Sunday, November 26, 2006

How Many Hours Do Professors Work?

"How many hours do professors work" keeps showing up in the list of keywords used by people who find this blog, and it has come up in some comments before, but I don't think I have ever really addressed it directly. There is of course no single answer.

Even if I attempt to answer it for how many hours I work, the number varies a lot from day to day and week to week. In general, though, it's somewhere between 50-70 hours/week.

Here's how it adds up:

In a typical week, I work the usual hours during the work day. The working day starts for my husband and me after we take our daughter to school in the morning.

My daughter's school gets out at 4 pm, then she goes to an afterschool play program until 5:45 (except for the day she has piano lessons, when we retrieve her early -- if there's a faculty meeting, we flip a coin to see who stays at the meeting and who goes to piano lesson -- the loser stays at the meeting). She loves the afterschool play time. She used to only do it a few days a week and my husband and I would take turns leaving the office early, but this year she requested to go to it all 5 days. Apparently, attending part time was disruptive to her intricate and exciting social life.

So, I typically stay at the office until 5:30. Three nights/week, I work after dinner and after some family/evening time, and I typically work until midnight-1 a.m. That 'extra' 12-15 hours each week is when I get my writing/thinking done, as the days are typically consumed by meetings, advising, teaching, and so on.

If I need to, I also work a bit on weekends. This is a good time to get some work done in the lab, get ready for the week's teaching, do some grading, and so on. I work while my husband takes our daughter to swimming lessons etc.

Therefore, in a week in which neither my husband or I are traveling, I work somewhere between 50-70 hours. For most of that time, my daughter is either at school or asleep, so I don't feel like I'm sacrificing anything but my own sleep (and housework.. we have a house-cleaner who comes every few weeks). This schedule works well for my husband and me because we see each other at work every day and we have lunch together every day. Also, he has the same kind of schedule/life so we're both in it together.


Anonymous said...

As part of a double academic couple considering academic jobs, I've been very curious about these numbers. The best population data that I've found was a from a study of University of California Faculty.

The relevant plot is figure 7 on page 5 of:
"Do Babies matter part 2 which is linked off of:

The challenge is not just the hours of work, but the "work" hours required for child caregiving. Yes many of those hours are fun or rewarding, but definitely not all.

Ms.PhD said...

re: bsci's comment, how much time do you estimate that you spend on housework? Do you and your husband split it equally?

Besides after school play-care and the occasional babysitter, do you have any other paid help (e.g. cleaning service, local kid mows the lawn or washes the cars)? I heard one female professor extolling the wonders of being able to afford all kinds of support staff with her magnificent professorly salary (!)

I can hardly find the energy to clean the house and do laundry, even with my boyfriend helping, in the little 'spare' time between working at work and working at home ... which all comes lower on the priority scale than trying to have something to eat in the house, trying to cook it, and trying to have time to sleep and occasionally get some exercise (which I would probably skip if I didn't need it for health reasons).

Female Science Professor said...

My husband and I definitely share the housework. Some things we do together -- for example, he cooks while I putter around doing ancillary meal-preparation things, and then we clean up together -- and some tasks we divide or take turns at (laundry).

The only paid help other than the after-school program is a once/month housecleaning and a few other random things (e.g., gutters). I do most of the garden/lawn-care because I like to do that. Some things we do as a family activity (grocery shopping, car washing), and we tend to combine these with eating dinner out so that we can make an evening of it.

Sometimes housework and work work both get done: I just painted a small room in my house this weekend, and while I was painting, I thought about the proposal I am writing. I took frequent breaks to write my ideas down, then went back to painting. It was fun. I like multi-tasking, but my husband doesn't. Somehow between the two of us, we keep our house from being too unkempt, but just barely.

I should say that my lifestyle re. housework horrifies my mother. I do dramatically less housework than my mother did when I was a kid and it shows. We do the minimum and don't worry about it.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting... in a way your research is your "hobby"-- done after regular work hours, in addition to normal duties of teaching and supervising.

chris said...

I don't want to alarm you, but my wife and I found that children actually demand more time as they get older!

Anonymous said...

I have a question for you, it is not really directly related to the topic. I am anticipating to finish my Ph.D. in summer. My goal, eventually, is to pursue academia. Do you think there is a best time to be pregnant? Which would be better, during postdoc years or during the early years of assistant professorship?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps an important question here is:
* is your paid work 40:40:20
* is your actual work 40:40:20

If you reduced your exertion on teaching to your contracted or union agreement hours (I understand the US system is non-union predominantly), would your division of labour in those hours be 40:40:20?