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:

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.

Read full article.


“Working from Home”: A Skive?

Arghhh – the kind of story that drives me slightly mad! As someone who frequently works from home (often when I particularly need to focus on getting something done), this kind of story in many ways doesn’t help those who think we’re “taking it easy”… The more positive side of the story doesn’t come til near the bottom (where most people probably won’t read it). Yes, I like going into the office & having interaction, but I’ve never understood the fascination with ‘presenteeism’, especially 9-5 presenteeism. Let’s take on board some of the lessons from the Second World War: Stagger Working Hours (and trust people to work from home). Previously I had a boss who would “work from home” and therefore didn’t trust me to do so – thankfully, this year, I have bosses who are just interested in whether I a) finish the task and b) put in the hours (when/where is up to me!).What does it matter if I’m “in my PJs” at lunchtime… I’m still working (bed can be quite a comfortable … and warm… place to work!)

But for those who can, theoretically, continue their role away from their usual place of work, will it ever really be productive? Or is “working from home”, for many, tantamount to being no more than a bit of a skive?

It also said that while almost half (48%) of British workers felt under pressure to get into work, 11% worked from home, with another 12% unable to work at all.

“We still have this nine-to-five culture, that you have to have a fixed place of work, but I think that perceptions starting to change,” he says.

“After they’ve started working remotely, people usually say they don’t want to go back to how they worked before.”

Read full BBC Story.