Eidos Montreal bets on 4-day week to boost productivity, morale


“I think this will become the standard,” studio manager David Anfossi says.

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A Montreal video games producer is betting a shorter work week will help it boost productivity and employee well-being while making recruitment easier.

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Eidos-Montreal, the creative force behind the popular Tomb Raider franchise, is progressively introducing a four-day week starting this fall, studio manager David Anfossi said Thursday. About 500 employees in Montreal and Sherbrooke will benefit from the move, which will see both locations close on Fridays — with no impact on wages or working conditions.

The shift builds on an experiment by Microsoft’s Japan unit , which adopted a four-day work week in the summer of 2019 and found that productivity increased 40 per cent while electricity and printing costs fell. Authorities in Iceland also reached similar conclusions after a series of test runs.

“This is an idea that took time to germinate,” Anfossi said in a telephone interview. “In 2019 we were already thinking about shortening the workweek, but then the pandemic happened and we had to focus on other priorities. We got access to the Microsoft Japan report, with notes on what worked and what didn’t. I think this will become the standard.”

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Most developed economies globally have seen working hours decline consistently over the last four decades. Even so, productivity and living standards increased.

In Quebec, for instance, the standard of living — defined as gross domestic product per inhabitant — climbed by $20,321 between 1981 and 2019 (in 2019 dollars) even as working hours fell, according to a recent HEC Montréal report . Productivity gains accounted for 80 per cent of the increase, with higher labour participation rates making up the remainder.

“With the exception of the U.S., the long-term trend over the last several decades is a reduction in the number is hours worked per job,” said Robert Gagné, a professor at HEC Montréal’s department of applied economics who heads the business school’s Centre for Productivity and Prosperity. “Productivity gains have more than made up for that.”

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Productivity at Eidos-Montreal is better now than before the pandemic because staffers feel more responsible, according to Anfossi. Although employees — with an average age of 33 — are on board with the shorter workweek, the change isn’t risk-free, he said.

“There are dangers everywhere,” said the studio manager. “There will be successes and failures. It wouldn’t be so good if Thursday became the new Friday, a day with much less productivity and efficiency. We know we’re going to discover things.”

In fact, Anfossi sees the next year as a testing ground.

“Permanent isn’t really a term that we like at Eidos,” he said. “Maybe the four-day workweek will evolve toward something else in the next year or two. Nobody knows.”

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After more than 18 months of remote work, Anfossi said Eidos-Montreal is committed to keeping its office space downtown. Still, the company plans to poll employees over the next three months to find out why they come to work, he said.

“This information we collect is going to help us readjust the studio,” he said. “Today we have open areas, meeting rooms and movement capture areas. The idea is to maybe create ‘ambiances’ throughout the studio — maybe a ‘library space’ for training, or a celebration space. We’re more focused on rearranging the office space than on cutting back.”

Teleworking, Anfossi adds, “works very well. We’ve had to adapt and adjust but there’s no looking back.”

ftomesco@postmedia.com

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