NecroDancer dev Brace Yourself is paying staff to pursue personal projects

The studio has permanently implemented a '20 percent' project that lets staff spend work hours chasing personal goals.

Crypt of the NecroDancer and Industries of Titan developer Brace Yourself Games has permanently implemented a workplace program called 'Free Choice Fridays' that allows staff to spend 20 percent of their paid work time pursuing personal projects and goals.

The Canadian company has been trialling the initiative over the past six months, and described that early phase as a "great success."

Notably, Brace Yourself revealed productivity remained largely unchanged throughout that test run, and said it benefited from some staff choosing to hone their skills in areas like programming, animation, and illustration -- while others decided to join forces to create new prototypes or polish their public speaking by giving lightning talks.

The studio explained it didn't want staff to feel pressured into delivering something "valuable," so avoided making check-ins mandatory as part of the initiative. Despite that, the company claimed that people were often keen to share work they were proud of, and said Free Fridays have now become a "beloved and permanent feature."

"After meeting with individual team members and frequently hearing requests that people would like the opportunity to branch out (for example, prototyping new games, learning new skills, taking courses, doing technical R&D, side-questing e.t.c.) Ryan Clark (studio founder) decided it would be a good time to try out the 20 percent program here at Brace Yourself Games in the form of Free Choice Fridays," said the studio.

"You might be thinking, 'If employees dedicate a whole day out of the work week to personal projects away from their usual responsibilities, won’t their current workload suffer?' It’s certainly a risk, but during that program, the expected 20 percent decline in productivity at the company was actually not observed. In general, the program was very well received by employees, and productivity remained largely unchanged, though not without its hiccups."

You can see what employees have been cooking up during their Free Fridays on the Brace Yourself website.

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