Maintaining relationships with friends and partners is another indicator of a good work-life balance, but it is something that many academics in particular seem to struggle with.
The majority of scholars (58 per cent) say that their job restricts “a lot” or “a reasonable amount” their ability to see their friends as often as they would like. This falls to 32 per cent among professional staff.
“I don’t have time for friendships outside the academic world. Friendships at work are hard to maintain because of workload and also lack of staff common room facilities. Having a private space for academics to meet informally offers no prospect of profit so the university won’t provide it,” says a senior lecturer at a post-92 university.
“I can never get to see my friends during the week. Then they’re busy with husbands and kids at the weekend. It’s isolating,” reports a manager at a UK university.
Another senior lecturer at a university in north-west England only manages to see most of his friends “once a year” because of “the realities of working and family life”, combined with the fact that he lives far away from them.
Indeed, several respondents cite the requirement for academics to seek positions overseas, or to travel for extended periods of time, as a barrier to sustaining friendships.
“I’ve found the moving around I’ve done to secure first the PhD and then the various jobs has made it very difficult to make new friends other than those I’ve been in education with. It’s very hard to put down roots when you don’t feel you belong to a place,” says a lecturer at a London university.
“Because of the nature of academia, I live halfway around the world from my friends and family. I do not get to spend time with them and because of the time difference, it is even difficult to talk with them. To cap it off, I am severely underpaid in comparison with my friends and family,” adds a senior lecturer at a university in the south of England.
Many academics say that it is hard for their friends outside academia to understand the nature of their job and therefore to provide the necessary support, while others cite rivalry within universities as a barrier to academic friendships.
“Academia doesn’t foster friendship as much as it fosters competition and risk of theft of intellectual property,” says one doctoral student at a US university.
University staff are reasonably prone to envying their friends’ life situations. Salary is a common gripe. Almost half of academics (49 per cent) and two-fifths of professional staff
"Replace staff who leave! I'm supposed to be doing 23 hours per week but am helping to cover a full-time vacancy so, at the moment, I work nearer 60"
Member of the library staff at a university in the north of England
"Presidents could provide leadership taht would ensure managing schools was less combative"
A femal academic in he Republic of Ireland
“Give more time to socialise at work, encourage outside activities, be more flexible towards women on fractional contracts and treat them as full-timers would be treated"
Senior lecturer at a post-92 university in the north of England
“Offer contracts to early career researchers that provide enough stability for them to set up a family”
An engineering postdoc in Switzerland
(40 per cent) believe that their wage is lower or a lot lower than that of most of their friends, compared with just
22 per cent of academics and 28 per cent of professional staff who believe that they earn more than their friends do (see graph 10, below). But the gender split among professional staff is significant: while 57 per cent of men earn more than their friends, compared with 25 per cent who do not, the figures for women are 45 and 39 per cent respectively.
The gap between the answers given by scholars and other staff widens further when it comes to perceptions of work-life balance, with 68 per cent of academics but only 43 per cent of professional staff saying that their work-life balance is worse or a lot worse than that of their friends (see graph 11, below).