Labor & Work-Life Issues

Younger Professors Say a Successful Career Should Not Require Long Hours

March 04, 2010

In conversations with a dozen faculty members, researchers with a project on work-life issues run by Harvard University have found that "Generation X" professors value efficiency over "face time" and believe that quality is more important than quantity in academic work.

The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, a long-term project run by Harvard's Graduate School of Education, conducted interviews with 12 professors born between 1964 and 1980 on three campuses in the mid-Atlantic: a liberal-arts college, a private master's-degree-granting university, and a large public institution. Neither the interview subjects nor the institutions are named in the report.

The Generation X professors said they did not want to be holed up in their campus offices until 11 p.m., and talked about the "diminishing returns" of working too many hours. The professors perceive their attitudes to be different from those of older faculty members, who they see as being completely devoted to their jobs and unable to say no to more work.

"My biggest concern ... is that I want to be able to be good at my job but work 8:00 to 6:00 five days a week," one Gen X faculty member told the interviewers. "I want to succeed, but I don't want to work 18 hours a day."

The report, "New Challenges, New Priorities: The Experience of Generation X Faculty," is to be posted today on the project's Web site.