Work-life balance is more challenging for faculty than ever under COVID-19. What are equitable, privacy sensitive ways to telegraph needs at the individual level? What are acceptable accommodations to suggest?
To be clear, I am looking for strategies for individuals. If you are underwater from the fallout of this pandemic, it is hard to even join the cause, much less organize. In comments directly below can be found exemplars of the viewpoints these individuals are up against: they are dead weight, complaining, or not team players.
This is a unique year in which to attempt to find solutions: administrative members are distributed, and unofficial channels of communication are often not operational. The unofficial conversations that used to help resolve these kinds of situations are more difficult. Further, faculty and administration vary widely in their interpretation of the current crisis.
This was highlighted for me when a tenured faculty member in a recent meeting was pushed by a dissenting faculty member to point out that she was the vulnerable member in her family, due to obesity, and so could not be physically on campus. No one wanted that moment to happen, and yet it did.
There is, simultaneously, a call to step up and come back to campus, often explicitly.
Regardless of academic rank many are responding to personal challenges ranging from lack of child or elder care, to personal COVID-19 high-risk status, to more exotic things which are more difficult to categorize. My international students are trapped in their home countries, visa-less. Impact is everywhere, and even a faculty member with no 'traditional categories' of difficulty might well be under water. At the same time, universities are making hard choices and cutting positions or asking more, sometimes both.
The impact is clear. My own unit has lost a number of our best people, who have left for the relative certainty and balance of industry, or simply left to focus on the complexity of their own lives. Anecdotally, more women than men have left. I am in the US, where things are admittedly presently a bit more extreme, but I think that this question can generalize across university systems in many countries.
It is my belief that one major lack is a good way for individuals in need to communicate their need. For many reason, they may hesitate. This problem extends up the chain: my dean and provost are both high risk, and both working in the office.
So, what are equitable, privacy sensitive ways to telegraph needs at the individual level? What are acceptable accommodations to suggest? How do we address the untenable state of work-life balance in academia under covid-19?
Aside, that is, from leaving.
UPDATE: I have moved to an industry position, sacrificing my academic 'family' for the health and well-being of myself and my family. I have valued the contributions of this community in my academic life, a chapter I now close.