How to restore work-life balance in academia

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 13, 2023

There’s recently more and more discussion about what would happen if academics would stop structurally doing overwork, and instead work according to contract – which will in many cases mean 40 hours a week. It was the topic of a feature piece in Nature two weeks ago, and the topic has been discussed repeatedly by academics on social media and around the coffee corner. So what is the problem, and how can it be solved?

First things first. What does work-life balance mean and why should we have it? Clearly it doesn’t mean that one can never work outside office hours or work hard in a particular week, and then take it a little easier in another week. The issue is not to demand the right to work according to rigid hours. And I also don’t think anyone would protest if the unpaid overwork were very limited, say an hour or two per week. But in reality, we are talking here of unpaid overwork that easily amounts to 20-35% of one’s contractual hours (and one ends up working 48-55 hours a week structurally). The demand is to limit such massive structural overwork. [click to continue…]