Activision Blizzard employees staged a virtual walkout Monday to protest the lifting of a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for workers returning to in-office work.
The company announced its decision to drop the vaccine requirement last week ahead of a gradual return to in-person work. Employees immediately criticized the decision, citing the danger of the rising Omicron BA.2 variant and how it might affect immunocompromised employees, or employees who live with immunocompromised individuals.
The ABK Workers Alliance, an employee group, responded by planning a walk-out to protest the change, and to lobby for remote work being offered as a permanent solution employees could opt into.
"Those who are dealing with any form of illness or disability are the ones who bear the brunt of this decision to force everyone back into the office," an employee told Axios. "It's evident that remote work is effective. Most people do not need to be physically present to do their job."
Just hours after the ABK Workers Alliance revealed its walkout plans, Activision Blizzard changed its policy to allow individual studios to set their own policies around vaccination. But the Workers Alliance went ahead with its walkout, with between 80 (Axios) and 115 (Polygon) staff reportedly taking part.
"We had 115 people attend our virtual walkout," a staff member told Polygon. "Most people opted not to be on campus due to a rise in COVID transmission in our area. ABK also did not allow people to take paid for this walkout, which is a break from their past behavior."
"The health and safety of our employees is at the absolute forefront of everything we do, including our return to office policy," Activision said in response. "While Activision Blizzard’s US vaccine mandate has been lifted, for the majority of our employees, we are still operating under a voluntary return to office opportunity. In addition, employees who are not comfortable returning to the office are encouraged to work with their manager and our HR team to explore options for working arrangements that suit their individual situations. We will continue to monitor conditions and make adjustments to the policy as needed.
"We recognize some employees may be participating in a walkout to express their views. The company supports our employees’ right to express their opinions in a safe and nonthreatening way, and will not retaliate for any decision to participate in this walkout. The company also hopes that those who walk out will conduct themselves in a legal, safe, and nonviolent manner."