It’s all the little things that add up to cause burnout, and it’s all the little things that can prevent it too.
At least that’s the view from Redhill Games, a games development studio based in Helsinki, Finland, and Nicosia, Cyprus.
For this Beating Burnout blog, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Ekaterina (known as Katya) Dolgova, COO and Co-founder, and Sandra-Carina Paukku, Talent Growth Manager, to find out exactly what was in Redhill’s cultural secret sauce.
We asked Katya and Sandra for the formula to keep their people happy and minimise burnout.
“There’s no secret recipe - it’s just a combination of all the little things that makes the total great and special,” said Sandra.
Let’s find out what those burnout busting little things are.
“Working in the games industry, everyone is offering similar perks and benefits. So we have to think about what makes us different - it’s definitely our people. Our management, our team leads, even our office dog!” says Sandra.
It’s the people who really make the difference at Redhill. The management cares about the people and this is clear when Katya talks about her own role.
“I look after everything that isn’t game development, and our people are our biggest asset. Without them we have nothing. It’s important to remember that people are making games, not the other way around.”
While team activities, relocation packages, and training and development, are on offer to Redhill employees, so are perks like training in intercultural communications and foreign languages, and services like Auntie that help to create a safe and inclusive culture.
“People really care about each other. We make sure that everyone is fine, that no one is isolated or feeling alone. This was especially important during Covid, but outside of a global pandemic, it's a lifeline for new team members who have relocated,” explains Sandra.
Health and wellbeing is high on the Redhill people priority list too. The company provides UV lights, vitamins, and extra fruit during the long, dark Finnish winter. Oh, and lots of encouragement for fresh air breaks!
You might even say it’s a breath of fresh air in the gaming industry, which has a reputation for being pretty intense.
With the gaming industry tipped to be worth $321 billion by 2026, the race is on to deliver better hit games, faster than ever before.
But for Redhill Games, the focus is on their people.
“It’s certainly easier for us to create a people-centric culture here in Finland where legislation and work practices support that. We can ensure good working conditions for our people, not only because it’s expected in Finnish law and Finnish culture, but because we want to,” says Katya.
“Game developers want to have fun, they want to make games. Our people are happy to have the freedom of self, and freedom of creativity.”
The culture at Redhill believes that trusting the team to do their jobs, without micromanaging, is the way to go.
“It generates positive vibes - they come to do what they’re passionate about, and they’re allowed to do it their way,” Katya explains.
And stoking that passion in their people, seems to be a common theme.
Sandra encourages people to reframe their mindset when starting a new project to find that spark of excitement that makes it more than just work.
Whether it’s the excitement of learning a new skill, or being involved in something ambitious, or simply working with a new team lead, the passion for the task is reflected in the games.
Sandra continues, “Sometimes, timings can be super intense, especially when there are deadlines due. And sometimes we do have meetings late in the evening to accommodate partners all over the world. But the flexibility that we offer allows people to balance that with their own lives.”
Both Sandra and Katya are avid hikers, although horse riding, baking, ballet, travel, and good food also came up when we were talking about life outside of work.
“The things you enjoy in life make your life full,” says Katya. “If it’s only work, you may initially be excited, but at some point it becomes a routine so you need to complement it with other things you enjoy. Knowing how to find those things you enjoy is a special skill.”
Not to fear. The team at Redhill have an ace up their sleeve:
“As a team, we help people when they are relocating to Finland,” explains Sandra. “As well as helping them with the paperwork and setting up their routines, we help people really settle. I give ideas and recommendations of where they should go, hobbies and activities they should try. I feel so well integrated in Finland, that I’m happy to help them make it their second home.”
Now if that isn’t a little thing that makes a big difference, we don’t know what is.