- Posted by Simon Byrne
- On May 17, 2017
People in the live events industry operate in a somewhat unique environment when compared to most industries. If for example, a builder encounters delays due to issues out of our their control, it is irritating but not that big a deal. They’ll (hopefully) come back tomorrow.
If we are late in completing a production setup or have insolvable equipment failures, the show won’t go on! This… would be a big problem. Despite this, we love what we do.
It is the immediacy of events that is what we love about the live production industry. It is the satisfaction of “getting it done” irrespective of the challenges that face us. Combined with the technology, the passion, pride, excitement and satisfaction of the show itself, we are hooked.
We work really long hours. A touring day can start at 8 am, sometimes earlier and go through to 2 am next morning. Yes, an 18 hours day can be normal!
Long hours and setup pressures create an ideal environment for stress. Combine that with rushed and poor food on jobs, the fear of not getting the next gig, flood and famine finances, lack of consistent sleep and it is obvious why we are overrepresented in suicide statistics.
According to research conducted by Entertainment Assist last recently, road crew members experienced suicide ideation almost 9 times more than the general population. For Australian entertainment workers, moderate to severe anxiety symptoms are 10 times higher than in the general population and the levels of depression symptoms are 5 times higher.
Chilling stuff. The reality is that some of people reading this article are likely to be suffering from anxiety or depression right now. If that is the case, there is fantastic help available which you can access right now by calling one of the numbers below. Seriously, people who care are standing by to help you right now.
Big picture, the live production industry must start talking about these issues and recognise that we are in a unique, high stress work environment. A fundamental shift in approach and attitude is required.
For example, I know one employer of a mid size firm who often does 25 – 30 hour shifts and sees that as some sort badge of honour. What is worse, he sees himself as leading by example to his staff. It is actually stupid, even dangerous as young impressionable workers start to accept that the same is expected of them. Tired workers make mistakes. Plain and simple.
Progressive managers recognise that they are are instrumental in ensuring the welfare of their workers and serve to minimise the stress at their jobs. It is is done by better planning, supporting their team, providing adequate resources and most importantly, smart rostering of staff.
By getting smart with the roster, they have their experienced workers fresh for when it counts, but long term, the workforce have less cause to become stressed.
Workers also need to take responsibility for their own health too. Do what your Mum said! Look after yourself, eat healthily, get adequate rest, avoid the drugs and alcohol. Employers quite rightly expect well rested workers without the influence of drugs or alcohol so it is Ok to say no sometimes. But importantly, if things don’t feel right, talk to someone about it.
Workers are often the first to spot a problem with their colleagues. Sometimes an employer has so much on their plate that they simply do not notice a problem. I’d be the first to admit that I have been guilty of this. The other workers in team just needs to quietly ask the stressed worker, “Are you OK?” as well as bring it to the attention of the employer discreetly.
Start talking people. It is 2017, we can and need do better at this!
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Lifeline 13 11 14
BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636.
Entertainment Assist is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health in the Australian entertainment industry by commissioning research, advocating for workplace and educational transformation and identifying support pathways for those in distress.
To read this article online (and ALL of their articles dating back to 1990 for free!), head over to the CX Network.
I am a contributing writer to CX Magazine and they own this article. CX Network is the voice of technicians in entertainment and audio visual across Australasia.
Lot’s of great stuff!