Debugging D&I: Mighty Kingdom on switching to a four day work week

Amiqus’ Liz Prince talks to Mighty Kingdom’s CEO Philip Mayes about the studio switching to a four-day week

When and why did you decide to introduce a four-day working week at Mighty Kingdom?

We ran a trial of the four-day week shortly after we returned to the office after the COVID lockdown. As part of our pandemic response, we had adopted a flexible approach that allowed people to choose where they wanted to work, and we noticed a marked increase in productivity, which was the catalyst for running the trial.

There are so many facets of our relationship to work that are unexamined and are built on decisions made in the late 19th Century. There is a strong status quo bias, and once you start to challenge those assumptions you realise that there are lots of opportunities to innovate.

What response did you have from your team?

There was healthy scepticism from the team! We have a culture that encourages experimentation, and everyone was on board with running the trial and were honest in their feedback at the conclusion. The trial revealed several challenges with mapping our processes to the shorter work week, but there was a unanimous support from the studio to make it a permanent change.

What are the benefits, in your opinion?

In a nutshell, we get the same output, and everyone is happier! It is almost an ethical question. If you have two options, both yield the same output, and one makes everyone happier, why would you choose the other?

How does a four-day week help a studio’s efforts and ambitions when it comes to EDI?

The additional day off has made working here possible for people who may not be able to work a 40-hour week. This is particularly relevant to carers, or parents with young children.

That said, the four-day week is just one of many policies that we have implemented that are part of our EDI strategy, which makes it difficult to measure its impact in isolation. An effective EDI strategy is not usually the result of one singular policy, but the cumulative impact of all your policies working together.

What has it done for employee mental wellbeing and health?

We are coming up to the anniversary of the change, after which we will review the data on health outcomes, but anecdotal evidence supports the theory that people have more time for self-care. Many people tell me about the time they can now invest in their hobbies, time spent with their family, or just catching up on the latest games!

Are there any disadvantages – to the studio or to your staff?

The rest of the world is not on a four-day week, and international clients make it even more difficult. We aim to restrict the impact to only the leadership team as much as possible, and we have policies to reward that additional effort when it is required.

We have found that many modern development methodologies are built on the assumption of a 40-hour work week. In a four-day week, meetings suddenly become very costly and we have had to invest in adapting processes to fit.

There is a lot of scepticism around a four-day week, with many people feeling that it is too good to be true. It means we frequently have to defend the decision, which can be tiring! There are some biases that no amount of data can overcome. But it is worth reiterating that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

What would you say to a studio who might be nervous about a drop in productivity/output?

The easiest way to eliminate the fear is through data.

Before you make any policy changes in your studio make sure you have effective tools to measure the impact of that change. Don’t rely solely on anecdotal evidence and be sure to run the trial long enough to be representative. There is often an initial burst of enthusiasm around changes before the data settles.

For the four-day week in particular, do not change your budgeting, planning processes, deadlines, or milestones during the trial to ensure you are getting clean data.

We are conditioned to think about productivity as a function of time invested, as if each additional hour of work leads to an incremental additional output. And yet we all know that we are not 100 per cent productive all the time.

Time invested is not a good proxy for the quality of work produced. Shifting to a focus on measuring output allows you to measure the impact of policy changes on quality, and more accurately reflects how value is created in a creative business.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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