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How can the broadcast industry reduce burnout?

TVBEurope hears from industry stakeholders about whether the TV industry could move to a shorter working week, and how they're working to reduce colleague burnout

Over the past 18 months the broadcast industry has dealt with some of the most challenging times it has ever faced. The pandemic forced broadcasters, vendors, and technologists to think on their feet in order to keep content on air when staff were asked to work from home. Even when stay-at-home orders were lifted, broadcasters had to develop new ways of producing shows while dealing with social distancing etc. Add to that a busy summer following the postponement of major sporting events, and it’s not surprising that some industry colleagues are in need of a break!

The idea of a four-day working week has been gaining ground around the world in recent years. France is said to be considering a move to limit the working week to 32 hours, while a four-day week trial is currently underway in Scotland. A recent UK report suggested a decrease in working hours increased productivity by 700 per cent.

But would that work for the broadcast industry, and how are companies working to reduce burn out? During the pandemic companies introduced everything from quizzes to virtual coffee mornings, and even a weekly virtual pub to keep in touch with colleagues and industry contacts. And the idea of a reduced working week is starting to gain traction.

“We actually trialled a four-and-a-half day week for around nine months, only halting the trial last year when the country went into lockdown which meant staff were working remotely anyway,” Three Media managing director Debra Slater tells TVBEurope. “I had read a number of articles detailing the benefits to both the company and employees of a four-day week and at the time I already had concerns about getting the balance right for the team trying to juggle work and home. 

“I’ve always strived to put the team first, but as a company owner you also need to take into consideration what is best for the company,” she continues. “Just having the team take time out to attend a personal appointment has a really disruptive effect on the company and adds pressure to employees to make up for lost time which undoubtedly cuts in to their own personal time. With the four-and-a-half day week initiative it felt good to give something back to the team that wasn’t financially driven.”

Slater adds that the trial was “hugely successful” from both company and employee perspectives. “I noticed increased productivity levels, more energy and enthusiasm resulting in better-quality work from the team,” she adds. 

Another company that has trialled a four and a half day week is Brainstorm, as Miguel Churruca, marketing and communications director explains: “This reduced week started more than 10 years ago, and it is combined with a reduced working day, or, what we call ‘intensive days’ for a month in summertime, which allows employees that want or can to work from 8 am to 3 pm, unless any urgent requirement or travel prevents them to do so.”

While not all of the companies TVBEurope spoke to believe a move to a shorter working week will work for the TV industry, almost all say they intend to continue to allow staff to work from home. In fact, Pebble has taken the decision to move permanently to a remote working model, as Yucel Timur, the company’s director of operations, explains: “Over 40 per cent of our staff were already remote workers, and during the various lockdowns over the past 18 months when everyone was forced to work remotely, we nevertheless successfully remotely designed, delivered and commissioned more than 230 systems. 

“In taking the step to becoming a remote only company we can avoid location bias and recruit the best people regardless of where they are based – meaning larger access to talents pools we would never have discovered otherwise. Working remotely also allows us to put everyone on a level playing field – or on the same screen – in meetings, reinforcing our value of ‘every pebble matters’. Now that pandemic restrictions have eased in the UK, members of the UK team can still meet in person if needed, but the daily commute is thankfully a thing of the past.”

The idea of in-person meetings is one key aspect that many companies say they’ve missed during the pandemic, and they are looking forward to a return in seeing colleagues across the industry again soon. “Due to the travel restrictions and the cancelling of NAB and IBC last year, we’ve been denied the one or two opportunities we get each year to meet each other, clients, journalists, and industry friends in person,” says Neil Howman, managing director, 202 Communications. “While we’ve always valued these times, the past 18 months has highlighted just how important the ability to meet in person is – not just for business reasons but also the positive benefits to well-being and avoiding burnout it brings – so, here’s hoping that NAB and/or IBC, and other industry tradeshows can take place this year!”