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The gaming industry is trying to solve for burnout

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Saw this tweet and was curious: Would you pay a startup consultant to give feedback on your job descriptions and make sure you’re hiring the right people? Today: Reporter Nick Statt is in SF this week for the triumphant return of the Game Developers Conference and gives us a report on the industry’s four-day workweek experiment. Plus, the worst employee ever and how much companies *actually* spend on DEI.

— Michelle Ma, reporter (email | twitter)

Crunch (but only four days a week)

The pandemic has forced the game industry to radically rethink its approach to work. Game studios have been adjusting to hybrid or fully remote work, while also figuring out better ways to address long-term issues like fostering healthier cultures, retention and employee burnout.

Now, as the industry reckons with entrenched labor practices like crunch and rampant sexism and harassment, scores of smaller game-makers have started asking if there are better ways to develop video games and to place a higher priority on the human beings who make them. One clear and obvious solution that’s starting to catch fire in gaming, tech and beyond: the four-day workweek.

  • “The humans making the games matter as much as the business that’s profiting from the game,” Kitfox creative director and co-founder Tanya X. Short said at the Game Developers Conference on Monday. Short was joined on a panel by leaders at other indie studios that have also transitioned to four-day weeks.
  • “We had been enduring the pandemic that long. I really needed people to not burn out and to stay on after launch and come with 100% of their health. It seemed like the best, or at least a temporary solution. And we thought, ‘Well, why not continue?’”

But it’s not just smaller studios focusing on the health of employees. Square Enix’s Eidos-Montréal, which developed last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and its subsidiary Eidos-Sherbrooke have adopted the four-day workweek.

  • Like Eidos, all four studios on the GDC panel are based in Montreal. ManaVoid Entertainment CEO Chris Chancey specifically cited the competitive game development market in the Canadian city as one motivation for his company adopting a four-day workweek a full year before the pandemic started, making ManaVoid a rare example.
  • “It was one of the core values of the studio to have a no-crunch culture. We’ve never gone back to the five-day,” Chancey said. Chancey decided to begin trialing the four-day workweek in 2019 because of a study out of Europe that showed the benefits of reducing working hours to increase productivity.
— Nick Statt, reporter

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When to tell your employee to find a new job

My colleague Allison Levitsky is starting a new series profiling tech execs talking about their worst employee ever. To kick it off, she interviewed Andrea Brice, now the founder and chief data officer of data intelligence startup Willowfinch. But before that, at a different firm, she was a manager of a data-entry clerk, a “perfectly nice young woman who was competent, smart, but not good at her job.” Levitsky spoke to her about how she navigated the situation, as well as to the founder and CEO of an employee relations software firm about how and when to intervene with a struggling employee. (P.S. If you have a “worst employee ever” story to share, drop Allison a line at alevitsky@protocol.com.)

Read the full story.


Today’s job landscape is challenging for organizations looking to recruit and retain top tech talent. Recent labor trends, many of which are fueling The Great Resignation, have shown leaders across industries that their employees are searching for more.

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Today's tips & tools

I have a quick, travel-related tip for you this week. Workplace editor Meg Morrone recently let me know that if you send someone your flight number in iMessage, they can preview your flight directly in the app. This is handy if you want loved ones to track your flight, or if you’re coordinating flight schedules with co-workers for a business trip.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Companies say they care about DEI. But they’re not spending on it.

We’re living in the age of DEI. The acronym has wormed its way into the lexicons of tech companies big and small, and you’d be hard pressed to find a corporate About Us page that doesn’t wax poetic about diversity and inclusion. HR software company Greenhouse and education technology company Everfi recently conducted a survey of HR professionals that shed light on how companies’ investments actually match up with their purported values:

  • More than 70% of employers say they are using structured hiring to reduce bias in their recruiting, and more than half of them say they have a consistent and inclusive onboarding process.
  • That being said, more than 50% of those surveyed didn’t adopt hiring processes that promote diverse talent pools.
    • 54% aren’t eliminating biased language in job postings.
    • 64% aren’t analyzing hiring data related to DEI.
  • Less than a quarter offer DEI or bias-related training for managers.
  • The majority of companies surveyed don’t evaluate leaders on DEI efforts, and more than two-thirds of senior leaders at these companies don’t participate in anti-bias training.

Making moves

Cristina Cordova has joined First Round Capital as its newest partner. Previously, she was an angel investor and, before that, the head of platforms and partnerships at Notion.

Etsy has hired Kim Seymour as CHRO, joining from WW International, where she was chief people officer. Etsy’s Chief Operations, Strategy and People Officer Raina Moskowitz is also transitioning to chief operating officer.


Technology organizations need to look internally to find the talent they seek by upskilling and reskilling their existing tech workforce. For this vision to become a reality, organizations must focus on being creators, rather than consumers, of talent.

Learn more

More stories from us

ICYMI, here was the first entry in our new Protocol Calendar Series.

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On Tome, workplace presentations actually look good on your phone.

This is how Microsoft plans to fill 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs.

Apple is hiring more women and underrepresented leaders, plus more insights from its latest Diversity Report.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

What it takes to actually retire by 30.

Chipmakers are feeling the labor shortage, just as Congress is debating funding for the U.S. chip business.

How to mentor in a remote workplace.

Workplaces are in denial about how much Americans have changed their relationship with work.

44% of workers are looking for a new job, another sign the Great Resignation lives on …

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great day, see you Sunday.

This newsletter was updated to include Everfi as a survey conductor alongside Greenhouse.

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