Transcript: Anti-Fatigue Toolkit Webinar


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This webinar was held at 1pm AEDT on Mon 18 March 2024.


Claire Pearson (AWC host)

Hello, and welcome to our Arts Wellbeing Collective webinar today. I’m Claire Pearson, the Learning and Engagement Manager and I’ll be your host. Today is all about having an anti-fatigue tool kit and what can we as organizations, as leaders, and as individuals to help prevent fatigue, but also manage it.

Before we begin, I would like to do an acknowledgement of Country. I’m in Altona, which is Bunurong land, and I would like to acknowledge their leaders, past and present, and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

As we kick off, and people slowly keep filtering in, I would just like to say that this webinar, as with all our programs, it’s designed to be relevant across Australian performing arts workplaces. We do go to experts and get advice on everything we do, and although we strive to ensure that our advice is up to date and correct, that can always change over time. So please use common sense. Always use your employee policies and state regulations when you’re making decisions, and when you’re taking in today’s information.

We are the Arts Wellbeing Collective, and we’re an initiative of Arts Centre Melbourne that promotes positive mental health in the performing arts industry. And we’ve been around for a few years now. And what we do is we draw on our collective wisdom to design innovative and creative initiatives to support and promote positive mental health.

Some work that’s informed our work has been two major surveys over the last few years, one which was conducted by Victoria University in 2016 which had a look at what issues were going on in terms of mental health in our industry, and those results were stark. This began the pilot program for Arts Wellbeing Collective. What happened from there was we kept growing and building lots of resources, and there was also another survey which was conducted through Swinburne University and Support Act in 2022. There is actually going to be a survey occurring again this year. Keep an eye out for it, it’s just keeping a tab on where our mental health is at in our industry, and what further work we have to do in this area.

So I’d love to introduce you to Carly Heard, who is our presenter today. Carly is our own fatigue and health and safety expert from the Arts Centre Melbourne. And it’s also her birthday today!

Carly Heard

Thank you, Claire, and thanks everyone spending your lunchtime with me today. It is my birthday, but it is a special gift to be able to share some of this information with you today, because it is my passion, and I am indeed a sleep enthusiast. So today I’m going to be guiding you through all things fatigue in the context of the performing arts industry.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself before we go on. I am a VCA production graduate, and my most of my adult working life was spent working in as a stage manager, a production manager, an event manager. Until I changed track, and I completed my OH&S postgraduate in 2022, which has led me here to Art Centre Melbourne, where I am part of the safety team. My sleep enthusiasm was born really from my studies of occupational fatigue and sleep during my postgraduate studies.

And this brings us here today. But let me look at a bit of awareness training first on fatigue as a workplace hazard.

We’re going to look at employment status. There’s lots of different kinds of ways we’re employed through the performing arts industry and what that has to do with our hours of service. We’re going to look at the consequences of fatigue. We’re going to look at a tool which is a Safe Work Australia fatigue checklist, and we’re going to do a fun self-reflection quiz before we move on to opening up that tool box which has 5 anti-fatigue techniques, and 2 bonus facts. We’ll finish with what you can do as a leader to take action on fatigue in your workplace and on your projects, and will hopefully have time to finish with a Q&A.

I’m in Victoria, so I’m using the WorkSafe Victoria definition of fatigue here. I would encourage you, if you are elsewhere in the country, to look up your own regulator’s information about fatigue. Fatigue is an acute or ongoing state that leads to physical, mental or emotional exhaustion and prevents people from functioning safely. We’ve got three categories: physical fatigue, emotional fatigue, and also mental fatigue. In the performing arts context, we can really identify with physical fatigue for those production crews on the ground, doing the heavy lifting and climbing and loading for long periods of time. We’ve got the performers, the actors, the dancers, the singers, the acrobats – I’m sorry if I’ve missed anyone – The puppeteers, etc., who might have those heavy performance schedules, so, being physically fatigued can inhibit you from performing to the level that you need to every day.

Then we have emotional fatigue, this is heavily correlated with those care industries. People like nurses, psychologists, vocations of that nature. But in our context, we might imagine that stage managers and company managers might experience emotional fatigue, always seeing to the wellbeing of their own companies. And also for those working on shows, cast and crew who are dealing with difficult, emotional or perhaps triggering subject matter that can lead to emotional fatigue as well.

And then we have the mental fatigue. This really comes into play with outcomes on our physical safety when we’re at work. because mental effect fatigue affects our cognition, so our reaction times, our resilience, and our decision-making. So poor decision making can lead to poor outcomes.

Before I go to the next slide. I just wanted to address Jim, as he let me know that fatigue and burnout are hot topics out there in the industry at the moment. Burnout is more so correlated with chronic stress, that’s when the demands of your job outweigh the resources that you have to do your work over extended periods of time. Whereas fatigue is addressed with providing adequate sleep, opportunity, rest, and recovery. I just wanted to be clear about that that today we are addressing fatigue, which is a psychosocial hazard along with stress and bullying.

Whatever state that you’re in, there is the employer’s duty of care, and we have two sections of the Victorian law up here on the screen. The first is the employer’s duty of care to provide and maintain a working environment for their employees (including contractors) that is safe and without risk as far as reasonably practicable. I know a lot of people out there, me included, have spent time invoicing companies for the work that we do. I used to do it quite a lot as a stage manager and production manager. Yes, you’re a contractor, and you’re included under that duty of care.

‘Reasonably practicable’ really speaks to the fact that we can’t eliminate every single risk in our work activities. Nor can we in our day to day lives. So reasonably practical is a measure of what’s known about a hazard, the likelihood of it causing harm, and how much it costs to eliminate it or control it in some way.

It’s also important to note that health is defined as including psychological health.

Now, our duties are also a two-way street. It’s our obligation as employees to take reasonable care for our health and safety in the workplace. So, when we look at this in the context of fatigue, it’s also our responsibility to make sure that we turn up fit for work.

Getting back to that concept of reasonably practicable, and we can’t eliminate every single risk from the work we do, especially in the performing arts. There are some inherent demands on the work that we do. I’ve got a list of these on screen, and I’m sure you could probably think of some more.

We have inherently evening, night and week weekend work which is classified as shift work. We have irregular hours. Sometimes we’re early in the morning, sometimes we’re late at night. We have those compressed working weeks in the form of those production weeks, or getting a festival up. We have tight timelines with tight budgets, venue, hire equipment, and all those things that we need to work within. We have creative demands from our directors, choreographers, producers, festival directors, and all those people. We work in high pressure environments. But our work is quite public, facing a lot of the time, and we do not want to make mistakes. We work in dark environments, especially for those of us working in theatre buildings, for those of us working outdoors in those festivals and outdoor events with the weather and the public.

Our workforce is also quite casualised in freelance, which is the definition of insecure work, and we’ve experienced ill attrition post COVID-19.

There are some demands that I could think of, and when we have demands we balance them with controls.

So some controls I’ve thought of that are industry-wide. We’ve got our OH&S or WH&S duty of care and obligation to take reasonable care across the board. You might work for an organization that has enterprise agreements that put parameters over how many hours you can work. Or, if not, you might be working to the live performance award which puts parameters around hours as to when penalty rates will kick in. And then we also have employer’s systems of work and controls. Each employer that you work for should have their own systems in place to try to balance these demands on their workers.

When we talk about systems of work, we talk about the hours you work, how schedules are developed, how rosters are done, how the work is carried out itself, how it’s organised, how the work is documented, how you’re trained, supervised and monitored, how the workplace works on continuous improvement of their processes, and also the workplace culture is another important factor.

But now we’re going to look at who has control over your hours of service. What we’re going to do here is a fun little poll. Out there in Webinar Land, I want to find out about your employment scenario. I’ve got 5 options here. They may not fit everybody perfectly, but I’d like you to choose the one that most closely aligns to your scenario:

A – You are a permanent employee of an organization. Perhaps a venue, an arts organization, a cultural organization, production company or similar.

B – You might do short term contracts as a freelancer. I used to do quite a lot of this. You jump on with an employer for, say, 6 weeks to deliver a show or a tour, or something like that, but work exclusively for them when you are under that short-term contract.

C – Freelance and casual production workers – people who are technicians, stage managers, jobs of that nature, and you might patchwork your working week together. Working for different employee so you’re booking your own hours, picking up to the phone and saying yes to work, and it can be quite a patchwork of what you are doing throughout the week or the working month.

D – So perhaps you’re a director, sound designer, lighting designer. Pushing designer, set designer, anything like that, where you might come on to deliver work for a show, and you’re paid a project fee. You may do more than show one show at once, perhaps you have work at a café or an admin job, or something that’s part time to supplement your income you would choose d.

E – E is for those people out there who are independent artists. So you are making your own work. Perhaps applying for grants and going through all those processes. But you’re running on your own systems of work under your own steam.

I’ll get you all to select an option there. It looks majority (61%) are permanent employees are watching today, but they could select a mix of options.

If you are a permanent employee, your employer is going to have more control over your hours of service. That will be through your EA or your contract – putting some parameters over how many hours you’re supposed to do throughout your working week.

Short term contracts – That’s the same, for when you’re working for each employer they’re going to (or they should have) some knowledge of how much work you’re putting into that project on a weekly basis.

Now we get to the freelancers and casuals who work for a project fee. Of course, when you’re working for each employer, they have a duty of care to your health and safety. But this is when you need to start taking more reasonable care for the hours that you work, because they don’t have any say over who else you work for in your working week, working month, whatever the timeframe might be.

And we’ve got a few independent artists here which is great. In this situation you’re taking the most reasonable care for the number of hours that you work, because you won’t have an employer’s system of work that you are plugging into.

Now before we go into how we take reasonable care for our working hours, and a way to measure that, I’m just going to take a little detour into avenues of OH&S consultation and wellbeing support.

So if for any reason you need to address your hours of service, causing you fatigue in your workplace. There’s a few different avenues that you can take to consult with your employer. If you’re in a medium to large organisation, you’re most likely going to have health and safety representatives that you can speak to, that feedback to an OH&S Committee.

No matter who you’re working for, it’s always a great avenue to take to consult with your manager or supervisor. Or maybe you feel more comfortable with your people, team, human resources or safety team. Or perhaps you’re working for a small business, and in that case you’re going to go directly to the business owner or director.

Now it may be that you’re finding your hours are causing you fatigue, and you are in control of your own hours in that d and e category. You might need support in learning about some tools to put your week together in a way that’s going to better support your wellbeing. Or maybe you need some strategies on how to say no to work if you have too much on your plate. So that’s where employee assistance programs are great. If you work for a venue or something like that, you’re on the books, for you might have access to your employee assistance program for free counselling. If not, we all have access to Support Act, which is an industry wellbeing support and counselling service. Claire’s going to talk a little bit about that when I’m done with my portion of the webinar.

I will just mention that it is an obligation of the employer to consult with their employees. So if you find that you’re hitting a brick wall when you’re trying to consult on matters of occupational health and safety, you can contact your OH&S regulator or WH&S regulator. That’s SafeWork or WorkSafe depending what state you’re in, and you can also consult with your trade union, if you are a member.

So how do we take reasonable care for our hours? It’s useful to know there are no legislated limits to the hours of work we can work in Australia, but we have a very useful rule of thumb.

Less than six hours sleep, or 18 hours awake is equivalent to being at the 0.05 blood alcohol concentration we know from our drink driving rules.

If you’re 20 hours awake, this jumps up, it doubles to 0.1 blood alcohol concentration.

This work is thanks to occupational sleep researcher Drew Dawson and his associates, who really informed industrial regulations here in Australia. What they did back in the nineties was some psychomotor testing of people in the labs, so measuring their cognitive skills and their reaction times in relation to their time awake.

They also had another group and measured the same things in relation to how much alcohol they had consumed, and so these metrics were born.

Now, if we don’t get enough sleep or are awake too long, the consequences of fatigue are five-fold:

  1. It can affect our coordination, our focus, our decision making and our emotional resilience with our workmates.
  2. It can potentially endanger ourselves, our workmates, and the public, if we’re in those public facing situations.
  3. It can increase the risk of vehicle accidents. An interesting study in 2010 found that shifts greater than 12 hours in heavy working weeks (the heavy working weeks being those greater than 48 hours) increased the risk of workers having car accidents. So that’s an interesting metric to keep in mind.
  4. We really need to keep in in mind the long-term health effects of fatigue, so it can lead to things like cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, increased risk of stroke, and exacerbates anxiety and depression.
  5. Of course, we’ve probably all experienced this. It can diminish our enjoyment of life and make us very grumpy.

So how do we identify the team’s factors? I’m going to introduce you to a tool which is a Safe Work Australia checklist. This a checklist that you’ll find in the appendix A, and it provides guidance to assist with identifying risks of fatigue. And it’s a basic yes or no answer to each question. If the answer is yes to any of the questions, you’ll need to further explore the fatigue risks and see how they can be assessed and controlled.

What we’ll do today is use a little case study to apply this checklist to. What we have here is a screen industry survey conducted by MEAA and it’s about fatigue in Australian film industry group. This was done off the back of a young worker crashing into a tree, falling asleep behind the wheel on the way home from work from a long day. Luckily, they walked away unharmed, but it did spark this survey and this report. So this report is available on the MEAA website. I’ve read it and extracted 3 fatigue factors and I’ve applied that to the Safe Work Australia checklist.

The fatigue factors I pulled out of this report are shifts that are usually around 14 hours; back to back, heavy working weeks for extended periods within a month; and people needing to drive more than an hour to get to and from work.

So with this checklist, I’ve just blown it up into halves. This is the first half of that of that checklist. I’ve identified 3 questions I’ve answered yes to, and the first is physically demanding work. I have said yes to that, because one of the survey respondents said that their work is physically demanding for more than 12 hours a day and mentally demanding. I’m assuming that you need to be on the ball on a film set with those time restrictions. ‘Does anyone need to travel more than 1 h to get to their job?’ I said yes. ‘Does anyone work in excess regularly?’ I said, yes. ‘Are our workers arriving at work fatigued?’ I’ve circled yes for that one, from a survey respondent, saying that they’ve been so tired they can’t get out of the car when they arrive at work, and they feel like vomiting from tiredness working 15-hour day on set.

Once we identify some fatigue factors by using this checklist, what can we do about them? I’ve thought about some ideas, and most often demands on people of this nature can be fixed with more resources, so we could do things like job sharing or swing shifts where 2 people share the one role, so they’re not doing those extended hours day after day after day. We might offer some fatigue awareness training and some self-care resources and equipment on site. Maybe like massage chairs or massage therapist, a place to nap, catering so people don’t need to go off site to find their lunch and dinner. And really importantly, transport for people to get home, so they don’t need to drive at the end of a long day. Or perhaps accommodation for those people who do live a long way away, somewhere for them to sleep that is close to set.

Yes, all those things cost money, and spending funds on resources can sometimes be more cost-effective than paying prosecution fines from a regulator who may find that you have poor systems of work when it comes to fatigue. For example, last year the RACV was fined almost half a million dollars for the poor fatigue management system of a subcontractor. And that’s where a roadside assist worker fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into a tree and was killed.

That’s our Safe Work Australia checklist.  I would really recommend you use those, even for your individual projects to address those factors in your risk assessments for your shows.

We can have all the best systems in the world. We can work for great employers that are very supportive and give us all the resources that we need. But sometimes our individual tendencies can sabotage great systems. Let’s talk about the performing arts tribe and our individual tendencies. To do this I’ve devised a fun little quiz, that we’re going to do together.

We have 6 questions here. For each question that you answer yes to, please give yourself 2 points.

Question 1: Do you prefer the freedom of freelance or casual work?

Question 2: Will you/ have you/ do you work unpaid hours or skip breaks to ensure the success of a project or a show?

Question 3: Is it difficult for you to say no to work, even if you have a lot on your plate? Is it hard to say no to your mates, or to answer that call of duty?

Question 4: Do you sometimes need to work a lot during a season? This is when we say, we need to make hay while the sun shines, because our work is irregular and precarious, so when the work comes up we may need to take it.

Question. 5: Do you push through physical and mental fatigue to get the show up, especially in those production weeks?

Question 6: Do you tend not to ask for help or support? If you’re struggling, do you ask for help from your manager, or for extra resources, or extra people, or whatever it might be? Or do you soldier on?

I’ll get you to tally up your numbers.

Now believe it or not, there’s academic literature around the tendencies of those of us working in the performing arts. And this is how I design this quiz. I’m going to give you some virtual prizes now for your score.

If you score between 0 – 4, I would like to shake your hand because it looks like you’ve got some good systems of work and some good boundaries there that support your well-being.

If you scored between 6 – 8, I’m going to give you a big gold star. Looks like you’re doing well, but you just may need to tweak some personal tendencies there to better support your wellbeing.

And if you scored between 10 – 12 you get a big hug from me and the reassurance to know that you’re not alone. In fact, you are quite normal in the industry. And here is what the academic literature surveys and studies about performing arts workers have found – the nature of the industry is a seesaw, but that’s coupled with our passion for the work. That’s going to promote unpaid and unplanned hours. We might work concurrent projects, we don’t want to miss out on those opportunities or say no to mates. We are all victims of the positive reinforcement we get from the work that we do. So that’s the applause of the audience, the joy on the faces of the punters that come to our gigs, and the love and adoration that we receive from the companies that we work for, and that really gives us a desire to want to perform well.

And then in the last column here we’ve got the cultural norms, which are 4 quotes which are bandied around the industry. We’re only as good as our last gig. The show must go on. We run on the smell of an oily rag, because the arts has no money, and we need to make hay while the sun shines.

That really may prevent us from reaching out for help when we need it, for asking for more money if we require it, for taking on more work than we can handle, because we don’t know what’s coming up next.

This has really sparked the need for an intervention. Claire mentioned the Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry, that 2016 report that highlighted an intervention that’s required for people working in the arts because of the irregular hours that we work in an industry that is unlikely to change. So in that report I look closely and I found these themes that people were feeling tired all the time, experiencing disrupted sleep and also insomnia.

These themes were carried on through to that Support Act report with Swinburne in 2022, with people feeling tired, having low energy and reporting difficulty concentrating.

This is where my exploration of fatigue in our industry really started, and I answered that call to develop an intervention for people who work irregular hours. This is where we come to the tool kit. So when I was doing my postgraduate studies, I asked the research question: What are the most effective techniques for performing arts workers to manage fatigue caused by irregular work and sleep patterns?

And the subtext there, in my mind is, how on earth do we get quality sleep when our jobs and work leave us hyped up with minds racing at night?

This is where I trawled through the academic literature and research and mental analysis, and I chose 5 techniques that I think are accessible to anyone and everyone working in the performing arts. There are many more strategies like meditation and yoga – things that I personally enjoy – but I have chosen things that are easy to incorporate into your own daily schedules.

Everybody’s different. You might find that some of these don’t work for you. Don’t feel that you must make them work. These are just little nuggets that you can take experiment with. Try them in combination and see how you go.

Before we start, I’ll mention I’m not a doctor, so if you have any health or mental health or lifestyle challenges that prevent you from getting good sleep, I encourage you to reach out to a professional.

Tip # 1 is adequate sleep planning – how much rest is enough?  WorkSafe Victoria says that we need 7-8 hours of sleep in the 24-hour period to function safely. But remember, from those sleep studies we need at least 6 hours to stay in that safe range. An interesting rail industry study found that train drivers who finished work between 10pm and midnight needed at least a 12-hour break to get at least 6 hours of decent sleep. So plan for a 12-hour break if you manage your own hours. In my own history, working on a festival or something like that, you’re working in the office, doing, pre-planning out on site, overseeing bump in and meeting contractors. If you’re working and you’re in the office until 8pm, don’t come back until 8am. Or, for example, if you’re in the comedy festival working until 11am, don’t come back into the office until 11am the next day.

But not all of us manage our own hours. Some of us are on rosters, and we work to 10-hour turnarounds in our industry. So I would just say to those of you, pay attention to the next 4 techniques coming up, because that’s going to help us to get to sleep faster when we are in that 10-hour window of rest.

Tip # 2 – Using light to support our Circadian rhythm. The daylight and the sun have a profound effect on our Circadian clock. Light travels in through our eyes and our brain registers what time of day it is. If our internal clock is out of sync with the day, we can feel like we’re jet lagged, have sleep disturbances, and we can really suffer from feeling tired when we need to be awake and awake when we need to be tired. There are 2 ways to use light to support our internal clock.

The first is, when you wake up in the morning, expose your eyes to sunlight. Let your body and internal clock know that it’s morning. The second is to use break times to expose your eyes to natural light as well. So there’s a real danger if we’re working in theatre. For example, we’re in a production week. We can get in early and never leave the building until we go home late at night. We’ve not looked at the sun, and we’ve not orientated ourselves in the day. So this is where using a break to go outside, even if it’s sunset to let your eyes and your brain know what time of day it is. It’s really important.

Conversely, when we get home late at night. make sure we dim artificial light when we get home, and from sunset, set your devices to switch to night mode. That’s that really nice pink light that emanates from our devices. We want to avoid blue light because blue light from our machines and devices tricks our brains into thinking we’re seeing daylight and it suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin.

Tip # 3 is bath or shower before bed. In scientific circles this is called passive body heating. Just 10 min in the bath or shower will draw your core body temperature away from your core and into your extremities, which is a physiological cue for you to rest and digest. You can relax, and you don’t need to run away from the tiger.

If you have ever noticed when you get out of the bath or shower, your skin can cool very quickly. This quick cooling of your skin and reduction in body temperature is also a physiological cue from caveman times that, when the sun sets, the temperature in the atmosphere drops quite rapidly, and it’s going to be time to go to sleep soon. Studies have found that when people are self-selecting sleepiness, they do so when their body temperature drops the most. So that’s a useful one 10 minutes or an hour or two before bed. That’s why if you’re getting home late at night, jump straight into the shower or bath in dim lighting as the first thing you do.

Tip # 4: bedtime to do list. This is a really great one, and I do this all the time. It is based on the hypothesis that incomplete tasks cause you to automatically ruminate. You probably have this experience as well. You go home. You’re all relaxed. You put your head on the pillow, and then you remember oh, I forgot to pay my rent, I forgot to get a birthday card for my mum, whatever it might be.

A study back in 2,018, found that people who did really detailed to do lists before bed fell asleep faster and stayed asleep. And this contrasted with people who didn’t do that, and also people who journaled, who wrote about events that had already happened.

Journalling, I still think, is really important, especially if you’ve gone through an event during that day that has affected you emotionally, so you may feel embarrassed or sad or angry, whatever it might be. Spend 5 min, journal it out. Counsel yourself. Think of strategies that you’re going to use the next day, and this will stop or hopefully stop your subconscious from waking you up in the middle of the night worrying about an emotional situation when it feels ten times worse than it is.

I would say, use those two, whatever kind of day you’ve got. The to-do list is great for people in those coordination roles. But for anybody, even your mundane life tasks when you’ve been in on a project for 14 hours that day. You’ve left all your life administration behind, and this is a really good way to get that off your brain.

# 5 is sleep stimulus control, training your brain to link bed with sleep. Keep any work scrolling or living room activities out of your bed. If you remember high school science, you might have learnt about Pavlov’s dog. He was a physiologist from Russia in the late 1800s. He found that a dog would salivate if offered food, of course. Then he offered a neutral buzzer or bell tone. The dog would not salivate naturally. Then, he conditioned the dog to associate the bell with the food, so he would serve the food with the bell. Later he found that the dog would salivate with only the neutral cue of the bell, without the food.

This is what we want to do when we go to bed. We want to train our brains that when we put our head on the pillow it’s sleep time. Now I know that we all like entertainment. This idea of using our devices for entertainment can be seen as wind down time, and I understand that. What I do now is I use audio as my light entertainment when I go to sleep, so I can close my eyes and just listen. It’s like being read to as a child and falling asleep when you’re listening for a story. I really recommend that.

So if we were to take this all from the top of the morning – I find it quite easy to do, but don’t feel that you need to do all of these things – you’d wake up from your 12 hour break, getting at least 6 hours of sleep. You would use light in the morning when you wake up to cue your internal clock. I avoid sunglasses before midday, so I don’t wear sunglasses to go to work. At break times go outside and orientate yourself in the day. At sunset, set your devices on night mode, and when you arrive home, make sure that your lighting is dim. Soon as you get home, take your 10 min bath or shower, hop out, put your jammies on, and do your 5 mins of detailed to do list writing or journaling. And then when it’s bedtime, hop into bed, no devices. Listen instead, put your head on the pillow. And remember Pavlov’s dog.

I’m going to quickly go through some bonus hacks. These two weren’t part of my research in my post grad, but I have been researching and experimenting with these since.

Eating or drinking for sleep is especially important for people who are working into the wee hours of the morning, or even overnight. You don’t want to be woken by hunger if you usually eat breakfast. That’s why, for doctors, nurses and shift workers they’re recommended a light snack before bed. I recommend something that’s got healthy fats like avocado or peanut butter or on toast, something that’s going to keep you full but without the big sugar rush. A nice herbal tea can be good, not too much liquid, because you do not want to be woken up to go to the bathroom at nighttime.

Also consider during your working day. Are you hydrated enough? Because if you wake up and you’re dehydrated, you can feel like you’re hung over. So really prepare for good sleep earlier in the day by keeping yourself hydrated, hydrated. And if you’re working in a hot environment and sweating a lot, consider an electrolyte like hydrolyte to replace those Sulphites and other minerals that you may be losing throughout the day. Always check the label to make sure you’re not interfering with any medication that you are on.

And the last one is, know your naps. When we’re working those production weeks or festivals, whatever it might be, a 20 or 30 min nap might be just what you need to reset. But make sure you use the right kind of nap. This is about understanding homeostatic pressure which builds from the moment that we wake up, and it’s that lovely needing to fall asleep feeling we get when we go to bed. When we nap, we release some of that pressure. You don’t want to release that pressure too close to bedtime, or else you won’t be able to sleep. So if you want to go to bed before midnight and you need a nana nap, it needs to be before 2pm.

If you’re working past midnight into the wee hours. A disco nap is okay – and that’s before 6 pm.

If you’re on site and you need to take a nap, but can’t quite fall asleep, there’s some resources called Yoga Nidra on Youtube. Which are like a body scanning audio that really relaxes you, and is said to reset your nervous system.

So almost done, we’re going to look at fatigue, leadership, what can you do in your capacity as a leader to control fatigue in your working scenario. I’ve got 4 points here: Policy, planning, promotion, performance.

Create some urgency around needing to deal with this issue in your workplace and put a policy together. There are some sample policies on the WorkSafe Victoria website, for example, that you can use.

For planning, identify your fatigue factors in your workplace and on your projects. Using that Safe Work Australia checklist, you can take those factors, risk-assess them, and apply controls to them.

Promotion. This is where we can use regulator resources. Worksafe Victoria has a lot of great posters about fatigue that you can put up at the work in the workplace. There are fatigue fact sheets. You can provide awareness training just like we’re doing today. And you can also promote wellbeing resources such as your EAP or Support Act, which Claire will talk about in a little bit.

We finish with performance, so please lead by example, promote those positive behaviours of switching off and placing importance on people’s personal lives and wellbeing. Include fatigue in briefings for shows and projects and report on fatigue in your show reports. And that’s a really great way of feeding back to your leadership about how fatigue is tracking on your shows, on your projects and in your organization.

And the penguin down the bottom there says, adopt an attitude of continuous improvement. Don’t give up. We’re working in an industry with some really ingrained processes and attitudes, and it is going to take time. But please don’t give up.

Thank you everyone for spending your lunchtime with me today I’m gonna hand over to Claire for some Arts Wellbeing resources that you might like to try, and then we’ll come back for some Q&A.

Claire Pearson (AWC): Yes, so please. Pop any questions you have in the Q&A Box, and we’ll issue them to Carly for the last 5 min today. A few things I’ve put in the chat box today include our well series, with Tour Well; Tour Well for Managers; and Sleep Well. Tour Well has got some checklists before going on tour which could be handy to support the other work you’re doing with fatigue. We’ve got our free Spotlight magazines which came out through COVID lockdowns and beyond, and we also have your Pocket Guide to De-Role, which is fantastic for performance.

Our our newest resource is called Navigate Well, and that just came out last week. It’s all about navigating your career, particularly some of the real common questions we get about ‘how do I manage a freelance career?’ It’s about looking at your values, how you do your pricing, how to say no professionally to gigs. It’s got some great activities where you can review your processes and ideas at any stage in your career.

We also have meditations and podcasts that you can listen to online. Plus recordings of webinars with experts we’ve had over the years, so whatever topic you’re interested in, you’ll probably find something there, free to watch.

We also have a training program running now. We look at how we can approach mental health as an industry and as individuals. So topics like self-care, and self-awareness as part of our work in the performing arts. Developing a self-care plan is a unit that accredited through our RTO here. Responding to Mental Distress and Mental Health First Aid (also accredited) look at noticing the warning signs in people’s behaviour and how you can look out for those around you.

Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces is all about your organization really having a look at what’s going on internally. Assessing what’s working well in your organization, what’s not so much and then starting to make a change on that. And that could be looking at your policies, plans and strategic planning with these ideas that Carly’s talked about today. So if you interested any of those, please be in touch and we can come to you or you can come to us.

We talked about Support Act a lot today. This is a great free helpline for anyone who works in the performing arts industry. You can call that 24/7 and you can have up to 12 free counselling sessions. They can talk to you about your own personal things going on, mental health and wellbeing, they can talk to you about conflict resolution things that are going on in your workplace for you – bullying harassment – those kinds of things. And they can give you some strategies there to look after yourself. You don’t have to be in crisis to call it. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s, there’s 13 YARN which you can specifically call.

Of course, though, if you are in crisis or it’s an emergency, please always call 000. And you can call 000 for mental health emergencies.

MEAA also have the Wellness Committee – it’s great to see what they’re doing there and the resources they have available. If there’s any workplace things which come up for you, try the Fair Work Commission.

We listed that checklist earlier that Carly had, and all of these have some help about managing psychological and social psychosocial hazards in the workplace. I’ll also be sending these out to you after this webinar with the link of the presentation and links to these websites for you.

Claire Pearson (AWC): Carly, I think we just got one question there. Particularly at the moment, we’re got a cost-of-living crisis, and people need as much work as possible. Nicholas has asked us, ‘As a sole trader, and a contractor in the current economy, I cannot afford to say no to work. So how do people like me deal with fatigue?’

Carly Heard: For Nicholas, the first thing that comes to my mind is contacting Support Act or employee assistance programs. Not only do they counsel you on anything that you might be going through. They also can give you some financial budgeting advice, and you may just need some extra tools to help you to manage money in these difficult times. And look at things where you can work on some swings and roundabouts where you can buy yourself some more time to get more adequate rest.

Claire Pearson (AWC): That’s a good mention there. Always check if your organization has EAP (employee assistance program). They are paying for that and as an employee it’s a free resource that you can access. And if not, Support Act is a great option. There’s also actors benevolent funds. If you’re a performer, they have a lot of resources, can give financial support in times of crisis too. So that’s something good to know as well.

Carly Heard: Now, as I mentioned to you and Jim before, thank you so much for this opportunity. This is really an extension of the study that I did. So. Those 5 techniques, even though they were super quick. It was hours and hours of research went into the researching what’s effective for us. And what can we apply in our working lives that’s nice and easy? So thanks for the opportunity to share.

Claire Pearson (AWC): No worries, thank you for presenting. If you think of any other questions, please send them through to us at That’s our main inbox, and we can get back to you. We are really glad that you could all come today, thank you so much.



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