Epic Games Faces Backlash After Ending Popular Time-Off Policy

Epic Games Faces Backlash After Ending Popular Time-Off Policy
Image: Epic Games

Epic Games, creator of the massively popular and lucrative battle royale Fortnite, decided to end a popular policy of allowing staff every other Friday off earlier this week. According to a new report by Bloomberg, which a source corroborated for Kotaku, the move angered staff who were caught off guard by the sudden reversal change.

Alternating Fridays off allowed staff time to recuperate, and in some instances, made up for overtime hours on other days. A 2018 report by Polygon alleged that Epic Game employees working on Fortnite, a game that regularly updates, sometimes had to crunch to push content through the finish line. While adequate time off can make the service game model at work a little more fair, an internal email obtained by Bloomberg noted that the Friday policy at Epic wasn’t being used equally by staff.

“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 about the policy in an email to staff. “This meant that many people were not benefiting from this policy equally.”

A spokesperson for Epic Games told Kotaku in a phone call that the company would be replacing alternating Fridays off with a new policy of no work meetings on any Friday, describing these days more as “unstructured” time to do existing work moving forward. The spokesperson also said the alternating Fridays off policy was always meant to be temporary, and that Epic Games already shuts down for four weeks out the year in addition to staff’s personal time off days.

Read More: Shout Out To The Developers Trying More Humane Working Conditions.

However, according to a survey of 581 employees obtained by Bloomberg, the existing alternating Fridays off policy had over 90% approval, with nearly the same percentage of staff wanting to keep the policy going forward.

Companies across the video game industry, and outside of it, are currently grappling with demands for more flexible working options as the covid-19 pandemic grinds toward its two-year anniversary. While some businesses have rushed employees back into the office, others have extended remote work, continued to offer flexible hours, or in some cases shortened the work week altogether.

Epic Games’ decision to return to a consistent five-day work week comes a month after Bugsnax indie developer Young Horses announced it would be shifting to a permanent four-day work week. Shortly after, Guardians of the Galaxy maker, Eidos Montreal, announced it would do the same. Employees at the roughly 500 person studio would see their on the clock hours slashed to 32, while their pay remained the same.

While many developers have had to delay their games over the past two years, Bloomberg reports that one Epic employee criticised the company’s decision in light of the fact that Fortnite has continued to deliver updates twice a month. Earlier this year, Epic CEO Tim Sweeny testified during its trial with Apple that the company made $US5.1 ($7) billion in gross revenue last year.

Additional reporting by Jeremy Winslow.