Written by Shona Smith on Jul 28, 2020. Posted in General Interest / Interviews

Job sharing is providing solutions in the wake of Covid-19

Job sharing has long provided solutions for freelance workers with caring commitments and physical or mental health issues – all of which the pandemic has put under a microscope. For creative companies remerging from lockdown into an entirely new landscape, the flexibility that job sharing provides is proving beneficial says Michelle Reynolds of Share my Telly Job an online community built for Freelancers in the Television industry who are hoping to find more flexible working contracts.

Job sharing allows two part-time employees to share the work and pay of a single full-time job, helping freelancers achieve a better work-life balance and retain experience and talent in the industry. Long before the recent pandemic, statistics regarding the brain drain of female talent, the amount of people with disabilities behind the camera, and diversity in the industry were startling and job sharing has been recognised as stemming the flow. There are widespread concerns that the current crisis may accelerate these trends.

Michelle Reynolds from Share my Telly Job

“A big headline for us is job sharing saves jobs. Job sharing is a really practical tool to support freelancers and your workers” says Reynolds. “Job sharing for us has always been about people with caring commitments – not necessarily parents, but also people with older parents, caregivers, people with disabilities and mental health problems. This is now in quite sharp relief”.

More than nine in ten industry freelancers in the UK stopped working during the UK lockdown, with most ineligible for furlough or self-employment grants. In April, Viva La PD, a grassroots organisation made up of producer-directors in television found that over half of the nearly 1,000 freelancers who responded said they will look for a job that offers more stability outside the TV industry is the current situation for the freelance community extended until to June.

“Job sharing as a way of sustaining the freelance workforce through this awful time is something that has been proven before during the 2008 economic crisis. A lot of [non-production] companies decided that by job sharing they were able to save their workforce. It helps to retain talent with a wider range of skills, experience, and creative input” explains Reynolds.

Moreover, before the pandemic hit, 63% of workers reported having considered leaving the film and TV industry because of worries about the impact is has on mental health. Coronavirus will have had a further impact on the industry’s already fragile mental health.

“When production does come back, everyone will be wanting content content content. It is likely to be very high turnaround, high pressure. Are we going to have the mental health to deal with that pressure?” Reynolds asks.

“The 2019 CIPD Flexible Working Survey found that job sharing is the best for of flexible working for those with mental health because you get genuine meaningful time off when you are not working, and you also have the comfort of having a teammate. They are a buddy to solve problems with before you refer up” explains Reynolds.

Job sharing is not a new concept, but myths surrounding workflow, or handover issues have proven a barrier to widespread adoption in the creative industries. But the system is providing solutions new problems imposed by Covid-19. Production houses and broadcasters including Channel 4 have been engaging with Share my Telly Job through the crisis to see how job sharing can provide solutions.

“If anyone on set gets symptoms or is around those with symptoms, they should not be going to work the next day. They have to quarantine and get tested. If you have positions covered in a job share, you don’t have to bring somebody in cold, someone who knows the production can step in”. This applies equally to members of the production team who might have to deal with sudden school closures or part time opening. “That flexibility of knowing that production will go on but your teammate can hold the reigns for you and you can genuinely look after those around you is really great” explains Reynolds.

So how can creative companies make job sharing function best? Job sharing combines the experience and skills of two professionals – so employers should be looking to use this to the best of their advantage. “You can divide purely half and half, or you can also divide jobs by the strength of people you have sharing. Some people’s strengths lie in the talent or contributing, whereas others may be great at excel, arranging things and the details. You can share a job in a number of ways that benefit a production for both employers and employees”.

“Myths such as people who want to work flexibly, or part time are not as committed to the industry which is just not true. The big fear when it comes to hiring job sharers is that the handover won’t work. They will have to explain everything twice, people won’t know who is doing what. We always say to companies that no one wants a job share to work more than the job sharers themselves, it is their chance to stay in the industry. They will make sure it work” Reynolds concludes.

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