Tomb Raider, Guardians of the Galaxy Developer Adopting 4-Day Work Week

The developer behind Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the most recent Deus Ex games, and this month's Guardians of the Galaxy is moving to a four-day work week, the studio announced today, calling it "a better work-life balance for even more innovative games."


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/5db77a/tomb-raider-guardians-of-the-galaxy-developer-adopting-4-day-work-week
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I am willing to offer this a tentative “this rules” pending a Jason Schreier piece that’s like “this only applies to full employees and the only non-contractors at Eidos Montreal are management” kind of revelation

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Given Patrick’s article notes that it’s unclear how this will affect the third parties Eidos works with, it’s definitely plausible that there could be managerial shenanigans about how this all shakes out and who benefits, but I’m with you on the very tentative “this rules”

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The other thought I had is with studios in China and elsewhere that generate art assets or do QA or things like that: how much is Eidos Montreal merely shifting the workload/crunch onto them? Remains to be seen.

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One day WHEN I’M IN CHARGE! no one will work more than they want as long as they produce satisfactory work for a standard salary and employers will happily take what skilled workers will give them.

Somehow I’ve navigated life and ended up in a job where my bosses basically let me work at my own pace. My director sends me a list for the day or sometimes the week with the priorities, I’ve never been scolded for not getting everything done on the list even though I usually do. I get in later than most, usually leave at the same time as everyone and my output is on par with or exceeds my colleagues. Kinda think that everyone can do a “day’s worth” of work. During the summer most of my school district’s classified employees move to work 4 10-hour days, It’s pretty obvious looking at the number of requests that get fulfilled per week they get 4 days worth of work done compared to the other 9 months they work 5 8s… and honestly more power to them, they get 3-day weekends for a few months with no change in wages and the district is fine with that so I’m not critical of a 4-day workweek. My optimal work-life balance happens to be 5 5-hour days I meander into 40-hours.

People largely have an amount of physical and mental energy they can expend before the work they’re doing isn’t worth as much as it otherwise would be. Products and services as a result of labor in hours 40-50 aren’t as good as those from hours 1-40 but… assuming wages aren’t being stolen… In the USA those last 10 hours would be paid 50% more per hour for diminished results. It really doesn’t make any sense, even from a capitalist point of view.

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It really doesn’t make any sense, even from a capitalist point of view

I think it does, if we consider that next to the profit rate itself, the most important part for a capitalist is how to secure it. What needs to be done from that pov is something that a large part of the state apparatus is already occupied with, yet is also crucial for individual companies to concern themselves with: instilling discipline into the labor force.

There are two ways how to attempt to increase surplus value through what usually just appears as productivity in most statistics:

  1. Relative surplus value increase: To increase productivity by increasing the productive forces, usually by means of technological change, better division of labor, increasing cooperation and all around better discipline through all of that
  2. Absolute surplus value increase: To increase productivity simply by increasing the length of the work day, using the work day more efficiently by decreasing breaks for example and/or intensifying the work irrespective of physical human limits (let people work longer/harder = more products = more sales = more profit)

Politically, what the labor movement, for obvious historical reasons, feared the most was the second. The first simple regulations were partly pushed for by the state, as it recognized that it might not be good for long term stable accumulation for the economy as a whole, if the workers died like flies. Something the individual capitalists cannot really consider, as their existence is dependent on short term profit making in the face of competition. The “8 hour work day”, the weekend etc. though were bitterly and violently fought for concessions in the late 19th to early 20th century. Yet ever since (over 100 years) the length of the workday has officially stayed the same and productivity has skyrocketed. Not that they weren’t important before, quite the contrary, but what really reached a new level during the 20th century (and to this day) was the development of the means of production and the productive forces and thus the attempt for the first: the relative surplus value increase (think of the “fordist” model until the 70s crisis for example).

I think we might see, at first, a split development in terms of working hours. There will be jobs (even if they are mainly in commodity circulation like retail and logistics) where the tendency will be to once again focus on the methods of absolute surplus value through more intense/longer work and only use relative surplus value increase like automation and discipline through division of labor and cooperation as a necessary addon, and jobs where the circumstances are such that the more liberal/progressive or the increasingly desperate capitalists not wanting to rely more and more on finance, can attempt to increase relative surplus value by reducing the share of absolute surplus value, in the hope that the first becomes more efficient and total surplus value will increase (like many office jobs or creative jobs in the entertainment industries). Of course all this ignores that the entire thing will likely often turn out to just be straight up snake oil from the individual workers pov, like a lot of people here and elsewhere rightfully point out, but it might not always be.

It is crucial though that this is not a concession against their will, but simply a possible management strategy. Therefore, should their fears come true and they determine that this change leads to a loss of labor discipline and workers wanting more as opposed to self-discipline, increased work ethic and loyalty, making everything less efficient or somehow else produce unwanted costs and thus threaten their bottom line, this will be turned back faster to the safer methods than the eye can see.
In the long run, absent of class struggle forcing the opposite, this will likely happen anyway, even if the change succeeds, as any advantage a capitalist gains, will be nullified once the competition inevitably adopts the same changes leaving the absolute increase as the safest method (also, the idea that continuing to decrease the work hours won’t cut into profits is of course ridiculous. That way is out of the question).

Also, the horror of 19th century absolute surplus value increase until one drops dead has already been alive and kicking for the past 50 years. Just not necessarily in the capitalist centers, but the previously colonial regions, where most of the old and obviously fundamental productive industries were outsourced to and where barely any legal protection exists as of yet, and if it’s up to them (which is much easier to do than in the capitalist centers, because of dependencies), never will, because the (non-financial!) profit rate would tank even more than it already does.

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