The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted the world to think differently about remote work, with more companies allowing employees to pick between working from home or the office. With the vaccine rollout now in progress, it seems some companies are making plans for what their workplace structure will look like in the future – and that includes Ubisoft.
“In summary the future will be hybrid, offering the majority of Ubisoft team members the opportunity to balance home and office work,” the post explains. “This has been designed based on our learnings from the past year and from your feedback; this ‘test and learn’ approach is one we will continue to adopt moving forward.”
The email then goes on to discuss the details of how this will work: some jobs will allow for flexibility between working from home or in the office, with a “small number of roles and individuals eligible for full remote work”. Some roles, however, will require employees to only work in the office “given their nature or due to technical constraints.
“We recognise that a production team about to ship a project versus a global IT support team or a digital marketing team, for example, all have very different needs,” the email adds. “We will avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and empower local leaders to make the best decisions for their teams and their projects to drive productivity, quality and ensure happy and healthy teams.”
The email also describes the office as a “core pillar of the Ubisoft experience”, explaining that many employees described the office as a useful space for collaboration and socialisation. Over the next few months, managing directors are due to start determining whether Ubisoft’s offices can re-open, and Ubisoft’s leaders will determine which roles require full-time office work, and which ones can be fully remote. Managers will then work with their teams to implement these arrangements, and designate specific days where employees are required to attend the office in-person.
The email adds that the transition to this new structure is set to take place in September this year, although some may begin the process a little earlier than this. Ubisoft is also considering a “Work from Anywhere” benefit to allow employees to work outside their office for up to four weeks per year.
It seems different games companies are coming up with different solutions to the remote work question: Square Enix, for instance, has committed to a permanent work-from-home option. Allowing employees to work from home allows for greater flexibility and accessibility for those with disabilities or people living in remote areas, but it can also present challenges for game companies. A lack of physical supervision, for instance, means companies may feel they have less control over confidential documents when employees work from home. Schreier suggested that the Québec government’s tax system could be the reason behind Ubisoft’s emphasis on the office, as Ubisoft is eligible for a tax credit for up to 37.5 per cent on salaries paid to technical employees based in the region (via the Montreal Gazette).
The shift to working from home has been blamed for numerous game delays over the last year, but it seems that once studios have adjusted, it’s still possible to develop games remotely – even if the social benefits of the office are lost. In some cases, remote work can even streamline the overall workflow: Apex Legends director Chad Grenier told me that the team was in some ways “working more efficiently” due to the benefits of working from home.