Why fixed 9-5 working time is bad for video game

I often wander between favouring and hating the idea of a 9-5 culture at work. On the one hand it fits in nicely with a family life where we work to enjoy ourselves, we turn up, do some work, go home and disconnect and plug ourselves into an entirely separate life.

On the other hand, what we do as game developers is a creative process, it requires thinking, passion and creativity that simply cannot be turned on and off at preset times of day.

Imagine a day like this:

  • 9am – be creative and passionate when you punch in
  • 12pm – stop being creative and thinking about your art.
  • 1pm – start being creative again, now, you’ve only got 4.5hrs remaining
  • 5.30pm – stop thinking, park your creativity, go home, disconnect
  • rinse and repeat.

What happens if I’m on the brink of a brilliant discovery at 17:15 and I need that extra bit of time but I have to leave at 17:30?

I would argue that this simply suits a certain time of person and that person isn’t into making games they love, they’re looking for a job churning out mundane average “product”. Something to do to get paid for and keep them off the streets, something they don’t have to think about and get emotionally invested in. Maybe they’ve been burned out and are looking for an easy life, 9-5 does have it’s appeal sometimes.

A corporate culture like this will ultimately mean that the business itself becomes a function of it’s indoctrined staff, a reflection of the people who work there and the ones who made the decision to make it like this. This may succeed for a time but I can only guess that it won’t last forever.

Now, I am absolutely not advocating disregarding Working Time Regulations and forcing people to work every hour of the day. I’m not saying to over-burden people so they have no choice.

What I am saying is that people don’t think and contribute in this prescribed manner, people change, some people are so into what they’re doing that they want to work weekends anyway, you just can’t stop them. Sometimes you have an off day and haven’t got an idea in your head. You’re fundamentally being told that caring about what you do isn’t what your employer is looking for and the consequence of this is that you will find another outlet.

I think that flexibility is the key here and enabling people to contribute as much as they can to their art, in a way that suits them (within reason) can only be a good thing for the game and the business. We should be results focused and not get hung up on whether someone clocks in at a prescribed time.

We demand a lot from our developers and we need to recognise and reciprocate the gift of time and effort.

Do I support hard 9-5 working hours? No, for all the reasons above

Do I support developers making games with passion and creativity, whenever that may be? Yes

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