If you’ve been in or around the games industry, you’ve probably heard the term “crunch” before. Crunch is a form of overtime work in which employees are expected to work long hours to meet project deadlines. It’s an unfortunate reality in many parts of the industry, but we believe that it doesn’t have to be! We want to prove that you can make great games without requiring overtime. Recently, we made some changes to how we approach overtime at our company, so we want to share with you what we do, and how we keep ourselves accountable.
At Brace Yourself Games, we don’t just try not to crunch; we are anti-crunch. No one is ever required to work more than 40 hours per week (with the exception of the events team, during event-related travel). In fact, we treat overtime as a mistake. We are an independent company, and we are in a fortunate position where we always have the option to cut scope, or push out timelines. Eliminating all overtime may not be possible, but we can at least learn from those mistakes, and make changes to our processes to ensure that the same situation will not arise again in the future.
That said, we have observed that some employees will choose to work more than 40 hours per week even if it is not asked or required of them. We discourage this practice, but it still occurs. In the past, we’ve tried forbidding overtime, but what occurs then is that people choose to do it in secret. This makes it difficult to prevent entirely, and what’s worse, it makes it impossible for us to compensate people for any overtime worked.
Taking this all into consideration, we’ve crafted this overtime policy. The goals of BYG’s overtime policy are:
To reduce overtime as much as possible and to promote a healthy work/life balance.
To encourage discussion of any overtime that is worked so that we can learn and prevent it in the future.
To ensure that if overtime is worked, that it is fairly compensated.
The policy itself is fairly simple. Here’s how it works:
No one at BYG is ever expected to do overtime, nor can a manager ask someone to work any overtime. (Ever!)
If an employee chooses to work overtime, they must speak to their manager about it before working any overtime.
However, to ensure that no one tries to hide overtime, managers will not reject overtime requests.
This policy accomplishes two things. First, it ensures that the manager knows that their employee felt the need to work overtime. If they felt this need, it likely means that there was a problem with our scheduling or production methods, and we can take steps to prevent this from happening again in the future. We want employees to speak to their manager, not to receive approval, but so that managers are aware that they will be working overtime.
Second, it allows managers to provide possible alternatives to working overtime. For example, imagine that you have a task that was originally only scoped to take 1 day, but upon starting said task, you realize that it will take an additional 4 hours to complete beyond your original estimate. You decide that you really want to complete this task before the deadline, so you ask your manager to approve 4 hours of overtime. Your manager will approve your request, but they may also present you with some other options. Perhaps the feature is not vital for the current deadline and could be pushed to the next update? Or perhaps a smaller-scoped version of that feature is an option, which would alleviate the need for overtime?
Without discussing overtime with their manager, employees may not be aware that these options were even available to them. However, if they still wish to work the overtime after this discussion, their manager will approve it to ensure that no one is motivated to hide overtime in an attempt to avoid having these discussions with their manager.
It should also be noted that working voluntary overtime will not help employees advance their careers at BYG and, conversely, sticking to working exactly 40 hours per week will not harm their career.
The topic of overtime is really important to us, so we hope this gives you some good insight into how we do things here at BYG!