Academia: Does it have to be 24/7?

One of the reasons that I declared that I wasn’t going to work in academia when I left the University of Manchester was the expectation that you chuck every hour that you’re alive at “work”. It’s one of the dangers of working with material that you love, and it can be different to find boundaries. In moving to Durham, there was a particular choice to work 4 days a week to get more balance – it worked for about 2 months – and I’m now seeking to find a way back to it. Encouraged by this article in the Guardian:
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A former head of department is reputed to have said: “If you are in the office fewer than 40 hours a week, they had better be really good hours.” Departments in which 60 hours per week is the accepted norm are not unusual. Overseas collaborations can mean teleconferences at all hours, and it is possible for a document to be edited round the clock between the UK and Australia.

The list of things academics “should” do pushes us towards unmanageable workloads, particularly at the early stages of our careers. Holidays appear to be a strange concept. Funding agencies and universities alike insist on setting proposal deadlines on 4 January, encouraging work over the holiday period. One colleague sent me a paper on Christmas Eve requesting comments back by New Year’s Eve (my institution shuts down completely between the two). Recently, I have had several “something to read on your sun-lounger” emails. The next such one I receive will be filed in the recycling.

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Work's Intimacy, a review in @timeshighered

Here’s another on the wishlist!!

In a lively and compellWork's Intimacy book Covering read, Melissa Gregg examines the impact of technologies on the work and lifestyles of employees in the knowledge economy. This book covers a lot of ground in a relatively slim volume, and considers mobile working; part-time and contract working; online team interactions; the use of social networking; online branding; and the implications of work being done in the home environment.

Times Higher Education¬†readers may see parallels with their own working lives in the examples cited, and Gregg’s observations about how we relate to work may cause readers to reflect on how information and communication technologies have impacted on their own responses to, for example, being able to work remotely and pressures to be ever connected and available.

Gregg draws on a study of 26 professionals working for large organisations in education, government, broadcasting and telecommunications who were interviewed annually over a three-year period. Their experiences of, and responses to, remote working and the use of online technologies are traced in detail throughout. Overall, a picture of expanding work boundaries is presented, but responses to this shift are mixed.

Read full story or buy the book.