Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Work-Life Boundary

Earlier this week, I was reading some posts about how many hours people in academia work every week. Some people claimed to work about 35 hours a week, and others claimed more in the 70-80 hour range. Some asserted that professionals in "9-5" jobs typically work 60 hours a week anyway, and others that comparing an academic job to a 9-5 job is folly.

I've come to realize that one of my favorite things about being in grad school, as strange as this is, is that I always have something I should be doing. I don't actually work all that many hours (certainly not 60), but every single day my focus is on what I can get done that day, and how, and when. I don't have any days off. And I love it.

When I had a job-type job, there were hours I was required to be at work (not necessarily working) and hours that were my free, non-work time. I had a job and, separately, the rest of my life. Now it feels like my life is my work. I still spend most of my time not working, but I am never not thinking of work and how to get back to it.

I'm not sure why I like this but I really do.


Sally said...

I think that as long as you can deal with the always having work to do without getting overly stressed and allow yourself to enjoy breaks / time not working, grad school is awesome for defeating the kind of weekend boredom (etc.) that can plague the 9-5 jobber.

Tam said...

No more weekend boredom, and no more boredom while I sit at my desk killing time. If I'm not going to work I can do something fun instead.

Debbie said...

My thesis was on a related topic. The grad students I surveyed definitely worked less than 40 hours a week, even if you added in housework and commuting.

I can't remember what I was measuring anymore (stress? general happiness?), but it was not related to time working or commute time or GPA or GRE scores or anything else I tested.

Based on interviews, it seemed most correlated with how much people liked their work. This one lady spent something like 70 hours a week on school and work and choreography, but she just loved that stuff and loved that it was her life.

Sally said...

Debbie, interesting. I also think the question of how people view / self-report the amount of time they work per week is interesting. Estimates among grad students seem to be all over the place, and some of that is obviously related to people working to different extents, but also how people think about what counts as work, self-presentation motives active in the social environment (which sometimes tend toward over-reporting and other times toward under-reporting, though I think the former is more common), etc.

Tam said...

If I count all the hours I'm on campus or working on school-related tasks, it's about 60 hours a week, but if I count only the hours I'm actually working on school-related tasks, including attending classes, I think it's more like 30, in a good week. But there is a fair bit of thinking and discussing time that is not included in that calculation. I don't know.

cartaufalous said...

I think I only work about 10 hours a week but I'm here for 40. Thank god for!