Post Academic


Why You Should Treat “Flexibility” on the Job With Skepticism

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionDuring the third season of “Mad Men,” Don Draper takes repeated middle-of-the-night calls from Conrad Hilton, owner of the hotel chain and a VIP. Anyone tethered to a Crackberry should groan upon seeing it. Even the powerful Don Draper can be caught in the trap of “flex time.”

“Job flexibility” or “flex time” has grown increasingly popular as a benefit, and it’s one of the reasons people flock to academia. In many cases, flexibility is a good thing, especially if you have children or need to see a doctor regularly. That way, you can make up your work hours at night or on the weekend, and you and your boss will still be happy.

Lately, however, I’ve seen “flexibility” be abused or misinterpreted to mean “available at all hours of the day or night.” In academia, the overhyped flexibility will have you bending over backwards. Students e-mail at weird hours, you do your work at night because of marathon meetings during the day or coffee breaks that turn into grading sessions. But hey–it’s all worth it because you’re not doing the 9-to-5, right?

More after the jump! Image of contortionist from 1880, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

No, it isn’t. Unions busted their butts to get people an 8-hour workday everywhere, and that means you, too. If it stretches longer every now and then, so be it. If you work 12-hour shifts for 4 days a week and get a long weekend, so be it. Some jobs need more time than others. But it shouldn’t stretch past that for an extended period of time, and academics or flex-timers shouldn’t feel guilty because they can pull their 8 hours whenever they want.

Employers and universities often prey on that guilt so you think that you owe them a little more time since you’re flexible. It’s up to you to set boundaries or choose another profession that respects your boundaries. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself working all the time, and your guilt still won’t go away.

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One Response to 'Why You Should Treat “Flexibility” on the Job With Skepticism'

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly. One of the dirty little secrets of academic life is that it’s easily a hundred-hour-a-week job. That’s one thing if you’re being appropriately compensated for your stress and lack of social life, but quite another if you’re not. And unfortunately, the whole “flex” thing seems to be spreading to most professions. We all need to fight back a bit, I think.


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