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Respawn responds to crunch and burnout complaint posted on Glassdoor

Respawn responds to crunch and burnout complaint posted on Glassdoor

July 24, 2020 | By Chris Kerr

Respawn has responded to a negative review left on Glassdoor that complained of "burnout, stress, and heavy anxiety on the Apex Legends project."

Glassdoor is a reviews website where current and former employees can share their experiences working at companies around the world. The Respawn review (also highlighted on Reddit) was posted by a current full-time employee and indicated the studio has struggled to cope with the knock on effects of COVID-19.

In their assessment of the studio, the anonymous employee praised the creative sensibilities of Respawn and recent office improvements. However, they also complained of tight deadlines on Apex Legends, poor planning, and a lack of employee care. 

"Mostly every other game company has extended project deadlines [...] to accommodate for lower efficiencies and general stresses or anxiety during COVID-19, but not on the Apex project," reads the review. 

"I feel extremely stressed and burnt out trying to keep our seasonal releases on the same aggressive timeline as pre-shelter in place productivity. I currently work 12-13 hours a day and there is no separation between my home and work life. 

"We have no idea how to do a live service project, which means poor planing decision dn no sizing of work. [There has been] no attention to employee health during this period. We get two conflicting messages of 'please take care of your health' and 'we must keep the same schedule and work even longer hours to meet our deadlines.'"

It's worth nothing that the vast majority of Respawn reviews on Glassdoor are positive, but in response to these recent complaints Apex game director Chad Grenier has acknowledged the studio struggled during the pandemic. 

Addressing the situation on Reddit, Grenier insisted that Respawn has always had its employees' best interests and health in mind, but that transitioning to work-from-home was "indeed very hard on the team."

"We certainly didn't have the tools, tech, or systems in place to make a smooth transition to going from several hundred person team on the same campus to a completely remote studio. During this transition, I knew that not only was work going to be more difficult and less productive, but people would also be dealing with a scary global pandemic," he wrote. 

"Add to that the pressures even in a normal environment of making a live service game and we were set up for likely the biggest challenge we've ever faced, and are still facing as we continue to work from our homes."

Grenier claimed he was vocal in telling workers to "only work as much as they can," and that studio leadership along with EA bosses also reiterated that message. He explained that devs were told that delays would be okay, and to speak up to their managers or producers if they couldn't finish work without crunching. Employee benefits, including unlimited time off, were also reportedly offered to ensure the wellbeing of staff. 

That said, the creative director concedes that the person who wrote the review is "absolutely right in how they felt, and they were clearly working too much" despite being told it was okay to miss deadlines. He suggested that a "rockstar" attitude often leads to people crunching off their own back, and said all the team leaders at Respawn have "learned to look for the signs" and check-in more regularly with staff. 

"Nobody wants to be the person to raise their hand and say they're not going to hit their deadline. Nobody wants to be the one who got a feature delayed. Nobody wants to let their teammates down, or let the fans down. Everyone wants to fix that bug, finish that cool new character, or get that new game mode up and running, and will crunch themselves unknowingly to get it done," he continued. 

"That's how dedicated this team is, they're amazing. Because of this, all of us leaders on the team have learned to better look for the signs, check-in more regularly with the developers, and push features back proactively after reading the signals, instead of waiting for someone to raise their hand.

"Are we perfect? No, of course not. Do Respawn and EA 100 percent care more about the health of the team than the game and its profits? Absolutely, even in non-pandemic times. As one of the original Respawners I can honestly tell you that Respawn (and EA) has been a great place to be over the past 10 years and is a place that puts the people first."

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