A 40 hour week-does it exist?


I had a good chat with my mom the other day on the phone.  She asked how I was doing and I commented that now that data collection was over for the last few weeks of the semester, there were some loose ends to tie up, but I was lucky to be able to head home around 3-4 p.m. for a change of scenery.  Her reply: “you should get a second job.” ****sigh*****

I think in the communication I failed to mention that while I don’t work near as hard as my parents do, my dad is up around 4 a.m. to head to the barn to get the cows milked, my work doesn’t end just because I leave the office. I also failed to say that this ‘honeymoon’ was temporary, that I was just relishing in the fact that I wasn’t on the road until evening news time. This will last about one more day and then I’ll be back at it. It got me thinking though…..What if we only worked 40 hours a week in academia?  What if we could take vacation when we wanted/needed too? (outside of the teaching semesters) Wouldn’t that be GREAT?????  The article from Fast Company states that employees can be more productive when there’s not all that counting and allocating going on and the ones who take advantage of the system don’t stay with the company long.  Hmmmm, are they on to something here?

I saw read a blog post about something similar and it got me thinking. Back in the day when I was teaching, it was easy to leave work there, I left the school building.  While I was guilty of entering grades and searching for new content from home, the nature of my former job in 6-12 education required me to leave work at work.  Bringing a welder, rabbit, or a flat of greenhouse plants home really wasn’t a feasible option at the time.  I’ve become very guarded with my time since and have learned to work for more work-life integration and balance. I don’t think a perfect, harmonious balance exists, but I’ve made strides to it.  My professional identity and my personal identity do get muddled up and intertwined, but I think that’s the nature of being human.  We identify with our work and our home life because those are the two things that make us feel valued.

I’m very guilty of reading and answering email at night–it pops up, I get too compulsive and open it.  On weekends: I turn it off–I ask my iPhone to simply NOT download it.  It’s really delightful. I’m guilty of spending time on the computer in the evenings–for a while, it was every night until 9 p.m. or so–reminded me of being a grad student.  Only after some looks and comments from PIC did that behavior cease. As a new faculty–or an old faculty–the idea of working only 40 hours a week is a myth.  I don’t care what anyone says about having a ‘cushy office job’ (a term my dad used once as my sister was complaining about getting her first wrinkles–she bartends at an outside bar on the beach and is exposed to lots of sunshine) it’s still a job.  It’s a damn hard one.  While I may not sprout any sun wrinkles this year (I have sprouted my first laugh line-better than a frown line), I know I’ve worked hard when my eyes are hazy and my brain is numb and I’ll do almost anything to get out of the haze.  After a few hours of ‘doing something else’ I’m refreshed and ready to get back to work, perhaps that’s why I’m ready to read/answer emails again after supper time.  I’ve worked out, eaten, talked to PIC, perhaps taken in the news or some DVR, and my brain is ready to jump start again.

As a new faculty, the notion of a 40 hour work week is a distant memory.  Far be it for me to tell you how much to work, when to work, or how to do it, but as you begin your new venture, be wise and learn from this post–guard your time closely (if you’re not already doing it), keep those most important people around you close and seek their feedback.  A glance is just a glance, but it can say so much. How do you allocate your time?  What cues do you take from yourself or others to know it’s time to step back and stop working? What advice would you have for other young/new faculty?

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4 thoughts on “A 40 hour week-does it exist?

  1. […] good reason and for selfish reasons. Unless it truly is urgent or an emergency, it can wait. I have shut off email on weekends and separated what email account gets business vs. research vs. pleasure/life […]

  2. […] being available to do whatever I wanted for several days. In a previous post, I waxed on about a 40-hour work week and today, I would say that it can happen.  It won’t happen all of the time, but the balance […]

  3. […] turn off work and turn on life. Work is great because I choose to approach it with that attitude even when it totally sucks and […]

  4. […] do try to remind myself throughout the year that there are often key words that I need to work on. Work/life balance was my goal last year and I’m happy to report that I did work to make gains in that area. I […]

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