Actions you can take
Rest days or hiatus periods are important as working very long hours can affect our ability to take care of ourselves, including making time to eat well and exercise, which are vital to maintaining good health. There are also serious safety risks if people are driving or doing any manual jobs on set, without sufficient sleep.
Prioritising down-time and sleep on production is a health and safety issue, but it also shows your team that you care about their welfare, helps to avoid burnout and allows them to do their best work. Bectu has a campaign to reduce long working hours to improve productivity, safety and work life balance, Eyes Half Shut.
They have their own lives, families and health issues. Remind people that they are entitled to take leave during the production if they need to. This could be due to necessary medical leave, personal events or holidays.
Film and TV productions have, for a long time, been working cultures where people stay late, doing extremely long hours. This often results in teams feeling like they need to be seen to be working all the time.
This is known as presenteeism . It can be exhausting, unhelpful, lead to low staff morale and productivity, and have a negative impact on your team’s lives outside work. Team leaders can help to shift this culture by setting an example, not staying late and not keeping teams in the office or on set unnecessarily.
Encourage your team to sign up to the Time Project to campaign for change. Anyone who works in film or TV production can use the free Time Project tool to log hours worked above and beyond what you’ve been paid for. The data is used by researchers at York University to build up a picture of how hours worked correlates to pay and other factors, such as where in the UK you work. This wealth of data can be used in the future as evidence to convince commissioners and financiers to make changes to budget provisions in order to prevent unhealthy and even dangerous working hours.
Long drives, in the dark, when tired, are dangerous. Where possible, and if your budget allows, put your team up in overnight accommodation or commit to shortening their prep and wrap times.
This might be hard to imagine, but it could be as simple as no emailing or calls at weekends or after a particularly time in the evening – unless it’s a real emergency. Watch producer Karl Lieges talk about how the production he worked on prioritised down-time and rest by introducing a “media blackout”. In this context, it means email and phone downtime. You could put a similar blackout in place on your production.