The film and tv industry has a high incidence of mental health issues. How does Netflix address this?
Many people have spent an awful lot of time watching Netflix during the pandemic, but what’s it like to work there?
A session at this year’s annual Making a Difference Summit heard from Ruth Denyer, Director of Production Safety, and Emma Murphy, Director of Production HR for the EMEA and LATAM regions, about health and safety issues.
Professor Dame Carol Black, who introduced the session, commented on figures showing high levels of mental health problems in the film and tv industry. Researched by the Film and TV charity in 2020 found that 55% of film and TV workers surveyed had contemplated suicide, compared with a national average of 20%, while one in 10 had attempted suicide, compared to a 7% national average. Moreover, film and TV professionals are three times as likely to self-harm than the national average.
Denyer and Murphy said film and tv was heavily reliant on freelancers, which had contributed to problems during Covid.
Netflix’s approach is to focus more on people than process. It limits the number of policies it uses due to the agile nature of the industry and the fact it operates in a very international environment. Denyer said some problems required very local solutions and that any guidance needs to be able to work across the organisation.
Murphy spoke of the need to remove barriers and to empower people on the ground – ‘informed captains’ – to gather information and make decisions.
Denyer said: “The aim is to try to understand the nature of any problems more rather than pushing out policies from the centre… and help make the industry better across several countries.” Its approach is driven by data and ‘diverse insights’ with people being able to try things locally and learn from each other.
She added that mental health is becoming more of a priority and is linked to physical safety issues. “They cannot be treated separately,” she said.
She summed up by saying that Netflix uses a “bottom-up approach” which focuses on results rather than process and on ‘working together for the best outcome’.
The two were questioned by members of the audience who asked about the mental health impact of Netflix’s content. They said that there was growing awareness of the issues and that it had learnt from past experiences, such as with the 13 Reasons Why series. Netflix is preparing to launch a programme on sensitive content.
They were also asked about the parallels with their industry and construction, which also relies heavily on freelancers and hence has issues around creating a sense of community. They agreed there were parallels and that there needs to be cross-sectoral sharing of information on best practice.
The close links between physical and mental health were also explored in a presentation at the MAD summit about ASICS’ Movement for Minds research. The research looked at a programme developed by sports equipment multinational ASICS. Gary Raucher, Executive Vice President of the company, spoke of how working from home during the pandemic had significantly increased the time people spent sitting down and not moving, particularly since places such as gyms were closed. He called for a rethink of the role of movement in the workplace.
The Movement for Mind programme – an eight-week programme of two 30-minute sessions of running or walking, twice a week – brings together proven, practical, simple and effective techniques and has been evaluated by Dr Brendon Stubbs from King’s College London. He told the conference that he had conducted a rigorous trial on the programme which had shown that it had resulted in a significant difference in wellbeing compared to those who didn’t do the programme. He said it reduced sedentary behaviour by an hour a day, lowered anxiety and increased people’s daily step count by 10% a day. Not only that but it helped “to create a culture where movement is the norm”.