the work rhythms of academic and professional life

In this 2001 essay, Heather Menzies (with Janice Newson) asks why academics are not more concerned about the move to online education, and suggests, in her answer, that they are too overworked to speak up.

"Just how many hours a week are we actually working, not just on campus but catching up on e-mail and e-committee work at home in the evenings and on weekends? (In what seems to be the only study of its kind, the Association of University Teachers in the U.K. found that the average work week for academics had risen to 59 hours by the mid 1990s, with women clocking an average of 64.5 hours a week.)."

Reading this made me wonder whether it is a good thing that I can now read the Plain Dealer online before dawn.

Elsewhere in the same online bulletin, E. Lisbeth Donaldson offers a a review of a book on gender inequities in academe. It is called Hard Work in the Academy: Research & Interventions on Gender Inequalities in Higher Education, and was published by Helsinki University Press in 1999. It suggests to me that there may be other places in the world where being a woman and an academic is not such a challenge. I do want to find some way out of the long-hours work culture... but I am not sure where to start in my search.

This book review summarizes one possible starting point -- Menzies' 2005 book, No Time: Stress and the Crisis of Modern Life. Here's the Amazon link... I have already begun to read this book, and it is very powerful. I expect to make a few more posts about it, as I read through the second and third sections.

In the meantime, I'll ask my readers -- what kinds of work rhythms do you have? do you feel like you lack the time to do the things you consider important? Are you in an environment where you are expected to work long hours? How do you manage that expectation? If your work environment is *not* driving you to overwork, what norms and practices help keep everyone's work tasks in harmony with the other tasks they want and need to complete?


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My grandfather was a truck driver and never home. My father works 60-80 hours a week in a machine shop. I decided early in my life I would never accept a position which required me to regularly work more than 40 and that if that meant I was paid less $$ so be it. If that is not a priority it just doesn't happen that way. I will work more than 40 on the occasion it is required, but never regularly. If I cannot complete my work I tell myself that I need to do one of three things:
1) delegate more efficiently.
2) recognize that I am over reaching and back off.
3) ask for more resources from my superiors, whether that be human resources, training, or technology.

One thing I do, which is not feasible for most people, is live within 5 minute walk to work. I did this for my previous employer too. This gives me an extra 30-90 minutes everyday that others use stressing in traffic or trying to find parking.

Another thing I do is actually have my own cardio equipment in my apartment. It saves 30 minutes navigating to the gym every other day. Another thing I do is listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I work out or travel making the time more worthwhile.

Posted by Aaron Shaffer on March 13, 2006 09:47 AM

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