Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Academia, and working from home

I read a headline today from The Telegraph for an article by Katherine Rushton newspaper: Yahoo! boss bans working from home, and I wondered how that would work in academia. Rushton writes that Yahoo!, in a communication to all staff, state that it "is critical that we are all present in our offices" and that "best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings". I can't argue with that - I find informal chat with my colleagues to be some of the best discussion that I have in the College.

Many academic colleagues from colleges all over Ireland and abroad choose to work from home at times when they do not have classes - for some it is a necessity. Some like to be able to prepare classes or correct assessments at home rather than come to the office. Others may be writing research reports or work on an academic publication.

Whether you agree with the Yahoo! move or not (some critics have said it is an effort to force resignations from employees who will not/cannot change) it does raise many issues about control, accountability, responsibility, and productivity. For some these will be greater if allowed to work at home, for others the office works best.

Image Source: WiSER.
I have always consciously decided to have a clear separation between work and home, so I am one of those academics who prefers to be in the office. I rarely do College work at home. I do not check work emails and in the main rarely use my mobile phone for work related issues from outside the office. For me, this work/life balance works. I do not have the discipline to work at home because there are far more distractions - the fridge being the biggest one!

To get an idea about what an academic gets up to during the day read this article, Early starts and late launches, lectures, laughs, in today's Irish Times by Professor Diarmuid Ferriter of UCD. You'll see that he spends quite a bit of time out of his office, but I think you'll agree that he is a very productive and busy academic.

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