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A Handbook for Professors

by philip preville

com 2 . I ntroduction 3 Overwhelm in the Faculty Lounge Chapter 1 5 The Root Causes of Imbalance Chapter 2 8 The Double-Edged Sword of Flexibility Chapter 3 11 Find Harmony in Four Easy Steps Conclusion 16 The Happy Professor About the Author 17 Philip Preville 17 Sources The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat.

The Slow Professor is a hybrid research review. and its authors are in high demand for interviews and speaking engagements.com 3 . but a tiny 100-pager about campus life titled The Slow Professor.” Their assessment has clearly struck a chord: the book has been through more than six print runs since its initial 2016 publication. self-help handbook and surprisingly provocative resistance manifesto. Maggie Berg of Queen’s University and Barbara Seeber of Brock University. frantic. INTRODUCTION OVERWHELM IN THE FACULTY LOUNGE It’s a sign of the times that the hottest book on university campuses right now isn’t a ground-breaking piece of research like Thomas Piketty’s Capital. or a work of cultural criticism such as Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. stressed and demoralized professor who is the product of the corporatization of higher education. managed. Its popularity is no surprise to anyone within the academy. College and university faculty across North America are coping with what bestselling American The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. The book is an antidote to what the authors describe as “the beleaguered. Co-written by two Canadian literary scholars.

8%) within the previous year. The American Association of University Professors echoes its Canadian counterpart: the AAUP’s website lists work-family balance as one of its key advocacy issues. attend departmental and committee meetings and help raise the profile of their institution—all while raising children. be available to each of their students individually throughout the semester. INTRODUCTION author and Washington Post contributor Brigid Schulte calls “the Overwhelm”: the seemingly fruitless attempt to manage the limitless demands of their job—teach multiple courses. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. found that more than one in five exhibited physical (22. Research shows that occupational stress among postsecondary educators has become a pressing problem. According to the CAUT study. A 2007 study by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. The Higher Education Research Institute conducted a Faculty Study 1 in 2014 that reported faculty felt stress resulted from lack of personal time (74%) and teaching load (63%). and its absence erodes the ability to find joy in work. speak at conferences. “Work-life balance was the most consistent stress-related measure predicting low job satisfaction and negative health symptoms.400 faculty members across Canada. cooking dinner and taking out the trash.5%) symptoms of stress and used stress-related medication (21. publish.com 4 . which surveyed some 1. conduct innovative research. caring for ailing parents. The question is how to find it.” Balance is elusive.1%) and psychological (23.

it’s five hours that traditionally confer high social of work outside the classroom. on their time and attention. academia include rising enrollments of becomes a 24/7 job. University’s Sprott School of Doctors. lawyers and most other Business.com 5 . resulting in ever. at the faculty. and in the classroom.” status and strong. the challenges the hours students keep. says the rule of thumb for careers that require many years teaching is that “for every hour of postsecondary education. departmental or The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. an expert on workplace white-collar professionals— stress. college-age Millennials. With For professors. stable incomes— Faculty are expected to be available are all dealing with a distinctly to their students not merely during 21st-century version of the office hours but via email and Overwhelm. rising expectations in a daily avalanche of requests and ever-changing technology. brought on by shifting social media as well. THE ROOT CAUSES OF IMBALANCE Chapter 1 It’s not just academics who find increasing class sizes. which results demographics. combined Professors are also expected with declines in public funding to take on administrative roles for universities. Professor themselves confronting a rising Linda Duxbury of Carleton tide of workplace-related stress.

the committees of student disengagement. which adds Technology also contributes to the meetings. leaving faculty to do the input. to increasing stress levels. “Grants are administrative habits and routines. USED TO BE DONE “Stuff that used to be done by BY ADMINISTRATORS department administrators is done by us now. “Travel ARE NOW DONE BY claims. And reporting requirements have increased as every institution innovative fundraisers as well as now tracks performance metrics. productivity. So it’s free sense of accomplishment faculty family time that suffers. and the Institutions typically justify new application process is becoming technologies as a way of improving more onerous. The meet on a schedule and the kids’ problem undermines the main activities are on schedules too. “The teaching is the ever-intensifying challenge is on a schedule. But what those technologies often tend to do is THINGS THAT replace support staff with software. there of personal time. as it and the time pressures.” she source of professors’ positive says. and high grade what matters most for tenure and point averages—and erodes the career advancement. even though it’s successful students.” says Duxbury. committee level. budgets. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. “The research doesn’t have its feedback—engaged classrooms. electronic grading and other things we used to have PROFESSORS help for we are now expected to do.” says Duxbury. which means they forcing professors to become are always accompanied by raised expectations to accomplish more work in less time.” researchers. more competitive now. Then continually disrupts professors’ there’s the research.” derive from teaching.com 6 . the workload. often at the expense Finally. own block of time. in the classroom.

of academics’ own illnesses pressure to publish. pressures to produce. with comes primarily in the form is the tenure track: the tenure (hopefully) achieved. family-related stress shifts generally happy and content. Academics at this stage are the colleagues are new. in their field—in essence. Family stress biggest early-stage stress challenging. E S TA G E S O F THE T H R E E M I C S T R E S S A C A D In researching her book Helping Faculty Find Work-Life Balance: The Path Toward Family Friendly Institutions. But the logistically and emotionally themselves. EARLY STAGE MID-CAREER STAGE LATE STAGE The teaching is new and With kids at school age. What she found: workplace stress never goes away. while work- unclear criteria and the up. but the sources of its pressure change. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. the there are still continued and ailments. ambitions. At work. so young professors towards busy schedules having made peace with devote a lot of time to (kids’ extracurricular whatever form of career- developing their own suite activities and lessons) and life integration they’ve of courses and developing elder care. coincide with parenting infants and toddlers or even childbirth itself. which can be managed to establish for relationships. especially as they often staying on top of their game. related stress is driven by or-out system—professors learn new skills and find a concern about keeping must achieve promotion or professional development abreast of technological leave the organization—are pathway matched to and research developments a challenging combination.com 7 . Virginia Commonwealth University professor Maike Philipsen looked at work-related stress for academics at different stages of their careers.

But the issue of work-life balance it also exacerbates the problem of The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. underscored what she calls the “I think faculty care a lot double-edged sword of workplace because they see their work flexibility for academics: it makes as a calling. p.com 8 . the expectations of a particular [See The Three Stages of Academic job. “People can work from home. “It’s Philipsen.” she Commonwealth University in says. The way people approach and Stress. THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD OF FLEXIBILITY Chapter 2 Workplace stress isn’t just about specifically in academic settings. And that makes it hard manage them. They wouldn’t do the job helps determine how well they otherwise. And professors can to set boundaries and to say no.7] “They see it as a internalize those expectations vocation. Richmond.” be particularly prone to bad habits Philipsen says her research in this regard. who has studied or manage home from work. professor in the good because it makes people school of education at Virginia geographically more mobile.” says Maike their lives easier and harder.

more of you. you feel you should be doing more. escaping that to help alleviate. autonomy work-life balance among faculty. “Upwardly mobile faculty with a constant and institutions want faculty to help seemingly-inescapable feeling them raise their game. The freedom and her research found that of academic life offers lots of the most difficult workplaces possibilities for parenthood that for academics were “striving” other professions might not. universities and colleges do little For professors.” says Lisa Wolf-Wendel. Wolf-Wendel has also studied But we have stability.” universities actively trying to Put another way: the vocational improve their reputations and approach to work often fills gain prestige. But talking DOWN BOUNDARIES about busyness can lead to even more anxiety: when colleagues are busier than you. as well.” All of which leads to those WORKING FROM HOME familiar scenes at academic conferences. like it’s Education. “Institutions are sense of overwhelm means greedy.com 9 . and families are greedy first adjusting their mindset. stress and challenges PROBLEM OF BREAKING of academic work. It’s an anxiety most universities have.” The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. “They will always ask a horrible job. breaking down boundaries. where conversations ONLY EXACERBATES THE with colleagues revolve around the busyness.” says Wolf-Wendel. So they increase the research expectations without reducing teaching loads.” “Could it be better? Absolutely. but they that they should be working all don’t have the funding other the time. and flexibility. a “We send each other messages professor of higher ducation with reinforcing the sense of the University of Kansas School of impossibility in our work.

and ensuring no perceived bias over who THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN’S NEW CHILD is granted leave and who is not. taken primarily from Maike Philipsen’s Work-Life Balance for Academics: THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON’S BENEFITS entirely for research. If both parents THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON OFFERS work at the university. S T C O L L E G E S HOW TH E B E E I R F A C U L T Y HE L P T H While individual faculty can take a variety of actions to achieve better career-life integration. LEAVE offers a full semester off work for faculty who are new parents. A sample.com 10 . providing added PROGRAM covers faculty who give birth for flexibility to perform caregiver’s duties 90 days of paid leave through its sick leave for a newborn or other family member. the institutions where they work can also help them out with useful information and progressive workplace programs and policies. both are eligible STOPPING OF THE TENURE clock as well as for the leave. their child is born. program. the University of California parental leave within the first year after automatically stops the tenure clock. meaning faculty don’t have to request it. with written certification that she is unable to work. a number of part-time tenure-track streams. BOISE STATE’S FLEXIBLE WORK POLICY allows tenured and tenure-track faculty to shift a full year’s teaching load into a single semester and use the following semester The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. UW faculty and staff are FOR TENURE-TRACK FACULTY WHO GIVE also eligible for up to four months of unpaid BIRTH TO A CHILD.

to have day-to- in the air. during those trying to keep both sides hovering times of the year. “but your life has term “career-life integration.” “Not every day can be in balance. the ability to bring interviews with faculty members work home.” The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat.” Philipsen says she prefers the says Duxbury. Philipsen and Wolf-Wendel say one “Academic work also comes finding is crystal clear: academics with peak periods of work. day balance between work and life. INTEGRATE. implies a teeter-totter that wants and they are on fixed schedules so to go one way or the other. and there’s not a lot of flexibility. “They come because it has never helped them at predictable times of the year solve the problem. both Professors availability for students and family.” It you are standing in the middle can be challenging.” to be in balance.com 11 .” Carleton’s Duxbury. FIND HARMONY IN FOUR EASY STEPS Chapter 3 STEP #1 which is a more accurate way of DON’T BALANCE. the need to manage for their research. describing the dynamics at play: In the course of their many the flexibility.” says Wolf-Wendel.” adds hate the term “work-life balance. “It’s impossible. “Balance when exams and grades are due.

2 themselves. found to take the time they need for that self-care was a major theme. spirituality. administration. studies that say exercise can make so don’t write a paper over the us happier3 and leads to longer life holiday. Valuing time more than the pursuit of money TIMES OF THE YEAR is linked to greater happiness.” students. not a sprint.com 12 . in her multitude of work during less intense times of interviews with faculty on the issue the year. STEP #2 understood that faculty will make LOOK AFTER YOURSELF up for the demands of peak-period Philipsen. expectancy. As their careers advanced.4 But academics. must decide to make STEP #3 time for these things by setting SWEEP YOUR INBOX CLEAN boundaries. THAT FACULTY WILL MAKE many pointed towards a return to self-care as an important UP FOR THE DEMANDS component of their happiness. “And somewhere in there. whether it came in the form of OF PEAK-PERIOD WORK exercise. according to research published in January 2016 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. in academe can make hobbies she receives roughly 250 emails seem superfluous and it’s widely per day. says Philipsen. peak work periods colleagues. “An academic career Duxbury says that. journals and media.” says Duxbury. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. “The Christmas exam And of course there are troves of period is followed by a holiday. That said. between is a marathon. many faculty said that care of self was the thing they abandoned. “With so many demands on their time.” IT’S WIDELY UNDERSTOOD she says. It’s up to faculty members of career-life integration. hobbies or DURING LESS INTENSE nature excursions.

taking up precious hours way they deliver course content by in their day. don’t do their work for them. student distraction has thrown a Delegate it.” she says. If an email fits into pervasive on campus.com 13 . then do so. efficient at teaching their specific don’t bother. or PhD thesis supervision. ENLIVEN YOUR CLASSROOM Duxbury. As laptops and Wi-fi have become Defer it. Are you the only person wrench into this equation: students who can or should respond? If are increasingly likely to tune out someone else ought to take care of at the first sign of a rote lecture. is a STEP #4 task that will take days. Duxbury says adopting flipping their classrooms—putting the four D’s has helped her keep lectures on video for students’ the time she spends on email home viewing. and devoting class tightly bound and managed. who now gives Teaching is the biggest time presentations on how to handle commitment for most professors. time to case studies and problem The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. says she subscribes to the It’s also the task that. four D’s of inbox management: gets easier with experience since faculty typically become more Ditch it. Then. faculty can employ to enliven when you block off time to address their classrooms. it will be from simple. traditionally. Facebook. for Amazon and the rest. embedded in a one-line email. Deal with it. More ambitious faculty can send anyone down a deep might choose to restructure the clickhole. suite of courses after a few years. it. lecturers a particular category of must now compete for students’ responsibility—committee work attention with YouTube. If it’s not worth replying. emails. They range those responsibilities. easy-to-implement waiting for you. If you can respond to it But the advent of Internet-enabled in less than 2 minutes. classroom exercises to more comprehensive active-learning The task of responding to email techniques. instance—then file it away where There are dozens of tactics you can easily retrieve it.

higher grades.” virtual reality or app-based New technology requires its classroom engagement platforms own time investment. course pages on social media. solving. says Rehm. and in recent years that students had stronger student evaluations. I think it’s because the students like the vibe.” balance means availing yourself of says Rehm. Every institution has stopped coming to him outside of a teaching and learning center class with questions or comments to support teachers in these as they once did. BUT THE or via livestream from home or RETURNS CAN BE WELL elsewhere. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat. since such technologies in the Overwhelm. digital-native approach meant Integrating technology into they didn’t communicate that way the classroom—whether through anymore. “Rather. And even with the video lectures. for me. technology your students are using Michael Rehm. But the returns are designed to use the tools of can be worth the effort: they’ll student distraction in the service bring you up to speed on the of student engagement. They engage remotely and/or online now. a lecturer in the in their daily lives. “I still get WORTH THE EFFORT higher attendance for those weekly classes. creating video NEW TECHNOLOGY lectures for his course and hosting weekly live-streamed tutorials REQUIRES ITS OWN TIME and quiz tournaments. it makes teaching fun again. says he’d noticed classroom. Students attend the tutorials in person INVESTMENT. one that’s such as Top Hat—can also be hard to fathom when you’re mired beneficial. “I don’t think I initiatives—and part of achieving got scarier or less approachable. and they’ll show business school at the University up in terms of a more engaged of Auckland. the students’ the supports available to you.com 14 .” In 2013 Rehm adopted Top Hat. And.

connect with enthusiastic about. their book proposes specific things professors can do—and behaviors they should avoid—in order to “take back the intellectual life of the university. or where your presence colleagues. other people.m.” So reads the opening line of Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber’s manifesto The Slow Professor. or that ties you to a specific and narration in your lectures. and risk candour. try professional support. a diary. you write. Don’t just “work the eliminating time commitments you’re not room” at department events. Become engrossed in a book. Listen more suggests you write papers or answer email actively and attentively. thing on your list. AVOID THE TEMPTATION to squeeze as much it’s a community that provides social and as you can into your schedule.” Don’t rush your research. Use the library to expand LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO CREATE what your range of references (a habit that’s in the authors call “timeless time:” moments precipitous decline in the age of Google when you can be present in the moment. FORGE A NEW KIND OF COLLEGIALITY. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat..” “KEEP CALM AND WRITE ON. Instead.com 15 . and while. And find sequence of tasks for 10 to 12 hours per opportunities to laugh in the classroom. scholar) and take the time to read widely rather than always moving on to the next before. day—“unrealistic and simply not sustainable over the long haul. True collegiality isn’t an evaluation criteria.” DISCARD TIME-MANAGEMENT ADVICE that REDISCOVER JOY IN TEACHING. is not essential. Think about pace at 5 a. T O B E A S L O W H O W PR O F E S S O R “We are Slow Professors. Taking inspiration from the Slow Food movement.

and they feel it. “no it’s not just you. invariably. Some adjustments focus on time management.com 16 . When it comes to finding a healthy integration between career and personal life. are the mindset adjustments that allow professors to put themselves and their families first. they can identify the external factors most responsible for their sense of imbalance and adjust their behavior to better deal with them. though. to discover new personal passions beyond their work. Others attempt to reinvigorate the classroom and rediscover the sense of accomplishment that comes from good teaching. They also have highly demanding jobs whose expectations have been rising steeply in recent years. The answer to the existential question “Is it just me?” is. CONCLUSION THE HAPPY PROFESSOR Professors have great jobs and they know it. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat.” Once professors realize the problem’s not all in their heads. The solution lies in first recognizing that the problem is widespread and real. Most important. the rising expectations of academia have sped up the clock on professors who are trying to meet all their obligations. As the authors of The Slow Professor put it. the solution isn’t to race faster against time but to slow the clock down. by setting boundaries and devoting blocks of time to specific tasks. And their vocational approach to their work—their passion for knowledge and their desire to teach others—leaves them feeling drained and even burnt out.

SOURCES 1 https://www.org/news-center/press-releases/ valuing-your-time-more-than-money-linked- to-happiness 3 https://www.fastcompany.blogs.com/3025957/what- happens-to-our-brains when-we-exercise- and-how-it-makes-us-happier 4 https://well.com/2014/04/02/ how-exercise-can-help you-live-longer THE AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPHER: ASH NAYLER Philip Preville is an award-winning journalist and a former Canadian Journalism Fellow at Massey College at the University of Toronto.pdf 2 http://spsp.heri.com 17 .edu/infographics/HERI- Faculty-2014-Infographic.nytimes. He’s currently a member of the Professional Advisory Council with the Department of English at Ryerson University. The Work-life Balance Handbook tophat.ucla.

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