On September 11, most of the over 4,000 employees at Ubisoft Montreal returned to the office in Montreal’s Mile End for the first time in three years. However, this decision has been met with widespread discontent and allegations of broken promises from Ubisoft leadership.
Many employees expressed their frustration and concerns on the studio’s intranet, ranging from mild concern to outright anger. IGN has viewed numerous negative comments on the situation, with over 270 comments on the announcement post alone.
The discontent stems not only from the practical challenges of returning to the office, such as noisy calls and increased expenses, but also from deeper issues within Ubisoft. Employees feel disillusioned with management’s indifference towards their well-being, especially in light of layoffs, game cancellations, and abuse allegations.
Ubisoft Montreal’s return-to-office plan was initially announced in the summer of 2021, coinciding with the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. However, employees claim that the promised flexible working arrangements never materialized. They were repeatedly reassured over the past two years that remote work would be a long-term option. IGN has viewed internal documents supporting this claim, with promises of a “hybrid, flexible working environment.”
Nevertheless, starting from September 11, 2023, Ubisoft Montreal employees are now expected to work a minimum of two days a week in the office. This requirement is mandatory, with exemptions only considered after all other solutions have been explored.
The announcement sparked anger within the studio, as employees raised numerous concerns about returning to the office. These included noisy work environments, transit costs, lack of necessary equipment and accommodations, and ongoing fears about the spread of COVID-19. Many employees expressed their disappointment at Ubisoft for breaking its promises around remote work, with some claiming they made life-changing decisions based on the assumption that remote work would be a permanent policy.
A recurring theme in the comments is a lack of trust in the company’s ability to provide satisfactory working conditions and uphold its promises over time. The allegations of a toxic work environment from three years ago still resonate, with employees claiming that these issues have not been adequately addressed. Furthermore, Ubisoft has recently undergone layoffs, game cancellations, and financial cuts, leading some employees to speculate that the return-to-office policy is a disguised layoff strategy.
An Imminent Exodus?
Although employees have been encouraged to discuss accommodations with their managers, the process has encountered setbacks. Employees who require specific equipment or accommodations have faced challenges in obtaining them, often requiring extensive documentation and battles. The system for finding accommodations appears overwhelmed, with a flood of requests and insufficient resources to fulfill them. Additionally, middle managers seem powerless to address the anger and frustration expressed by employees.
When approached for comment, Ubisoft provided the following statement:
“Like many companies in entertainment and tech, we are asking our colleagues to come back to the office for key moments identified by each team. We are convinced that in-person synergy, discussions, and a sense of belonging will help us be more effective and agile together and achieve our business goals. The hybrid mode is being implemented gradually, allowing for flexibility and ongoing conversations to ease the transition.”
While it remains to be seen how the return to the office will impact Ubisoft Montreal in the long term, some employees have implied that they are actively seeking employment elsewhere. Looking at Blizzard’s similar experience, a forced return-to-office policy resulted in a mass exodus of talent, leading to significant operational challenges within the company. With Ubisoft struggling with sales disappointments, delays, and cancellations, it may not be able to afford further discontent within its largest and most productive development studio.
Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN.