Recipe for The Best Place to Work in TV 2024
The Finish Line has been crowned “Gold Winner” in the Broadcast magazine best places to work in TV for the second year in a row!! If it was just the one time, we might have thought it was an accident, but now we know we are doing something right, and we would love to help more companies make the list! TV & Film is a notoriously unhealthy industry that is rife with exploitative business practices, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Below, we’ll do our best to cover simple things that you can do to make life better for your employees and help them to be able to do work they love while also enjoying life outside of work.
It’s integral to kick things off on the right track. Every new employee is onboarded and taken through a number of documents to make sure all points make sense. This includes a welcome guide that covers general knowledge about how things work at The Finish Line. The company was founded off the back of me having a mental breakdown. Discussing this experience and its impact is important for setting the scene with all new employees. This is why we exist and why we are trying to make things better so others don’t have to suffer through a similar experience. We also cover roles and responsibilities at The Finish Line, so everyone knows what is expected of them, along with our ethos which outlines some of our core principles. I’ve put a slimmed-down list from that below:
- The Finish Line is a family-friendly business in an industry that’s typically not, prioritising team welfare and happiness is our primary focus.
- Fostering a positive environment is essential for quality work, client satisfaction, and business progress.
- The company balances a family-friendly approach with the mindset of a high-performance sports team, emphasising hard work, determination, and constant, deliberate practice.
- The team’s high performance and family-friendly nature are harmonious goals, and feedback for improvement is welcomed.
- The company’s core principle is to make decisions that enable the delivery of the best-looking pictures in the business.
- Internally, The Finish Line is a training ground for the best talent in picture finishing, focusing on team training and craft practice.
- Externally, the company offers tailored post-production services to meet the specific needs of all clients.
- Mutual respect among all team members, regardless of position, is mandatory.
- Professionalism at work is crucial, with clear distinctions between work behaviour and personal time.
- Clear, concise, and respectful communication with staff and clients is vital, with special care for written communication.
- The company’s culture is transparent, encouraging open discussions and viewing the business as a shared venture while maintaining confidentiality where it matters.
- Active collaboration and visibility in the company are expected, with contributions to communication platforms, training, system improvement, and knowledge sharing.
Healthy Working Hours
It’s challenging to do, especially when people love their work, but trying to manage working hours is one of the most important things to get right. It’s healthy and achievable to work 8-hour days plus breaks for most people. We see a noticeable drop in work quality, but also in efficiency, when you work beyond 9 hours. It might be hard to drop those billable hours, but it’s well worth doing to ensure that the quality of the work you do is at the highest level and that it’s actually better for your customers. Not only will their work hours be better, but it’s also good for the production budget and for getting more quality on screen. When we started in 2011, it was the norm for quotes to come in requesting 12-hour workdays. Usually, for UK broadcast, we would be expected to complete picture finishing in 2 x 12-hour days (24 hours), but ultimately what was billable on those days would end up averaging around 27 hours or more. We had a moment a few years into running the company where we started to wonder why that was the norm and if we could change it. We immediately opted to change course and quote work on 8-hour days, and immediately found that those same UK broadcast jobs were being completed in around 21 hours. So talent and clients ended up actually completing the work faster when spread over more, shorter days and with higher quality results. This is still a challenging thing to do, and we are working against industry norms as well as individuals personal expectations in trying to mandate healthy hours, so it’s not yet perfect. It still requires a little give and take but is continuing to move in the right direction.
Your staff are mostly, probably all, adults? They can handle the information you give them, and if you are in charge of delivering it, you can ensure it’s delivered with context rather than as confused whispers. We implemented a policy of sharing our figures with the team quarterly, and while it was nerve-wracking to have to report losses to the company, it ultimately meant that it wasn’t a weight the management team needed to bear alone. This approach also provided clarity around the decisions that were being made, along with space for tapping into all the knowledge of the whole team for ideas on how we can improve.
Perks are complicated
We have a profit share scheme, which is great when we are profitable, but it can be very disheartening when we aren’t. So, while we believe perks are important, we have had so many failed incentives that we’ve learned they also need to make sense and lead to positive outcomes. We offer unlimited holiday, but the reason for that is so no one needs to miss important life events. Got a concert to go to, a kid’s event at school, or a friend or family member in town? Just take the time off and have fun. You can still take your planned holidays later in the year. Worked late? We try to avoid this, but it can happen from time to time. So, you have unlimited access to Deliveroo and cabs to ensure you eat well and get a safe ride home if needed, both of which are incredibly important. This also serves as a point for audit; if someone is using these services often, it prompts the question: are we managing their time poorly, or do they need more training? Perhaps it requires a conversation about how to adhere to the scheduled time or requesting more time during office hours, rather than working late.
Distributed doesn’t mean alone
We have people working from all over the UK and abroad. We have been a distributed company from day one because we know brilliant people can do great work from anywhere, and we are much more interested in paying better wages and investing in better tools than in anything else. Immediately when we started the company in 2011, we were very aware that keeping everyone connected was going to be hard. It’s hard enough in a facility, working in our own little silos, so wouldn’t working from anywhere surely make it harder? Actually, it’s been the opposite. We are in constant communication over Slack, with channels for all projects and various other things: New Tunes Tuesdays, Book Club, Film Club, Tea Break huddles, and Friday Funnies. My personal favourite is our Talk Club, which has helped me through some personal mental health challenges. It’s mostly about daily check-ins to see how people’s mental fitness is, along with some affirmations a few times a week and random questions prompting thoughts about gratitude, which is the biggest game-changer for increasing mental fitness. We also have quarterly in-person dinners, online virtual dinners every six weeks, live training sessions fortnightly, a weekly newsletter, and virtual department meetings.
Disconnect out of office hours
People who need to be contactable should be provided with the appropriate devices to do so, while also being able to put them away when they aren’t on the clock. Work shouldn’t leak into your personal life, no matter how much you love it. It is fun, but that makes it easy to become something you don’t switch off from. Even though it can be difficult, other things in life, like your relationships with family and friends, need nourishment. If you don’t give them your energy while you can, you will end up regretting that at some point. Drop the guilt! When you are at work, work hard, knowing you are doing that to provide for yourself and your loved ones. But when you aren’t at work, don’t worry about it. You have done your hours and earned your time to be doing all the other things that give your life meaning. Like any skill, if you don’t put effort in, then the ability will atrophy, and before you know it, staying at work all the time is just easier than participating in the world outside.
Asynchronous is better
While it might not come naturally to all, especially if you have been in the working world for a long time, learning how to work asynchronously is one thing that I think should be at the top of the list for everyone. There is almost no need to force everyone to work on something at the same time. With all the collaborative tools around like Slack, you are able to put down a consolidated set of thoughts and questions for people to look at and respond to when the time is right. The idea that everyone should drop their train of thought and work on what you give them at any given moment is odd. Even in an office, it’s better to give people information or tasks to complete at a logical time, based on their own schedule. With every interruption, you lose at least half an hour of efficiency while people have to jump between random things rather than focusing and working through one thing at a time. When you go asynchronous, time starts to matter less, and work flows better around other life needs like school drop-offs or pickups. Everyone will still respect their office hours, but they can play with them a bit to fit them into life, so they get the most out of them.
Make jobs that work for brilliant people
Having set roles and expectations for all jobs makes running a company a lot easier, but it leaves a lot of incredible talent on the bench or shifting careers. There is a constant push to retain older talent in the industry, talent that often leaves with an incredible wealth of knowledge because the industry isn’t flexible enough, especially when they have families, which disproportionately impacts women. It’s actually not that hard to say, ‘What would an ideal work situation look like for you?’ and then actively try to find a mutually beneficial way to make that a reality. By doing this, you will attract some of the best talent around, and you might just find that this flexible and less rigid approach is actually better and opens up more opportunities for everyone.
It was great to see more post-production companies end up on the list this year. We love our trade; making beautiful pictures is why we get up every day and do what we do. We would love to see more post-production companies appearing on the ‘Best Places to Work’ list, which is why we are always trying to share our experiences. Creative people give us all so much joy to experience in art, technology, media, etc., but they deserve to be cared for rather than exploited. Since we began, making The Finish Line a healthy post-production company has been our primary focus, not just for us but because we wanted to show it can be done, so others would try to change the industry too. It’s really lovely to see the progress, and it’s extra special to be recognised for doing so. Keep in mind, you don’t need to change everything, and you don’t need to change fast. You just need to think about the people you work with, understand they are humans just like you. With all the challenges life throws at us, we all want to be able to live with dignity and do work we are proud of. If we get treated as cogs in a machine, we get worn out. Care and maintenance are much easier than repair or replacement, no matter how you look at it. So, see what you can change, and if you find some great things that have a positive impact, let us know! We are always looking at what can be done better.