Along with some other academic friends I am part of a week long experiment to chart my full workload. Everything. Emails, work related tweeting, union work, FWSA work, working lunches. The lot. This was sparked by the recent series of interviews with academic parents – many of whom were working evenings and weekends. Drawing some (gross?) generalisations, men said they worked evenings and weekends to do the work necessary for promotion. Women felt they had to do this additional work just to keep up with teaching related admin and maybe research. What was perhaps more interesting is that this out of hours work is framed as normal. Needed to do the job. We all work those hours don’t we?

In my own working life I am struck at the number of work related emails which I get at the weekend. I’m making a point of disabling my work email on my iPad on Friday nights through to Monday mornings. The weekends are my time. I could recount numerous anecdotes of being handed work on a Friday afternoon which is due on a Monday, or even receiving work on a Sunday which is due Monday. I can’t imagine I am unique in these experiences. Academia is not a 9-5 job! We have a vocation. We love our jobs. We do it for the love of the job/students/research. These are dangerous narratives. By saying academia is not a 9-5 job, we make it not a 9-5 job. Our care for students, enjoyment of research is used by institutions to stop us resisting these working patterns – never mind how it’s used to try and stop us taking industrial action!

Which then brings me to another observation from the data, the attitude towards women academics who don’t have children. These women don’t have the ‘valid excuse’ not to stay after work or research/email at the weekends. This led to an interesting discussion on Facebook on the ways in which organisations pit women against each other (non-parent women being given the work of women colleagues on leave etc) and how resentment can build up.

There are academics who work a regular working week. We need to hear more from them. How do they achieve this, how is it received by colleagues and managers?

The time experiment is ongoing. I will try and do it again when teaching starts. And yes, writing this blog post counts!

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