Ubisoft Montreal in disarray after forced return to office mandate

After years of working remotely, being told to return to the office has put the staff of Ubisoft Montreal in a number of tight spots.

Employees at Ubisoft Montreal recently returned to the office after a three-year work from home (WFH) period. But according to IGN's new report, coming back to the office has been both incredibly divisive and seen as the developer going back on its word. 

As of September 11, employees are now required to come work in the office for two days out of the week. Exemptions are reportedly only for those who demonstrate "explicit needs," and even then, only after "all other solutions have been explored."

Like many large developers, Ubisoft enacted a remote work policy at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Returning to in-person work has been a controversial move at other studios like Activision Blizzard, in part because it's shown that the development process doesn't necessarily require a singular headquarters. 

Employees at the Montreal office allege management previously told staff it would have "100 percent remote work" where possible (such as the nature of work done and team impact). Documents from management further back this claim, and several employees took the studio at its word that WFH would be viable for the long term. 

Several employees admitted that, under the belief that WFH was sticking around, they made "major life decisions" like buying a house outside of Montreal. More recent hires accepted job offers because WFH provided them an opportunity to apply.

Ubisoft Montreal's staff cast doubts on going back to the office

Speaking to IGN, a number of Ubisoft Montreal employees outlined their issues with returning to an in-person structure. Beyond the shared feeling of "broken promises," those interviewed highlighted how management has put the larger team in a rough spot in a number of ways.

In the wake of this news, some have speculated it's an intentional move on Ubisoft's part to push employees to leave without paying severance. Throughout the year, Ubisoft has made efforts to cut costs, such as canceling projects, conducting layoffs, and closing studios.

Along with the issues of transit and general safety amid rising COVID concerns, there were mentions of accessibility accommodations and noise concerns. The quality of the office was also highlighted, with claims of the building previously suffering from rats, bugs, and literal leaks. 

There's a general lack of trust that Ubisoft will improve working conditions, citing how management has yet to truly address concerns raised after allegations of its toxic workplace culture were reported in 2020.

One staffer told IGN the "lack of substance about why we're [returning to the office] and how can we know if it's working has led a lot of people to believe the reasons we are being given are lies and the management are afraid to say the real reasons out loud."

A spokesperson for Ubisoft told the outlet its return to the office "will help us be more effective and agile together, and achieve our business goals. [...] We are accompanying our colleagues through these changes, giving them additional flexibility over the next eight weeks or more to adapt."

"Open and ongoing conversations in addition to extensive individual accommodation and arrangements are currently underway to ease this transition and the impact on everyone's well-being, which remains our priority to continue to deliver great games," it concluded.

IGN's full report on Ubisoft Montreal's new office mandate can be read here.

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