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A new Scottish initiative aims to address work life balance issues in tv drama and film production.
Given many people would welcome working less or having time to do some other work on the side, it is interesting that job shares are not more popular.
A new pilot aims to make the case for them within tv film and drama production, a sector which suffers from long hours and a culture that dictates that work must take precedence over everything else.
The TakeTwo partnership is a joint initiative of the Scottish arm of the union BECTU and job share agency Further&More and is supported by Screen Scotland, Scottish Union Learning and the BBC as well as BECTU.
It was set up by a job share partnership in BECTU’s Vision & Drama Training Programme in response to a skills shortage and the haemorrhaging of women after childbirth.
Amy Shaw, a co-manager of the Vision & Drama Training Programme, is one of the people behind it. She used to work in tv production, but took a step away when she had children because of the long hours and because her husband also worked in tv. Several people in the industry have since said to her that they would love a job share like hers, but that they didn’t feel they would be able to ask for it. Amy’s job made her aware of the skills gap in several different areas of tv production, caused in part by women leaving after they started families because of the long, inflexible hours and facing problems getting back into the industry afterwards.
TakeTwo aims to help people make the case for job shares to their managers as well as supporting managers and making the case about the benefits to them. “We want to give people confidence to approach their employer about a job share and to open up the conversation,” says Amy. “There’s a terrible issue with work life balance in the industry which is causing a huge talent drain. It’s madness.”
In drama, which she works in, she says it is standard to work an 11-hour day, from 8am to 7pm, and then you have to add time to get ready and commuting time onto that. Filming can often take place in random places. That makes childcare very difficult. “The logistics are very challenging,” says Amy. Part of the problem is that tv production has historically been a ‘give your all’ kind of business. “It’s the culture of the job,” says Amy. “Even taking holidays can be difficult. Work takes precedence.” She says the problem has become worse in recent years as drama productions are longer. This affects all production office jobs.
To get TakeTwo off the ground Amy and her partner spoke to Further&More to develop a job share blueprint that takes into account the particular needs of the industry. The partnership also includes coaching and help with job share logistics such as tailoring a cv and sharing diaries as well as working with line managers to provide impartial support if any issues arise. “The aim is to provide an extra level of security since some managers see job shares as a risk,” says Amy.
While she recognises that some job shares involve slightly more costs than just having one person in place, for instance, if there is a handover day, Amy says the benefits for employers and job share partners far outweigh the costs. “It is more collaborative. You are getting so much more than one person. You get two creative minds with years of experience who can bounce ideas off each other. It means you can work more quickly, push things further and that someone has got your back,” says Amy.
TakeTwo doesn’t provide a job share register for people to find potential partners, but Amy says that is because the tv production industry in Scotland is quite small and everyone knows everyone. Moreover, there are other job share matching sites available in tv production. They are, however, holding networking events to talk about things like what to look for in a job share partner and they have put together some job share case studies.
The initiative was launched at an event at the Edinburgh Film Festival in Scotland last week, but already TakeTwo are planning a follow-up event to keep the momentum up and to talk about the nitty gritty of job sharing. Amy says the feedback has been very positive so far. “It’s not just for parents. People want to develop their own ideas and projects in this industry, but don’t have time to do so at the moment,” says Amy. She thinks job shares are a move in the right direction to give people greater work life balance, but ultimately she would like to see shorter working weeks for everyone and says this is something BECTU will be campaigning for.
*Picture credit: make-up artist from Wikipedia.