Activision QA workers protest new office mandate, calling it ‘simple layoffs’

Activision QA workers protest new office mandate, calling it ‘simple layoffs’

Today, the ABK Worker Alliance published a statement opposing the recent return-to-the-office mandate affecting hundreds of Quality Assurance (QA) workers at Activision. While the company has been allowing hybrid work situations up until this point, the group says that on November 30, QA workers in Minneapolis, Austin, and El Segundo who primarily work on Call of Duty were told they must fully return to their offices five days a week. Starting in late January. Activision is offering severance pay to those who leave the company as a result of this mandate.

IGN has seen the text of an email sent to affected IGN QA workers about the change, which says the move to full-time desk work came after Activision found “our central QA team to be more effective on in-office days than at work.” Remote working days. Much of this is due to business broadband speeds, in-person team engagement resulting in faster compliance, and better access to devices in the office.

The letter goes on to note that the change “may not align with everyone’s personal and professional goals,” and offers a one-time severance package of a minimum of 12 weeks of pay, a 2023 bonus, 12 months of health care, and a payout of unused vacation time to anyone who voluntarily separates due to… the state. He concludes by saying that there are “no current plans” to make other similar changes elsewhere in the organisation.

When asked for comment, an Activision spokesperson provided the following statement regarding returning to the office, which mirrors the email seen by IGN:

After returning to the office in April, we learned a lot about how our teams work better. In particular, we’ve seen our QA teams in Minneapolis, Austin, and El Segundo work more effectively and efficiently in person, thanks to improved broadband speeds, seamless team coordination, and better access to hardware. As a result, we made the decision to transition from a hybrid work schedule to a full-time in-office model for Activision QA in Minneapolis, Austin and El Segundo to enhance our best-in-class QA function and best delivery for our players.

The ABK workers’ coalition responds

In response, the ABK Workers Alliance published a statement opposing the mandate, accusing Activision of not doing enough to support workers who want to keep their current jobs but need to work remotely for a variety of reasons. The group says multiple QA employees have been reaching out to Activision’s accommodation team since the start of hybrid work earlier this year in an attempt to obtain permanent accommodation to work from home due to “disability, financial issues, or other factors.” However, they say many of their applications were rejected outright, while others were offered in-office accommodation that was insufficient to meet their needs.

The statement also notes that “many employees” hired during the lockdown live “a significant distance” from offices, and will feel an impact on both finances and work-life balance due to having to commute.

“This has resulted in several employees being forced to leave the company in a minor layoff,” the statement from the ABK Workers Alliance said. “We believe that removing hybrid work will force many employees to leave the company and enter a desperate situation.”

Additionally, IGN spoke to several Activision employees who expressed opposition to the mandate. The mandate “ensures that the needs of our most vulnerable employees are not met,” Quality Assurance Officer Kate Anderson told us. Another QA employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told us they’ve been successfully working remotely for three years now, but spent most of the last year going through Activision’s accommodations process to gain the right to work remotely due to a disability.

Many of my coworkers are worried about their future

“One of Activision’s corporate values ​​is Champion DE&I, but imposing a return-to-office policy on an entire division is inherently unfair,” they said. “The vast majority of our team worked remotely throughout 2021 and 2022 without issues, so we have already proven that our jobs can be done successfully while working remotely.” In the email announcing the change, they noted that the team is “more effective when working on-site, but Correlation does not equal causation. “I implore them to look at other factors that have contributed to our success over the past year.”

Likewise, one of our QA testers, Andrew Snell, disagreed with the company’s statement that working from the office was the reason for Activision’s recent successes. “Since the COVID-19 quarantine, Activision Blizzard King has set sales records for its Call of Duty franchise titles, including its mobile division, all while most of its workforce has been required to work fully remotely.” Since April of this year, we have been operating under a hybrid in-office/work-from-home environment that greatly benefits those with a medical necessity and working families. With the decision to return to the office full-time, many of my co-workers are concerned about their futures and weighing options. “On whether or not they can accept this deal.”

Additionally, an Activision spokesperson provided the following statement regarding accommodations in response to IGN’s request for comment:

We take our support for employees with disabilities, different abilities, mental health requirements and variable medical needs very seriously. We focus on finding appropriate and reasonable accommodations for team members who face barriers to performing their essential functions. We carefully manage all requests and work with individuals confidentially to understand their medical needs and provide a variety of individual solutions.

Constant clashes with Activision Blizzard

The ABK Workers Alliance was formed in 2021 in response to a lawsuit filed in California against Activision Blizzard alleging discrimination and harassment against the company’s employees. The group has since been involved in organizing numerous strikes at the company and in supporting unions for both Raven Software QA and Blizzard Albany workers. Currently, the group is working to make more collective efforts in light of the pledge of union neutrality by the new parent company of Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait, Microsoft.

A one-size-fits-all mandate harms us all

“A one-size-fits-all mandate harms us all,” the ABK Labor Alliance concludes. “Everyone loses: the company, the products, the players, and most of all, the employees. We stand by our resolve that the decision on WFH or RTO should be made on an individual basis taking into account the needs of each employee.”

Last year, a number of major companies implemented return-to-office mandates, frustrating employees who had adapted or expected to be able to continue working from home. For example, it was alleged that Blizzard was creating “crisis maps” due to the mass exodus of employees in response to forced returns to the office, among other issues. And at Ubisoft Montreal, developers flooded an internal message board with hundreds of comments, many of which claimed the company had broken its promise of permanent remote work for its employees.

IGN has also reached out to Activision’s parent company Microsoft for comment.

Rebecca Valentine is a senior reporter at IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to rvalentine@ign.com.

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