Special Issue - A Global Dialogue on Cultivating Work-Life Harmony in Academia

Newsletter

Discover how academics worldwide balance work and personal life, as scholars share their unique experiences and strategies shaped by diverse cultural backgrounds. Explore a global view on finding harmony in academia.

Introduction

The quest for work-life balance in academia is a topic of global relevance, shaped by diverse cultural influences. We reached out to a cohort of invited scholars and researchers to understand how cultural nuances shape their work-life balance across different regions. Their voices provide a comprehensive picture of the challenges and strategies in different academic environments.

Work Culture

Virginia Helena Albarracin from Argentina, with her journey in Biological Sciences and Biochemistry leading to roles as an Independent Researcher at CONICET and Director at CIME-UNT-CONICET, reflects on positive academic changes in her country, emphasizing new regulations and laws for gender equality and sustainability in research. In Canada, Kenza Dufourmantelle, the Senior Director at the Canadian Conservation Institute, brings a blend of chemistry and art history to her role, observing a progressive work culture. Pooja Khurana, a European-based stem cell scientist and developmental biologist, now engaged in blending scientific research with social impact, finds her current workplace to be diverse, inclusive, and liberal with her past experiences. From the UK, Riccardo Maddalena and Magdalini Theodoridou bring their extensive international experience in civil engineering and conservation science, respectively. Maddalena, a Lecturer at Cardiff University, and Theodoridou, a Newcastle University Academic Track Fellow, highlight the flexible working policies at their institutions, contributing to a supportive work environment.

Polat Goktas
Polat Goktas

Work-Life Balance Practices

In terms of practices, Albarracin has implemented “flexible working hours, remote work options” at CIME, creating a collaborative and understanding environment. Dufourmantelle’s organization in Canada adopts a flexible schedule for a better work-life blend. “Employees choose to work longer hours each day, resulting in a 3-day weekend,” she explains. Khurana emphasizes the importance of recognizing challenges faced by researchers, especially regarding mental health. She values “acknowledgement and acceptance” of such issues within her work culture. In the UK, Maddalena appreciates Cardiff University’s embrace of “blended working,” allowing a mix of on-campus and remote work, while Theodoridou notes Newcastle University (NU)’s supportive policies for parents with Employer with heart charter, stating, “NU offers up to two weeks of paid leave for colleagues who suffer an early miscarriage.”

Harmonizing minds, balancing lives: Uniting the world of academia
Figure 1: Harmonizing minds, balancing lives: Uniting the world of academia

Desired Changes

Albarracin calls for enhanced family support and infrastructure in universities, advocating for “more childcare facilities” to aid parents in balancing their professional and personal responsibilities. Dufourmantelle emphasizes the necessity of establishing “guidelines on the healthy ratio of meeting vs. non-meeting time” for a balanced work schedule, minimizing meeting fatigue and enhancing productivity. Khurana highlights the need to tackle job precarity and raise awareness about menstrual health issues, vital for improving employee well-being and productivity. These suggestions reflect an understanding of the broader societal factors that impact work-life balance. Maddalena advocates for “mandatory well-being training for all employees” and expanded mental health resources to improve the overall wellbeing of the university community. Theodoridou underscores the necessity of additional support for parents, especially in high-risk pregnancies, and suggests extending leave policies and offering full financial support beyond standard provisions. Additionally, she recommends provisions of childcare support for all parents participating in conferences and external activities, ensuring they can balance professional development with family responsibilities.

Personal Strategies

Albarracin maintains her work-life balance by hiring a nanny for her son and participating in gym, yoga, and cultural events. She values flexibility and personal life consideration in her leadership. Dufourmantelle integrates running into her daily routine, for energy and clarity, noting, “No matter how busy I am, I take this time for myself early in the morning.” This dedication to self-care is a testament to the importance of setting aside time for personal wellbeing. Khurana ensures personal care practices are a regular part of her work schedule, challenging work over personal life norms. Maddalena, navigating an independent researcher, uses a disciplined approach for balance, stating, “I have been using digital tools…to help plan my week and improve my work-life balance.” He prioritizes personal activities post-5pm, exemplifies a disciplined approach to balancing professional and personal commitments.

Conclusion

The collective experiences of our hosted researchers and scholars underline the importance of both institutional policies and personal strategies in achieving worklife harmony. Their stories from Argentina, Canada, Europe, and the UK provide a rich tapestry of approaches, reflecting the distinct cultural frameworks that influence scholarly pursuits in academia.

Polat Goktas
Guest Editor of December 2023 Special Issue
University College Dublin
polat.goktas@ucd.ie
Twitter: @PolatGoktass

Image by MidJourney
Image by MidJourney
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