Academia: Does it have to be 24/7?

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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