SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — NCsoft, one of South Korea’s top game developers, is set to introduce a flexible working hours policy that has industry watchers hopeful a positive change is coming to the infamous working conditions — described as “murderous” — in the gaming industry.
The company revealed on the first day of the year that it will make a concerted push to improve its work environment by facilitating a companywide flextime schedule test run starting sometime this January.
In December, NCsoft held a briefing session centered on revamping its work culture that was attended by the CEO and nominated workforce representatives.
The negotiated result has been the decision to place greater emphasis on total working hours (nine hours daily, including a one-hour lunch break) and de-emphasize traditional work schedules; what this means for NCsoft is that employees will have the option of choosing when to report to work in 30-minute blocks between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Employees will be guaranteed this freedom under the requirement that a minimum 40 hours per week must be fulfilled.
Management and labor are to discuss expanding the parameters of work flexibility at a yet undecided point going forward.
Due to the nature of work in the gaming industry, management views it inevitable that new game releases, game testing, and other major activities that require an all-hands-on-deck approach will necessitate long, strenuous hours.
To ensure workers’ well-being and avoid burnout, future talks will discuss the possibility of reducing working hours in less taxing weeks relative to overtime work in busier times while still meeting the legal requirement of working hours per week.
Employees at industry competitor Nexon already have the option of choosing to start their day between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. However, the company does not offer employees the opportunity to shorten their work schedule depending on business lulls and peaks, unlike the proposal NCsoft is considering.
The effectiveness of the changes undertaken by NCsoft in correcting a work culture plagued by excessive time at the office is a point of strong interest to those inside and outside the industry.
The plight of workers in the games industry came to light two years ago, when successive cases of employees at Netmarble dying suddenly and from overwork were widely reported.
Last February, Netmarble banned work on days off and overtime, as well as issuing work via social media and messenger apps after work hours.
A Netmarble insider said regarding the work policy changes, “With the belief that the sustained work-life balance of our employees is the key to the continued growth of the company, we have been consistent in assessing and improving this work policy, so it can firmly take root.”
The individual, who asked not to be named, said, “Since the policy implementation, many aspects of employees’ work satisfaction have noticeably risen.”
An industry expert explained that the problematic work culture had dogged the games industry throughout its rapid growth, and that industry leaders’ attempts to foster a healthier work environment would most certainly be of significance.