Absenteeism Due to Alien Invasions

Today’s post comes to us from board member David Creelman. Here, he considers whether employers need to plan for employee absenteeism due to alien invasions.

The Workforce Institute at Kronos has done many studies on absenteeism due to the Superbowl; what’s next may be studies on absenteeism due to alien invasions. The invasion in question is not happening in the physical world, but in a virtual world call Eve Online. This virtual world, now just over 15 years old, is set in outer space and has a population of several hundred thousand players.

What has happened is that, quite out-of-the-blue, a massive attack by previously unknown aliens is destroying the ships and star-bases human players have built.

So, why should an online alien attack matter to HR leaders? Because, employees who are players may be under pressure to skip work to repel the attack for the following reasons:

  • Urgency: The virtual world (let’s call it that, not a game) happens in real time. You cannot hit pause and engage on the weekend; the aliens are attacking now.
  • Cost: The structures the aliens are attacking may have taken years to build, from a player’s point of view there is a significant investment to be protected.
  • Team: People in the Eve Online world typically work in teams. If you don’t take time off work to fight the aliens, it’s not just something that affects you; you are letting down your team.

This may all seem a bit silly or unreal. In fact, it’s an indication of how online worlds are becoming an important adjunct to the physical world. What happens in virtual outer space matters now, and it’s going to matter even more in the future.

So, what should HR’s policy be towards employees who want to take emergency leave to deal with the attack? 

I recommend being sympathetic to employees who need to take time off to deal with the invasion. I’d also take the invasion as a clear warning sign that virtual worlds matter; they will be a place to seek new employees, a place to get references and judge performance; and a competitor for the time and attention of talent professionals.

We might say that the alien invasion isn’t real, but in more ways than not it is for the hundreds of thousands of players of this online game.

How many of you are scratching your heads over this post? I’d ask you to consider the many ways in which virtual technology is showing up in the workplace – for training, for assisting others who are remote, for designing new products. If some of your employees achieve their work life balance in a virtual world, is that really so surprising?

4 thoughts on “Absenteeism Due to Alien Invasions

  1. Another issue this post raises for me is whether we as employers need to know why people are taking time off. If you have a time off policy that enables people to take care of the non-work part of their lives (care taking, vacationing, education, recuperating, etc.), then as long as they are fulfilling their work responsibilities and not engaging in criminal activity why does it matter if they take time off to play a game?

    1. Thank you David for this thought provoking article! Although I was generally aware of Eve Online, I had no idea of the volume of participants – and had not considered the potential impact to absenteeism when team based events within the gaming environment might cause participants to take time off from work to fulfill their role in Eve Online. As suggested by Joyce, this is a great example regarding why managers need to shy away from learning, or attempting to understand, why any given employee asks to use their paid vacation benefits. Should the basis for a request to take paid vacation really matter to the manager / company? I think not…what do others think about this topic?

    2. I totally agree with you Joyce. As long as they have the time off and are fulfilling work responsibilities, then they can take the time off for whatever they like.

  2. David, your way of bringing this to light was ingenious. It may seem a frivolous reason to most but to those who have invested the time, energy, and money into the game it is real. Nicely done!

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