Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Day 35 - Workload (part 4)

The final part of the workload calculation is the least defined, and the area that is probably most open to negotiation with managers, and that is called 'Support'.
It includes elements such as School-wide management areas (being head of department, for example, and mentoring), participation in University committees, and time spent on an approved higher degree or professional qualification (part-time).
I find the lack of definition and opportunities for more support roles rather disappointing, and I hope that this is an area that is developed in the future. It does seem to reflect the rather traditional approach to academia as a solo sport rather than a team activity.

So that is the entire calculation of a workload. What does it actually mean in practice? How can we use this model as a way of planning ahead?
For an individual, I think that it gives them a very powerful tool for working out exactly what they can be expected to take on in a year, and what they can expect themselves to take on in a year. For a manager, it gives a good snapshot of activity. It does seem though, that more could be done to integrate the programme leaders into the process, who, after all, are normally the ones responsible for ensuring that all modules have people teaching them. The model needs to be a dynamic and reactive model - you take on a new responsibility, and either agree to work over the stated limit, or someone covers another element.
What usually happens, because of its complexity, is that the workload for the academic year is calculated on the basis of what has happened. Or is calculated at the beginning and either treated as a straitjacket for the staff member, or ignored.

I am a firm believer in empowering staff to have more of a role in understanding and applying their own workload models. If academics understand the consequences of taking on new responsibilities, or of dropping some modules, then they can go to their manager with proposals for solutions, rather than just problems.

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