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School of Computing Science
A few thoughts on
work-life balance
23 January 2020
Wim Vanderbauwhede
Screenshot from The Guardian web site, taken 20 Jan 2020
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
<11 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 >80
count
Hours worked per week
Working hours for Physical Sciences researchers
Data from the survey “What researchers think about the culture they work in”,
Wellcome Trust, Jan 2020
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
<11 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 >80
Count
Hours worked per week
Working hours (academics, no PhD or postdocs)
Data from the survey “What researchers think about the culture they work in”,
Wellcome Trust, Jan 2020
Work/Life
Work
Contracts &
Expectations
Contract
• a legal document
– sets out rights and duties (e.g. hours, leave)
– there are penalties if you break the conditions
• an agreement on a transaction with
expectations on both sides
– matters a lot more than the legal side
– not observing the expectation hurts both sides
Life
The biology
of happiness
Brain chemicals
• Neurotransmitters affecting happiness
– dopamine makes you do things: short-term reward,
highly addictive
– serotonin is related to pride, feeling important, joint
achievement
– oxytocin relates to trust, kindness
• Stress hormone: cortisol
– inhibits oxytocin
– is bad for your body, physically as well as mentally
The psychology
of happiness
Happiness from without
• “Doing/achieving/eating X will make me happy”
• Reward from external sources: the dopamine hit
• It works very briefly, not long term
• Can be compulsive
• Watch out for the patterns
Goals, ambition
and success
Goals, ambition, success
• Goals and ambition are positive.
• But you need to ask yourself why:
– Why do I pursue this particular goal/ambition?
– What does success mean to me?
– And what will it bring me?
• If you don’t define success, then success will not make
you happy
Respect
Respect
• Everybody wants to be respected
– But the people who know you and like you already
respect you.
– Why does the respect of strangers matter to you?
– It’s an imposed model of success: social hierarchy
– Careful, it’s a trap!
“Those who matter don’t mind and
those who mind don’t matter”
Peace of mind
Happiness from within
• It’s your reaction to a situation that
determines your state of mind
• Self-awareness, mindfulness
• Calm and fulfillment: serotonin
• Practicing kindness: oxytocin (social reward)
Pressure
Pressure
• You feel under pressure to work long hours
– Why is that?
– Remember the contract!
What are your reasons?
Any of these?
hard to say no
perceived expectations
thinking that you’re not
efficient enough
everything seems urgent
perfectionism
habit
peer pressure
working against your rhythm
difficulty focusing
too many distractions
everything is a priority
feeling pressurised
daunting goals
few other interests
feeling overwhelmedOr others?
hard to say no
perceived expectations
thinking that you’re not
efficient enough
everything seems urgent
perfectionism
habit
peer pressure
working against your rhythm
difficulty focusing
too many distractions
everything is a priority
feeling pressurised
daunting goals
few other interests
feeling overwhelmedOr others?
Discuss your reasons with your neighbour
Balance
Benefits
“de boog kan niet altijd gespannen staan”
Resilience
• Resilience is a key characteristic for academics
• To be resilient you need to recharge
• To recharge you need downtime
Productivity
• Working long hours is not productive
– Long hours destroy concentration
– Need for unconscious processing time, essential
for problem solving and creativity
Adding value
• to your own life: personal development
• to other people’s lives
Mental health
• Working all the time is dangerous:
– If you live for your work and your work goes badly,
it is very hard to keep your peace of mind.
– Risk of burnout
– Karōshi
From the yearly campaign by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
Practice
Mental pressureStresslevel
time
Asking for help
• Help with a task or help with your situation
• Helps you
• Makes the person asked feel good! (oxytocin!)
• Provides opportunity for development
Planning
• Medium term (semester)
• Short term (week)
• E.g. ”7 habits of highly effective people”
Taking stock
• How’s my life going?
• How’s my work going?
• E.g. ”Wheel of life” tool
Action plan
I will:
Individual Action Plan
Start doing…
Stop…
Continue to…
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Thank you!
Resources
• Anton Muscatelli’s article “Universities must overhaul
the toxic working culture for academic researchers”
• Wellcome Trust survey “What researchers think about
the culture they work in”
• Simon Sinek’s talk “Why leaders eat last”, about
dopamine/serotonin/oxytocin/cortisol
• Franklin Covey’s “The 7 habits of effective people”
• The “Wheel of life” tool

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A few thoughts on work life-balance

  • 1. School of Computing Science A few thoughts on work-life balance 23 January 2020 Wim Vanderbauwhede
  • 2. Screenshot from The Guardian web site, taken 20 Jan 2020
  • 3. 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 <11 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 >80 count Hours worked per week Working hours for Physical Sciences researchers Data from the survey “What researchers think about the culture they work in”, Wellcome Trust, Jan 2020
  • 4. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 <11 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 >80 Count Hours worked per week Working hours (academics, no PhD or postdocs) Data from the survey “What researchers think about the culture they work in”, Wellcome Trust, Jan 2020
  • 8. Contract • a legal document – sets out rights and duties (e.g. hours, leave) – there are penalties if you break the conditions • an agreement on a transaction with expectations on both sides – matters a lot more than the legal side – not observing the expectation hurts both sides
  • 11. Brain chemicals • Neurotransmitters affecting happiness – dopamine makes you do things: short-term reward, highly addictive – serotonin is related to pride, feeling important, joint achievement – oxytocin relates to trust, kindness • Stress hormone: cortisol – inhibits oxytocin – is bad for your body, physically as well as mentally
  • 13. Happiness from without • “Doing/achieving/eating X will make me happy” • Reward from external sources: the dopamine hit • It works very briefly, not long term • Can be compulsive • Watch out for the patterns
  • 15. Goals, ambition, success • Goals and ambition are positive. • But you need to ask yourself why: – Why do I pursue this particular goal/ambition? – What does success mean to me? – And what will it bring me? • If you don’t define success, then success will not make you happy
  • 17. Respect • Everybody wants to be respected – But the people who know you and like you already respect you. – Why does the respect of strangers matter to you? – It’s an imposed model of success: social hierarchy – Careful, it’s a trap! “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”
  • 19. Happiness from within • It’s your reaction to a situation that determines your state of mind • Self-awareness, mindfulness • Calm and fulfillment: serotonin • Practicing kindness: oxytocin (social reward)
  • 21. Pressure • You feel under pressure to work long hours – Why is that? – Remember the contract!
  • 22. What are your reasons? Any of these? hard to say no perceived expectations thinking that you’re not efficient enough everything seems urgent perfectionism habit peer pressure working against your rhythm difficulty focusing too many distractions everything is a priority feeling pressurised daunting goals few other interests feeling overwhelmedOr others?
  • 23. hard to say no perceived expectations thinking that you’re not efficient enough everything seems urgent perfectionism habit peer pressure working against your rhythm difficulty focusing too many distractions everything is a priority feeling pressurised daunting goals few other interests feeling overwhelmedOr others? Discuss your reasons with your neighbour
  • 26. “de boog kan niet altijd gespannen staan”
  • 27. Resilience • Resilience is a key characteristic for academics • To be resilient you need to recharge • To recharge you need downtime
  • 28. Productivity • Working long hours is not productive – Long hours destroy concentration – Need for unconscious processing time, essential for problem solving and creativity
  • 29. Adding value • to your own life: personal development • to other people’s lives
  • 30. Mental health • Working all the time is dangerous: – If you live for your work and your work goes badly, it is very hard to keep your peace of mind. – Risk of burnout – Karōshi
  • 31. From the yearly campaign by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
  • 34. Asking for help • Help with a task or help with your situation • Helps you • Makes the person asked feel good! (oxytocin!) • Provides opportunity for development
  • 35. Planning • Medium term (semester) • Short term (week) • E.g. ”7 habits of highly effective people”
  • 36. Taking stock • How’s my life going? • How’s my work going? • E.g. ”Wheel of life” tool
  • 38. I will: Individual Action Plan Start doing… Stop… Continue to… • • • • • • • • •
  • 40. Resources • Anton Muscatelli’s article “Universities must overhaul the toxic working culture for academic researchers” • Wellcome Trust survey “What researchers think about the culture they work in” • Simon Sinek’s talk “Why leaders eat last”, about dopamine/serotonin/oxytocin/cortisol • Franklin Covey’s “The 7 habits of effective people” • The “Wheel of life” tool