Safety at Work in the Post-COVID World

I’m hearing from a lot of musicians recently that they are concerned about their personal safety at work. 

We’re seeing many organizations rush to get back into action. 

This push is driven by a need to maintain programming, to stay in touch with audiences, maintain revenue, or to provide opportunities for artists.  

Many performing arts organizations including groups that hire freelancers and schools that provide lessons are in a rush to create opportunities in situations that can feel unsafe. 

Musicians feel pressured to respond positively and say yes but are also worried their lives are in danger. 

If you’re one of these musicians, you may be asking yourself:

  • What are my options? 
  • How do I return that email?
  • What do I really want to do? 

This is worth thinking about and making a plan as opportunities come up in the future. 

Does the gig seem unsafe? 

If it is clear to you that the opportunity being offered puts you in danger and the only thing holding you back is that you “should” take all opportunities… 

Try to find where that “should” is coming from and is that enough to take the work? 

If you’re not sure how safe the situation will be…

Start by asking questions

“I’m interested but I have some questions….”

Ask clarifying questions about the situation you’re about to step into before you commit. 

Questions get you information that might make that decision easier. 

For the institution, it offers them a perspective they may not have seen before now. 

Your questions may help them think through various scenarios and help share the perspectives of the musicians they are hoping to benefit with this work. 

Here are a few examples:

  • What is the protocol for this? 
  • I wasn’t sure from your email what your plan is for ensuring this protocol. 
  • If this happens, who is liable? 
  • What are my rights as a musician in the group? 

If the answers aren’t working for you

You can follow-up with, “Thank you for your answers. Even with this, I am still feeling unsafe and I wonder if you’ve heard this from other musicians.” 

If you want to preserve your relationship and future work with the organization, you can ask them….

“Will this affect future work with the organization? 

Or you can also ask yourself, do I want to work in the future with this organization if they are willing to put my safety at risk even after I raise my concerns?

Does this point to a toxic environment in an organization that dismisses the voices and concerns of their musicians even before the pandemic hit? 

Do I really want to work with them in the future, given the information this situation has given me? 

The musical landscape is shifting

If you’re afraid to turn down an offer that you feel is unsafe, please remember that things are shifting quickly. 

Any organization that is risking your safety might not be functioning so well a year from now. 

Many new opportunities will come up as systems change and we as an industry and individuals innovate for this new world. 

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