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Work-life balance in academia

The PlanetS Academic Platform carried out a survey with PlanetS professors and senior scientists to find out their point of view when it comes to ‘work-life balance in academia’ and what it means to them.

For a majority work-life balance means focussing energy and time in a way that reflects values and priorities. (Image: iStock/CHAIWATPHOTOS)

By Nadine Afram

The survey questions were based on work-life balance and time management articles and on feedback from a sample of professors who kindly tested the survey. The survey was built on the online survey tool and sent to 34 PlanetS professors and senior scientists of which 14 responded within the given two-week period.

A definition for work-life balance was not given intentionally to find out what this ‘balance between an individual’s work and personal life’ in academia means to our most experienced scientists. The first question treated a statement I read online on a forum supposed to motivate PhD students and I asked PlanetS professors and senior scientists if they thought it was true/false or if ‘it depends’. It said ‘There is a very famous myth called work-life balance in Academia. Let’s get this straight right now: there is no work-life balance in Academia. It’s just not possible’.  Unsurprisingly, most participants ticked ‘it depends’ and were asked to comment further while one person thought it was true and 5 thought that it was wrong.

Some selected comments:

For a majority of the respondents (~80 %) work-life balance means ‘to focus my energy and time in a way that reflects my values and priorities’.

A large majority (93%) thinks it is important for work-life balance to know your time thieves, while setting goals and planning ahead are also considered important by most (~84%).

Some other results are shown here:

The respondents were then asked to share what, in their opinion, is important for work-life balance, and to add any further comments. Those were some (extracts) of the answers:


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