During COVID-19, the boundaries have blurred between work and home. Kids pop in during the middle of a work call. Crevoshay said she stops working at her desk at some point during off-hours. That helps keep a lid on work hours.

Chandler asked how to move that forward for companies to take these steps in removing the stigma of mental illness from work.

Above: Eve Crevoshay is executive director of Take This.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

“The thing I advocate for this is very simple,” Smedley said. “You have to manage it. You have to take it seriously. I am very open about the fact that I have depression with my teams. I encourage people if they are comfortable with it to talk to someone. I am super about it online, and I find that an amazing number of people [are affected]. One-in-six people in the United States are on an antidepressant. That’s a very, very large number of people. If you have a team of 60 people, 10 of those people are going to be on antidepressants.”

Having somebody to talk to is 90% of the battle, Smedley said. Crevoshay said that reducing the stigma comes from high-level people like Smedley being open, but also increasing the mental health literacy of people so they understand and have language to talk about their own experiences with the people around them.

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“If we have good representation of mental illness in games, then the very things we make help us to understand and describe out own experience,” Crevoshay said.

Working from home lessons

Chandler brought up that some understanding has to happen right now with the conditions of COVID-19. He said, “I can do great, outstanding work. I just can’t do it within the confines of 9-to-5 working hours.” Smedley noted that Amazon has liberal work-from-home policies, but the situation is forcing work flows and day-to-day management to get better.

Smedley has found that a 10:30 a.m. “stand up” meeting and a 4:30 p.m. “happy hour” works in the current environment. He said people need to talk a lot more, and it’s something they need. Many have kids, and so flexible time really works. As long as the staff shows up for the 10:30 a.m. event, he is happy with any hours they work, as long as they get their work done. The happy hour helps blow off steam.

Above: Senua’s journey in Hellblade deals in mental health.

Image Credit: Ninja Theory

“Everybody is learning the same things, like making sure to talk to people every day and have frequent 1-on-1 conversations,” Smedley said.

In this situation, Crevoshay said people need a “lot more modeling of good self care.” She asked Smedley if productivity is slowing down. He said that the project itself hasn’t slowed down, but the iteration — the idea of checking whether colleagues think a change in the game is good or not — has slowed down because it’s harder to get feedback without being physically together. There’s longer back and forth, he said.

“You have to be a lot more explicit, or be more thoughtful,” he said. “You can’t just smile. The words need to be said. You have to give quick feedback. I haven’t seen productivity go down. I have seen the amount that we iterate go down.”

Leadership

As a manager, your words carry more weight, Smedley said. He said he invites anyone to come to him to talk.

He said everyone is learning a lot more about the personal lives about colleagues, and he said, “It borrows zero people when a kid comes into the room and wants to talk to mom or dad. No big deal. In a weird way, I think it’s going to bring us closer.”

Chandler said that companies should think about having a “chief wellness officer” as someone to talk to. Crevoshay liked that idea but she also said the responsibility lies with leadership and managers for setting the tone and “walking the walk” and saying supportive things.

Chandler, Crevoshay, and Smedley are used to talking about these things. But for GamesBeat Summit, this was a first.

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