(Bloomberg) -- Epic Games Inc. is ending a pandemic-inspired policy of granting every other Friday off, sparking an uproar among staff.
An internal Slack channel was filled with pleas from employees for the game publisher to reconsider. Several people said the extra vacation days had helped their mental health, allowed them to be better parents and even improved their productivity while working on updates for Fortnite, which is one of world’s most popular games.
Epic said the policy was always meant to be temporary and that the company’s goal was to allow employees and contractors to take paid time off on their own schedules. The company also closes for two-week breaks in the summer and winter.
“Right now, we are seeing lots of Fridays off for deep work, and lots of people who must work Fridays anyways,” Chief Operating Officer Daniel Vogel wrote in an email to staff reviewed by Bloomberg. “This meant that many people were not benefiting from this policy equally.”
But in a survey of 581 employees reviewed by Bloomberg, 93% said they had found the alternating Fridays off to be “extremely beneficial” and 61% said they felt worried, guilty or stressed when taking separate vacation days. Almost 90% of employees said they wanted to keep Fridays off as a standard.
An Epic spokeswoman declined to comment.
Shorter work weeks have become a hot-button issue across many industries as the pandemic leads to a widespread rethinking of how offices function. Already some companies are being forced to ease their remote work policies in an industry that long considered collaborative, in-office meetings sacrosanct. Studies have shown that workers can feel more rested yet be just as productive while working 32 hours per week rather than the standard 40 hours.
The video game industry, known for its long hours and brutal schedules, has begun flirting with shorter weeks. Eidos Montreal, a unit of Square Enix Holdings Co. and the developer of an upcoming game based on Guardians of the Galaxy, recently said it was switching to a four-day work week. Several independent game studios have also made the switch, such as Young Horses, the company behind last year’s hit game Bugsnax.
One Epic staffer wrote in the Slack channel that they had become a parent during the pandemic and that the guaranteed days off every other week were “an absolute game changer,” allowing them a guilt-free day for doctor’s appointments and other activities over the past two years.
“Epic is the best studio I have ever worked for,” wrote another employee. “But I simply don’t understand this decision.”
The employee wrote that unlike some other game studios, which have had to delay games during the pandemic, Epic has consistently released new Fortnite updates every two weeks. “The perceived gain simply can’t compare to the actual evidence of what we have already achieved over the past 18 months, which is more than anyone else in the industry could ever hope to achieve -- all with alternating Fridays off.”
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