while cost-cutting measures like layoffs have been justified time and time again. WFH was the silver lining that has kept many of us here.
It’s clear what this RTO policy really is – an ultimatum. “Bend to our idea of correct working conditions or don’t.” We were flexible long enough for the ABK leadership. It’s your turn to bow down before breaking this enterprise beyond repair.
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They’re all solid points, and won’t just be something Activision Blizzard has to reckon with in the coming months. Any company attempting this will face resistance, which is why smarter companies like Bungie are already adjusting their hiring policies to accommodate a more remote workforce.