I'm finishing a PhD in Sweden this year and seeking a post-doc in the United States (atmospheric remote sensing). It is clear that a job in academia is not a nine to five job; nor do I want it to be. I often work late in the evening when I'm on a productive spur. When an important dead-line is coming up, one needs to work harder, and there is no overtime paid. I accept that. However, no matter how much I'm interested in my research, I do enjoy and need a reasonable amount of spare time, too; relaxing on the weekends, occasionally a long weekend away, and sometimes a longer trip, such as three weeks in the wilderness.
Regarding the normal work ethos for early-career academics in the United States, I have a hard time judging what is normal and what is excessive. Some examples:
- Erick Carreira letter warning post-docs that he expects all of the members of the group to work evenings and weekends.
- My apparent naïveté in believing that a sabbatical means not working, despite Wikipedia describing it as a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year. I was thinking of my friend, who spent a year between his PhD and his first post-doc travelling from France to Mongolia mostly on foot.
- Someone commenting I am not a good role model, but when I don't work on a Sunday, I count that as a vacation day.
- NASA postdocs having no employment-related benefits such as paid vacations, sick leave, or unemployment compensation.
- Question How do we end the culture of “endless hours at work”?
We don't have such a work-ethos where I'm at. I belief that working too hard risks stress and burn-out, and does not increase productivity in the long run, nor human well-being. I want to do science. Doing science makes me happy, but having time to relax while not doing science is important for me.
Does the selection of examples I gave above represent a normal situation in U.S. early-career academia? Should I expect an attitude where asking for a 3-week holiday during the summer is considered as being not serious, or is the situation in practice usually not as bad as the examples above make it sound? How hard to early-career academics in the United States work, really?