As COVID-19 achieves official pandemic status, organizations are scrambling to gather their options, assess cancelations, and gamble with art. To assist in ensuring that artists with families are supported, we call on all employers to not only recognize that employees with families not only engage in the logistics of their work responsibilities: many parents and those with elder dependents are flooded now with the reality or potential for schools, daycare, and caregiver services canceling or closing.
In order to care for staff and artists, leadership in our field must also acknowledge in their plans and strategies the real and potential additional logistical and financial burden of daycares, schools, and elder care services closing.
Here are three action items that must be included in your strategies and protocols moving forward to protect artists with caregiver responsibilities:
CREATE STRUCTURAL SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS AND DAYCARES CLOSING
Family-friendly scheduling recommends creating protocol for bank holidays and school closures when employees may have children at home due to school and daycare closures. Now with COVID-19, these considerations have greater currency. Engage with your board and staff to ensure that protocol is developed to allow parents and those with dependents to work from home or receive reimbursements from your developed childcare fund when they have to schedule individual care to complete work assignments. We can help you shape the fund through your reimbursement practices already in place.
FREE RESOURCE: Contact us for the free resource page on Creating a Childcare Fund Connected to Reimbursement Protocol
CREATE OPPORTUNITY FOR REMOTE WORK FOR STAFF AND FREELANCERS
Remote connection to staff has long been used in fields that have digital bases. For the theatre, because the work thrives on human connection, physical gatherings are the practice of choice. However, with the need to protect one another, gatherings are canceling left and right. One of the greatest immediate costs is to artists’ livelihood. Before you cancel, connect. Staff can strategize through Zoom and Artists and Facilitators can still bring their expertise to your organization through group conference calls. Hire artists and experts around the country and sell tickets through digital programming to your community. Parent artists will be grateful for the opportunity to connect safely, and your community may discover their new favorite artist.
CREATE A DIGITAL GAMEPLAN FOR A MORE HUMANE FUTURE
Take what we learn right now protecting the vulnerable from COVID-19 to creating a more humane future. There have always been individuals who need our flexibility and urgency in protecting their health, creating solutions when their children are sick, and being flexible when they need remote options. We need to use this moment of global empathy to commit to more humane treatment of those who continue to need flexible support, digital options, and childcare help in the future.
FREE RESOURCE: Comprehensive Best Practices Google Doc for Digital Connection
FREE RESOURCE: WEBINAR: Coronavirus Preparedness for Theatres
Long before the pandemic, PAAL documented and championed the theatre’s commitment to flexible policy and remote work protocol. In our context, this strategy benefitted parent artists and artists with elder care because it helped reduce childcare costs and allowed for access to gatherings in spite of limited mobility. We wrote about the interconnected reality that if you cannot assess and budget for artists whose bodies change from pregnancy how can you be ready when an employee discovers they have an illness or needs surgery?
Now that the global circumstances categorizes everyone as vulnerable to a certain degree, these solutions have become relevant in a new way. In order to further advocate for artists with families and provide access to what we’ve found are helpful resources, here are helpful steps to include to ensure your policy considers how this epidemic affects families and how we can create best practices that have wider application and long term support beyond the immediate emergency at hand.
Will we remember what it feels like to be vulnerable? We must take this experience into the future of our work – for artists with families and every contributor who will be vulnerable in our future. I can only hope this will lead to permanent change that improves the health of our workplaces.
What are you doing to support artists with families at this time? What solutions have you found helpful as an artist parent? How is this affecting your work? We want to hear from you!