When we used our @timeshighered Twitter account to ask what work-related activities our readers had planned for the weekend, we wanted to show that academics and university administrators are hard-working folk.
Sure enough, a steady stream of people came forward to attest to the fact that the work of those in the academy often does not run from Monday to Friday, nine to five. Far from it, in fact.
“Having a #HEweekend,” tweeted Deakin University lecturer Kathryn Coleman (@KateyColeman). “So far this has already included a conference proposal, #phd writing and research - it’s only lunch time on Saturday!”
University of Surrey law lecturer Renginee Pillay (@RGPillay) was planning on “reading final draft of a PhD thesis, writing company law lecture & power point, prepping seminars and tutorials”, all while “not dying of flu”.
Some were quick to blame upstanding higher education publications for encroaching on their days off. “Erm, my #HEweekend plans are centred around finishing a book review for Times Higher…Hence the late response,” said John Gilbey (@John_Gilbey), who lectures in IT service management at Aberystwyth University.
But although it succeeded in demonstrating that university staff do more than their fair share of overtime, the #HEweekend discussion also prompted debate about the dangers of overwork.
“[The] #HEweekend thread is interesting, but don’t think a good advert to early career for senior staff to have no #worklifebalance,” wrote Nicola Shelton (@drnjshelton), senior lecturer in the Institute of Epidemiology and Health at University College London.
There were plenty of people who agreed. “My #HEweekend involves visiting my grandmother, a day in London and catching up with friends. I need work- life balance,” said Melanie Simms (@SimmsMelanie), associate professor of industrial relations at the University of Warwick. “Sod that, if the weather stays good, I am working on our kit car,” added Sandra Leaton Gray (@drleatongray), senior lecturer in education at the Institute of Education, University of London, when asked if she would be indulging in higher education-related weekend activity.
The importance of work-life balance was also tackled by Peter Matthews (@urbaneprofessor), a lecturer in the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University. In a post on his Urbanity … history blog he reveals some of the reactions to a tweet he sent, which read: “I always ensure I don’t have to work at weekends. Do *any* other academics manage this or am I weird?”
The responses reached a verdict by a comfortable majority. Michael Edwards, teaching fellow in the Bartlett School of Planning at UCL, summed it up in one word. “Weird,” he said.
In his blog post, Dr Matthews explains how he has achieved this happy feat. “The most important thing, I suppose, is I don’t beat myself up [or] set daft targets and I’m happy to say ‘no’,” he writes. “This requires planning, and this being academia, a lot of flexibility in that planning. Right now I have enough on my plate to keep me ticking along quite nicely until about November, when, all being well, another big task will commence.”
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