Head of Minecraft wants more ‘off-ramps’ from work for employees

Employees need more routes out of work for their own wellbeing, temporarily of course, according to Helen Chiang, head of Minecraft at Microsoft.

At Microsoft since her first internship in 2005, and being on the Xbox team for nine of the interim years, Chiang was promoted to head of Minecraft in January 2018, replacing the outgoing Matt Booty.

Speaking with Quartz at Work, Chiang was asked what opportunity for change was most overlooked – and important – in the tech world: “I think here in the US we need more off-ramps from work, or opportunities to take a career break,” she answered.

“Whether it’s parental leave, or elder care leave, or a sabbatical, we need opportunities for people to take a break and not have to start over from scratch when they come back,” Chiang continued, “And I’ve really thought about this because half of my Minecraft team is based in Sweden, and I looked at some of these European countries that support a gap year, or more extended parental leave, and it really gives employees the opportunity to really enjoy or immerse themselves in their life experiences—whether it’s having a baby, or something that’s happening in their family.”

She went on to point out how energised her Sweden-based compatriots are after these breaks, and how it shows a need for more flexible working arrangements in the US.

“I don’t look at [people taking breaks] as proof that they’re any less committed to what we’re doing,” she said, “When they’re at work, they’re working hard and fully committed, but we need to recognize there’s more to life than work, and I think it’s great that they’re invested in things beyond the office. And I know they’re going to come back re-energized and ready to take on that next set of challenges for us.”

Minecraft was still seeing millions of players enjoying its build-and-break fun late last year. Maybe with a bit more time off, we’d see those numbers increase more.

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