Workload: What questions should we be asking ourselves?

We are hearing from some members that the volume of their work is too great, that the pandemic is making a challenging workload overwhelming and that it all feels out of their control.

Keeping up with the demands of increased and new ways of teaching, fulfilling faculty administrative responsibilities along with completing more and more administrative tasks once performed by other university employees, and competing for diminished research funding while striving for a productive research program adds up to an overwhelming amount of work. 

Not everything that influences how you work and the amount of work you are expected to perform is out of your control. Consider the following: 

How do Standards for Tenure and Promotion contribute to workload? It is important for your academic unit to have Standards that reflect the type of work you do and the rate at which it should be accomplished. Do your standards reflect what can and should be accomplished for tenure and promotion in the time allowed and with the resources provided? In addition, it seems that increasingly support from the University for the work of faculty is diminished. Whether it is basic equipment or research support infrastructure, faculty must provide it for themselves and do so in an environment of increased bureaucracy. Changing your Standards does not mean raising the bar. In fact, with increases in teaching, increases in administrative tasks falling to faculty, and less support from the University, perhaps it is time to adjust your standards to make workloads more manageable and COVID specific.

Standards can recognize COVID will have long-lasting impacts for faculty who’s programs of research have been and continue to be affected by the pandemic. For example, there will be faculty who have breaks in research related to the virus simply because vaccinations will not happen at the same pace around the globe. There’s nothing wrong with developing a COVID-related page for your Standards and units can do that at any time. 

While units can change Standards whenever they choose, now may be an ideal time for your unit to adjust its Standards. A review of Standards is currently underway. Some Colleges have submitted revised Standards to the University Review Committee (URC) and URC will soon begin drafting new University Standards. 

Should reduced funding mean reduced programs and/or reduced classes? We know some Colleges are facing dramatic budget cuts. Doing more with less may not be the appropriate solution to dealing with these cuts. Doing what is possible with funding provided is a worthwhile consideration when you are changing standards. 

What are you doing that is unrecognized or unnecessary? If it is not in your standards, you have the choice not to apply for grants. A “body of research” need not be funded. Also, it seems some units expect faculty to take on certain kinds of graduate teaching in addition to assigned duties. While your guidelines for the assignment of duties should include this kind of teaching, if it is not part of your assigned duties, you need not take it on. 

What can wait? Not everything you do needs to be done now. For example, while communication with students is important, immediate replies to emails is not necessary. An approach taken by many, including senior academic administrators, is to set aside a particular stretch of time each day to deal with email. Have a discussion in your unit about what appropriate response time should be for emails. 

If you have concerns about your workload, please contact the USFA.