I, like many others, made note of a recent tweet by Nathan Hall, discussing the attitude of his colleagues when he prioritises family over career:
I still find it interesting the puzzled expressions I get from colleagues when mentioning how childcare impacts my academic work; when explaining why I try to minimize conference travel, leave the office by 4 PM, or sometimes cancel meetings due to dad responsibilities.— Nathan C. Hall (@prof_nch) November 27, 2017
The ensuing thread revealed plenty of people who felt the same way or who had experienced the same reactions and attitudes in their own place of work.
It made me reflect upon the level of privilege I have to work somewhere where I can genuinely say that this is not my personal experience. Since my son was born, I have been working from home one day a week, in order to both save on childcare costs and to get some quality time with him. When he was a small baby, this really was working from home, punctuated by periods of playing with/feeding a small baby whenever he woke up from one of his many, many naps. As he’s got older the amount of work I do on a Friday has decreased massively, but thankfully my job is flexible enough that I can take up the slack by working longer days, or committing some time in the evenings and weekends. I now tend to spend Saturday mornings working while my wife has some time with the children, which has a double benefit of allowing me to do all the things I have missed on the Friday while also allowing my wife to get some time alone with the terrorists who rule our lives.
This has always been an informal arrangement; although my employer offers formal flexible working which I could apply for and am fairly sure I would get, I’ve never bothered. Despite this, my colleagues are supportive of my working arrangements, and I’ve never been pushed into attending a Friday meeting or been questioned on why I’m not in the office five days a week.
The message has also been given by those higher up in the University. During a training course recently, one of the pro-vice chancellors of the University made the point that at the end of the day this is only a job, and other things are more important. It’s nice to know your own view is held by the levels of upper management too.
Other people have written about the ridiculous arms race within academia to work more and work harder, and how it’s destructive for our industry, so I’m not going to go into that here