Sunday, July 22
I'm a seven days a week academic (well, really six because of childcare issues - but given the option, I'd be in the office seven days a week). This was typical at my graduate program, at least for a handful or professors and students. It's not typical here, at my first job. Don't get me wrong - I waste time like the best of them - but I'm here and ostensibly working.

I hear all the time, though, about these academics that are pulling 80 hour work weeks. Where the hell are they? I realize that one doesn't have to work at work, but I doubt that many of the people who I don't see here are working on anything "work" related. My co-workers are reading fiction, playing softball, remodeling their houses, mowing their lawns, creating scrapbooks, taking day trips to the big city or the beach. And this isn't just because it's summer! This is typical year-round - for people with and without tenure, with and without children, and with and without graduate school training like my own. It's not that I don't blow off work to go to the movies, read a good book, or watch some TV. It's just that I work a lot too.

Maybe it's healthier. Maybe they're happier. But I sure miss coming in on a Saturday and seeing others trudging along with me.

I guess they're all at the top ten schools... one more reason I should keep working through my weekends and holidays - then maybe I can get a job at a place where people work those 80 hour weeks.

22 comments:

Apricot said...

For what it's worth, I'm a grad student in a department rated #1 in the country, and only a handful of people here work 80 hour-week, either. But those people? Holy crap, do they work.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about this alot lately as i begin my faculty search. Is it better to be a small fish in a big pond where you are scared of being looked down upon if you don't get that first R01, or better to be a medium to bigger fish in a small pond where expectations might not be as great and you can relax a little bit during your first few years as a PI? I guess just getting an offer somewhere would be nice but I am not sure which place I would rather that offer come from.

fraud, in denim said...

I think it's all a farce, Apricot. The average academic does not work these 80 hour weeks that they brag about. I thought that about Iowa, too. I drove through it years ago and saw not one stalk of corn. Of course it wasn't the right season, but I labeled it a farce and have never let that go.

My view, Anon (and I have to give my partner credit for this because it probably wouldn't be my view if we weren't wedded to one another, but I've adopted it as my own), is that wherever you end up, you work your behind off so that you could get tenure at any of the places that actually give tenure to assistants.

I'm not at a highly ranked school, but I'm not really relaxing or taking it easy. I'm working like I would have had I gotten a job at a top-ten department. That way I'm almost assured tenure here, but I'm also allowing myself to get recruited to one of those top schools later in my career.

That said, I probably sleep better than I would have had I gotten a job at a top school. :)

Apricot said...

Fraud, I think we're agreeing. I basically said the same thing you did. There's a handful of people who work their butts off, but most people don't.

fraud said...

Oh, I know. I was agreeing with you. :) I guess I just got too wound up to make that clear.

Anonymous said...

wow. what a great advertisement for taking a position at less demanding institution.

People in my department-- particularly the assistants-- are ALWAYS working. If it's not "publish or perish" it's academic service or community engagement. We DREAM about having the time to be engaged TEACHERS (ostensibly the job we were hired to do).

I can't imagine having the time to scrapbook or take a guilt-free day trip anywhere... even during the summer months. I don't think that I am in the minority in my department. We, the workhorses, number far more than a "handful."

Poppy Red said...

I'm probably going to rock the boat a little here... eek! Ok, I'm a grad student and I work a LOT; I've never thought about how many hours a week, but I don't have much in the way of hobbies or pleasure reading. And I really, really hate it when people don't follow through on what they're supposed to do. However, I guess I don't see why we should be wishing that people would work 80 hours a week. If it's just about pointing out the hypocrisy of people saying they work that much and not actually doing it, then fine, I'm on board. But why should we disparage people for enjoying their lives with scrapbooking or whatnot, if they can find the time? I think people should work hard, definitely, but do we have to want everyone to be in the office 80 hours a week? What's the point, if you'd rather go swimming with your family?

fraud, in denim said...

There's nothing wrong with taking time off, or with people who choose to not work 80 hours a week (Lord know that I don't work 80 hours a week!), I just don't see where all the people who I hear going on and on about how much they have to work are.

Anonymous said...

see that scares me. i work in the way fraud describes, every day. (no way its 80 hrs though!) but i want the life of a 40 hr workweek...

--strawberries

Anonymous said...

For anyone who's interested in more discourse about this, and isn't a regular ready of RYS, the issue's been taken up in the last few post at Rate Your Students.

Ms.PhD said...

Yeah, I think you're missing the point. There are places where people work on campus around the clock, because they want to. Then there's a culture that feeds on itself, it becomes more enjoyable to be on campus working with other people who also care a lot about what they're doing and enjoy it.

And there are places where people work when they feel like it, and sometimes work at home because it's not fun to work on campus when you're alone working.

I'm not sure this is a big pool/little pool thing, but I haven't been enough places to really know. I've been at both kinds of places, though, and while I think the 80 hour work week is highly overrated, I think what you mean is that you are wanting to be in a culture where people are there a lot, sharing ideas, discussing excitedly. I too wish that there were more places like this.

I guess my attitude is very "out there", but honestly I think the problem is that there are a lot of people who choose the academic lifestyle because it's flexible and interesting, not because they really want to get a lot done and be immersed in it all the time.

I sometimes wonder if I would feel less burned out if I were somewhere that had a better atmosphere, where people shared ideas and built better mousetraps, instead of all racing along on their little hamster wheels in separate cages, trying to see who's going to win the race to nowhere.

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Anonymous said...

I have to say I think its a little absurd to work an 80 hours week or a 60 hour week or anything beyond that. I can't even imagine what I would do for that many hours (though grading does take a very long time). This is academia, and if we're supposed to be working 80 hour weeks, perhaps we take ourselves too seriously. I don't say this to demean what we do, but rather to say that quality of life is way more important to me than being seen working or having some "when I was your age I worked 'til I passed out" war story. I work very hard. My 40-50 hours of work are productive because I'm good at getting lots done in a given time frame. Tenure matters to me, as does publishing, because I'm exhaustively reminded that they are supposed to matter to me. They also matter because I am ambitious, though perhaps a bit lazy.

I may be the only one, but I went into academia so I could work less than I did in corporate America, where I did the 80 hour work week and spend more time on my writing career. I went into academia so I could travel during the summer. So far, I've been able to do those things and I am thrilled about it. I am simply not going to martyr myself for tenure. I don't think its a good idea for anyone.

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Rate Your Students said...

we have a silly question? we recently enabled comments on our own blog (rateyourstudents.blogspot.com), but the "comments" field doesn't show up on the main blog page. If you click the particular entry, then you see them, but we'd like them like yours, where the main page shows comments option. care to help a group of technophobe academics?

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