Opinion — Forcing people back to the office is a backwards concept that will inevitably hurt your games in the long run
At Beehive Games, we understand that a company is more than just an entity; it is the people who infuse it with their unique essence to make it what it is. That’s why we embrace the idea of incorporating opinion pieces. By featuring these pieces, we aim to showcase the rich tapestry of ideas and beliefs held by our team members. It serves as a reminder that our organization is not just a faceless entity but passionate individuals who contribute to our shared vision and a place where ideas thrive and our games reflect the collective soul of the people that make them.
I’ve noticed that many companies are now stipulating that their employees must be present in the office for a minimum of two days per week. Some organizations even require their employees to be in the office full-time.
While I understand the potential benefits of working in an office environment, such as increased creativity and team morale, there is a significant drawback: a lack of diversity. This train of thought came from reading the book Rebel Ideas on my holiday and it is worth picking up!
By diversity, I’m not referring to the traditional sense of the term, which typically includes factors like race, gender, and ethnicity. Whilst these aspects should be considered, I’m mainly referring to the diversity of ideas that arises from having individuals from various locations and walks of life working together.
Let’s focus on London as an example. London has a variety of coampanies in the city that develop games. Suppose “Dave” aspires to work for one of these companies, but the condition of being physically present in the office for two days every week presents a significant obstacle. “Dave” currently lives on the Isle of Wight.
In this example, this represents a colossal commitment that entails “Dave” uprooting their entire life and relocating to a new place. In reality, if someone has already established a life and community in their current location, it is highly unlikely that they would be willing to upend everything and move elsewhere. Whilst junior hires may be more than happy to do this, many mid-level to more senior hires will think twice, especially if they have a family and network around them.
There is also another reason specific to this example why on-location based working is going to fail. London is expensive. Other places like Guildford, Birghton and other cities are also expensive. The companies are going to have to pay London wages to make any idea of attracting talent to come into their office enticing, but the person who wants to work there is going to have to accept that there is going to be a financial and potetntially mental well-being cost of commuting into London every day. As someone who used to commute everyday, I can tell you, it makes you tired VERY quickly. This is going to put people off joining your company and once again decrease your talent pool.
I have given a number of reasons already why people may not join because a company has decided to shun remote work completely or force people on-location a couple of days a week, but we also need to look at the consequences for game development.
You are going to significantly narrow your talent pool, reducing the diversity of ideas and the knowledge that comes from different expereinces and walks of life. Of course, you can’t just put experiences down to where people live, but you can certainly narrow them. By saying “you have to come work in our very fancy and expensive London office” you are telling someone, they have to move to this place, commute this much, etc. Not everyone is going to want to do that, and as said before will not apply.
That person you just excluded because you made them go into the office could have had a wealth of ideas that would make not only your games better, but the workflows, running the team and all the stuff around making games better.
Let me give you a specifc example. Say you have an office in London and you have Perforce based setup for your team, but it is very old and bugs crop up all the time because everyone works on the mianline and it is hard to set up streams properly. And everyone has just kind of deals with it, but it has significantly reduced the efficency of the team and stability of the game. Because of lack of diversity in ideas because of your strict in-office policy, you have reduced the likelihood of changing the status quo. Someone who lives in the far reaches of Scotland may have a completely new way to do your source control that doesn’t rely on 100+ people commiting to a mainline and breaking the game every 5 miutes. Maybe they are coming with a fancy Platsic or Git based solution with branches that help compartmentalise the work and make everything stable and increase efficency in the team. Well, you won’t know as by forcing an in-office policy, and the fact they don’t want to uproot their life means you just knocked them out of the talent pool.
Although the above example is a very workflow centric one, this can be applied to any part of the game. Someone in Dorset could improve your story and give you far more diverse characters; you won’t know because of your in-office policy. A technical artist in Wales has a new a novel way to render the game, making it the prettiest game you have ever seen… but wait, you won’t know because of your in-office policy.
Do you see what is happenning here?
When it comes to game development, I personally do not get why the majority of the work cannot be done remotely. It comes with its own challenges, and your team but they can be solved pretty easily. If it is also an issue of trust, quite frankly you should not be hiring people if you don’t feel you can trust them. You can also figure that out pretty easily in the probation period.
There are points where I would advocate for people to meet up though. At the start of a project when ideas are being generated and the core pillars of the game are being formulated, it is paramount to meet up in person and get some ideas on a whiteboard. This doesn’t have to be in some expensive office though. Although the cost of getting everyone into the same place maybe steepish nad require you to lose a day of work, you can pick a central location between those people and find some hotel with a conference room. And, in the long run, I bet that is cheaper than your fancy office rent.
As with all my opinions, you can take or leave this, but to me, forcing people into the office in a creative industry such as games where the majority of it can be done remote, is insane and you will cut your talent pool because of it.