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A four-day workweek "saved" Blackbird Interactive, devs say

Four-day workweeks have apparently made life better for the Blackbird Interactive developers.

The developers at Blackbird Interactive are the latest to join the ranks of studios pushing for four-day workweeks. A number of their staff spoke with The Washington Post to discuss how the experience is going, and how the decision to implement four-day workweeks might interact with the video game industry's burgeoning labor movement.

The studio behind Hardspace: Shipbreaker, Homeworld 3, and other in-development projects apparently began experimenting with four-day workweeks last September, and announced today that it's keeping the schedule permanently. They also offered shared data on how successful the transition was, and what challenges they still need to overcome in managing workloads in game development.

The first victim on the scheduling chopping block was the hour-long meetings that previously dominated the company. Multiple employees told the Post that the limited schedule forced staff and managers tighten their workweeks. Some developers, like game director Elliot Hudson, worried that such tightening might encourage more crunch--but in his own words, the team "totally avoided crunch" during the trial period.

The mental health benefits came quick, as did other advantages. 3D artist LeeLee Scaldaferri told the Post that the extra day off "adds a level of privacy" for employees, because they can schedule doctor's visits and other sensitive appointments that they would have had to share before in day-off requests.

What still needs tuning? How many employees are still sneaking in on Friday or over the weekend to noodle with work projects they're meant to be doing on Monday through Thursday. “It tends to be mostly the leaders and the directors who are spending that extra time to get ahead on tasks and give enough details to tasks that the people below them don’t need to work that extra time," Hudson noted. 

He did also muse that when leaders make the decision to work Fridays, it can send signals to subordinates that they need to work extra hours as well. Chief creative officer Rory McGuire said that the studio has added a policy that if anyone works on Friday, they are compensated an extra day off elsewhere in their schedules.

Union organizers who spoke to The Washington Post about Blackbird's move cautioned that four-day workweeks implemented from on high could still be taken away if companies undergo changes in management or project scope. They encouraged workers to look into unionizing for themselves, so such guarantees could be established by a bargained contract.

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