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Minecraft boss says US work culture needs more "off-ramps" for employees

Employees should be able "immerse themselves in their life experiences" without damaging their careers, says Helen Chiang

Workers in the US games industry need more "off-ramps from work," according to Minecraft group head Helen Chiang, who has pointed towards Mojang's native Sweden as an example of healthier work culture.

Speaking to Quartz, Chiang discussed her approach to running the company since she took over as studio head in January this year. One of her key points related to work culture in the US, which does not place enough value in time away from the job.

"I think here in the US we need more off-ramps from work, or opportunities to take a career break," Chiang said. "Whether it's parental leave, or elder care leave, or a sabbatical, we need opportunities for people to take a break and not have to start over from scratch when they come back."

Chiang gained that insight from working with the Minecraft team in Sweden, which led her to look at other European countries that allow people to, "immerse themselves in their life experiences - whether it's having a baby, or something that's happening in their family."

"And I see my Swedish employees coming back more energized, which convinces me that we need to support more flexible work arrangements and allow for something like that in the US," she continued.

"On my team, someone is about to go on sabbatical, and someone else is taking an extended summer leave to go work on a passion project, and I don't look at this as proof that they're any less committed to what we're doing.

"When they're at work, they're working hard and fully committed, but we need to recognize there's more to life than work, and I think it's great that they're invested in things beyond the office. And I know they're going to come back re-energized and ready to take on that next set of challenges for us."

Chiang touched on many other points about work culture in the interview, one of which is a commitment to "taking the call" when it comes to screening resumes with gaps in work history.

"I found that a lot of the resume screeners would say, 'I don't understand why this person has this long gap in their work history,' and I would say, 'Well of course, they had a baby, it's not like they went on vacation.'

"Now we have a lot of returning moms on my team, because when we were screening that was one of the things that we just had a lot of empathy for. And it didn't mean that they were less committed to their career, it just meant that they had a different life plan, and that's okay."

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