CEO Blog – Why I Abolished Crunch Time and Never Looked Back

By Rémi Racine

Have you ever had a moment of pure clarity about your business when you feel in your gut that something fundamental must change?

That happened to me one morning almost 20 years ago when I was hit by the sight of dishevelled employees groggy from another all-nighter. It wasn’t the first time they had worked through the night (nor would it be the last), but that morning I really saw it.

I decided then and there that overworked employees putting their health and personal lives at risk would not be the foundation on which I built Behaviour’s success.

That day I took a leap of faith: work would be work, and life would be life.

The video game industry is notorious for its “crunch time”, the period when, with a release date looming, entire teams are expected to work extended hours for weeks, sometimes months. Behaviour was no different. I bought into crunch time as the price to pay to live up to the expectations of clients and players.

It was time to break the habit and question crunch time culture.

Can employees who work 8 hours a day be as productive as those who stay at the office for twice that amount of time? Could I abolish crunch time by implementing more efficient processes? As president, was I responsible for every employee’s well-being?

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

So how did I do it? It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight.  It took ten years to transform Behaviour into a company where crunch time is but a vague memory, where employees can always pick up their kids at school or daycare.

I started by banning sleeping at the office. Teams could work as late as they wanted but I never again wanted to be greeted in the morning by zombified programmers and developers.  

Next, I stopped encouraging employees to work weekends to respect deadlines. Anyone who wanted to could (and still can), but it would no longer be expected of them.

I surrounded myself with managers who shared my vision. Deep organizational change comes from the top but must be implemented at every level.

Working intensely for 8 hours = an empty office at 6 pm.

Working intensely means making every minute count, planning with extreme rigour, and allocating resources efficiently. You’d be surprised how many work hours are spent not getting anything done (I’m looking at you pinball machines!) At Behaviour, we work with relentless focus for 8 hours every day. The payoff? Everyone gets to eat dinner with their families and spend time with loved ones.

Does every Behaviour manager disconnect at 6 pm? No, obviously. Like everyone, I expect that our clients/players receive prompt answers to emergency requests.

Numbers speak louder than the most deeply felt vision statement.

In 2018, 0.25% of all hours worked at Behaviour were in overtime; that is not even enough hours to warrant a full-time position. That same year we launched 100 updates, collaborated to the creation of 15 new games, and gained 20,763,454 new players worldwide.

Not everyone agrees with me. And that’s fine.  

I’ve encountered team leads who depend on crunch time as a management tool. I’ve dealt with disgruntled employees who believe that crunch time is necessary for delivering competitive games. I’ve received calls from clients who are baffled that no one is picking up the phone at 9 pm.

You know what? Since I enforced the no crunch time policy, I’ve never lost a contract or a client; never missed a deadline; never gone over budget and, most importantly, never stopped growing.

What I’ve learned from this process is that a good quality of life makes everyone happier and more productive, and I want to be surrounded by people who are happy.

Rémi Racine,

CEO and Executive Producer – Behaviour Interactive