The half holiday

21 08 2011

The tweet from Times Higher the other day about setting your out of office when going away got me thinking about the concept of the half holiday. I have found it really difficult over the last few years to take a “proper” holiday – and many of my colleagues feel the same. I get slightly irate when people assume that academics get the whole of the summer off…..in many ways I find the summer is one of my busiest times, playing catch up with all those jobs I’ve put off whilst teaching is in full swing. In any case, we have final year students who are taught all year round, so they still need teaching!

This year, we had a two week holiday in Spain, and roaming was most definitely banned. This is the first two week holiday I’ve had since becoming an academic, and it was lovely. But I had 500ish emails awaiting my return. Yuk.

We had been invited to a family holiday in Suffolk this week. So I created the concept of the half holiday. The cottage we stayed in had WIFI, so mornings were spent dealing with email and doing a small amount of work. It was at quite a relaxed pace, and Skype calls were definitely off camera. Then afternoons/evenings we were out and about, and I just caught up briefly before bed.

Sad? Maybe. But relatively stress free. The thing is, we’re not talking about markets crashing and clients leaving, like the businessman-lying-by-the-pool-with-his-Blackberry might be dealing with. Things I’ve done this week are: set up resit assessments, deal with students worried about portfolio resits, give feedback on assessments, help out a couple of collegues, discuss a paper, organise a workshop I’m doing next week etc etc. So not money making activities, and (virtually) nothing that wouldn’t wait. But instead of dreading my return next week, I feel like I’m not behind, and I still feel like I’ve definitely had a break.

I think my one issue with this is how it appears to students, and I often think the same when I answer emails at 10pm from home (often the quietest time of the day). We worry and worry about our stressed veterinary students having a positive work life balance, time off etc. But I certainly don’t practice what I preach! I’m not exactly a positive role model in this respect.

I think our students do know how hard we work. I’m not sure about other subjects, but in our school there is a definite work ethic, and this applies to staff and students. But it’s the balance of work and time off that is a little skewy at times.

Maybe the half holiday could help with this. I’d rather have a couple of weeks of this and one week of proper holiday, than the other way round. Hmm now there’s a thought for next year…..

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