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Humane Scheduling for Everyone


When organizing staff meetings or planning rehearsal schedules, acknowledging logistical and financial stress-points can improve communication with artists and staff who are caregivers as well as reduce scheduling conflicts before they arise. Be sure to:

  • Highlight scheduling needs in the caregiver affinity group discussion or your PAAL Caregiver Survey results

  • Customize solutions for your organization

  • Commit to one or more humane-scheduling adjustments mentioned below

  • Make the adjustments standard practice


In a report from Berkeley covering five working papers in the Washington Center for Equitable Growth's Working Paper Series, three major points stood out in terms of equitable scheduling and the social inequity resulting from "just-in-time" scheduling and "unstable" work schedules. The following points are summaries in the report. The theatre field is rife with just-in-time and unstable scheduling, often in the name of productivity, creativity, and economy. However, research shows that sustaining this scheduling is possible with social, employment, and economic advantage and privilege [view full report here]. Read below these points for brief examples where the performing arts would improve schedule sustainability not only for caregivers, but also everyone in the field. From the report:

  • "We show that while exposure to just-in-time scheduling is high for all groups of workers, it is also fundamentally unequal, as workers of color, and particularly women of color, are exposed to the most unstable and unpredictable work scheduling practices.

  • We show how exposure to unstable and unpredictable scheduling practices gives rise to household economic insecurity and dramatic increases in hunger and other hardships.We show how parental exposure to unstable work schedules has intergenerational consequences, by creating instability in children’s routines and care arrangements and also manifesting in children’s heightened anxiety and acting out.

  • We show that the day-to-day instability of schedules within jobs is inextricably linked to job instability, leading to turnover for workers that imposes costs on individuals and on firms."


These are common scheduling areas that many caregivers wish were considered in the ecosystem of conscious scheduling:

  1. RUN TECH WEEK WITHOUT 10 OUT OF 12s (See Chapter: Tech Week and 10 Out of 12s) 10 Out of 12s are not necessary for successful tech weeks and many theatres have abolished them. Both scientific research and health recommendations from acclaimed institutions categorize work beyond 40 hours as excessive, unproductive, and costly to health, logistics, and finances for all participants. HEALTHY FOR EVERYONE: In collaborative professional environments, burn-out leads to disruption of the workflow as a whole. With excessive hours, burn-out is all but guaranteed and places individuals and institutions at risk. Reducing the hours to manageable amounts increases the mental, emotional, psychological - and thereby health and artistic - resources individuals have to contribute to the workflow.

  2. FIVE DAY REHEARSAL WEEK (See Chapter: Five Day Rehearsal Week) Any equity contract is eligible to run on a five day rehearsal week. Producers and directors have opted for this schedule even at high-budget level production for various reasons outside of caregiving needs. HEALTHY FOR EVERYONE: This condensed schedule can reduce the days when childcare is needed and increases time for all artists, even non-caregivers, involved to accommodate a healthier work-life balance.

  3. ADVANCE NOTICE By receiving the production calendar and staff events as meetings ahead of time, a parent has more opportunity to coordinate childcare (especially if coming in from out of town and needing to find a new database of trusted care) as well as budget proportionately for the time a sitter will need to be paid. In terms of call times on rehearsal schedules, the current AEA minimum of 12 hours notice for rehearsal, tech, or staff meetings can present detrimental logistical and financial obstacles. If a caregiver receives 12 hours only in advance of their call time, finding care - logistically - is nearly impossible, even if financially feasible. It is recommended to give 5-3 days call notice. HEALTHY FOR EVERYONE: For parents and non-parents, knowing the days off and call times in advance means they can better prepare to do the work for your organization, likely increasing productivity, including scene preparation, budget/task deadlines, and more HEALTHY FOR EVERYONE: Consider releasing your rehearsal, tech, and meeting schedules at the top of the week in advance. This allows all the artists in your company to better prepare for the calls of the week as well as fit in work-life balance needs such as doctor's appointments, grocery runs, and opportunities for supplemental income.

  4. BANK HOLIDAYS/SCHOOL HOLIDAYS Circle holidays when schools and daycares will likely be closed. On these days, many parents have to find extended childcare for the entire day if they have school-age children. Logistically, not all daycare centers are open on these holidays nor are sitters as available. Financially, the cost of full day childcare on these unique days can be exorbitant. Consider how you can assist with childcare via stipends, providing space for caregivers, or allowing parents to coordinate shared caregiving if the tech schedule must run through holidays when schools are closed. Cost-effective options include: rehearsal with children in the room, children in the office with adequate waivers in place, reducing rehearsal or work to half day, or making the holiday the day off. Tech schedules, specifically, combined with bank holidays make for arduous childcare planning due to intensity of demand and extension of hours. If you have multiple parents with school-age children in the company, consider providing a room for a shared caregiver to reduce the parents' individual cost. (See the chapter on children in the space).

  5. SCHOOL PICK UP TIMES Inquire if the parents in your company need to be available during the transition between school/daycare pickup and afternoon childcare. Consider creating the extended midday break to allow for the transition if applicable. (Ensure the allowance also considers time to eat.)

  6. UNDERSTUDIES/FLEXIBLE USE OF OFFICE SICK DAYS For some parents, the presence of understudies or not dictates whether they can or cannot commit to the demands of a performance schedule, respectively. No parent is looking for ways to call out. See this as an opportunity to protect both your performer and the production in the context of the reality of life events. Expand sick day policies/allowed leave to include dependent sick days, grief days for miscarriage, elder care for ailing family members, and more. HEALTHY FOR EVERYONE: The provision of understudies has long been connected to all performers' ability to be transparent about illness, injury, and major life events - regardless of parenting status. This provision allows your institution to provide for all performers with their best interests in mind. Parents who have to pick up a sick child from school or stay home for a portion of the day due to a child's illness benefit from being credited for the work they are able to from home or distribute half days of their allotted sick days for a portion of their absence. Attention to ensuring that the parent has adequate care for their own health is vital in implementing this method as well. HEALTHY FOR EVERYONE: Testimony of inflexible sick days has affected non-parents as well. The reality of major life events in health apply beyond pregnancy and parenthood. Providing adequate flexibility for employees' health improves productivity and retention in the long run.

"Professionally, as a stage manager, I'm expected (and praised!) to take care of other people (the cast, the director, etc.), yet I get little consideration in my personal life when needing to take care of my own—whether it’s a sick child or an ailing parent. As someone said to me: “You can't SM if you can't be available twenty-four/seven." That hits me the hardest—I am fully capable, but unwilling (not “unable") to work unhealthy hours." - Carmelita Becnel, “Fighting for Gender, Race, and Motherhood in Theatre” | HowlRound PAAL Series

"To move this conversation forward, we must agree on the deep patriarchal and capitalistic exploitation embedded in that question, and in the problematic “sweat equity”-reliant business model of our field." - Devon Berkshire, “Creating a Family-Friendly Work Environment” | HowlRound PAAL Series

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