Structured vs. Unstructured Hours

EcoGeoFemme and Mad Hatter (amongst others) have recently talked about the amount of hours grad students should/do work and what restrictions should be placed on those hours. I've had an unfinished post about this very subject in my drafts folder and it dawned on me that I should finish it. Especially since I keep having to edit my very long comments on their blogs.

It seems that the hours grad students should work falls into one of two camps: structured or unstructured. The structured camp thinks that grad students should come in at a specific hour (usually 9am is the preferred time) and leave at a specific hour (usually 6pm is the preferred time). However, that 6pm time is rather flexible. The unstructured camp tends to have the philosophy that (and I can't remember who I'm paraphrasing here, so I'm sorry) one can choose to whatever 40+ hours they prefer to work.

I tend to fall into the latter camp. I don't think the fact that I get into the lab between 9am and 10am makes me any less professional than the grad student across the hall who comes in at 9am everyday. If I have an appointment with someone (meaning I'm meeting a professor, a student, or other such person) I will be on time no matter what time it is scheduled. I do enjoy that I can work late one evening/night and then come in later on in the day with no hassles from Advisor. I, also, like that I can take time off to go to the doctor, grocery store, or veterinarian (for the Dixie Dog, not me) without any trouble from Advisor.

I think the key to this latter camp is to have clear, defined goals for productivity. This only works if the PI will take the time to define those goals and is reasonable about it (the last bit of this is what I suspect is the hardest). Then, takes the time to meet with the grad student on a regular basis to check in on what progress he/she has made. This should eventually train people to set reasonable goals for themselves and to meet them, which I think is an important skill set for anyone to learn.

Still, this is not without it's downside. There is the obvious (that the PI has to be reasonable) and the not-so-obvious (the likes of which I'm struggling with today). The not-so-obvious is that if there are no clear rules about when one should work then it becomes harder for PIs to recognize vacation time and sick time (the latter of which I'm having issues with today). This is not a trivial matter. For instance, I am in a LDM and need to take time off to see Dr. Man. Obviously, if I take time off to do so then my productivity will be slightly down for that week. If I had vacation time stored up, this may not be so much of a problem.

As for the amount of hours a week to work. I don't have a good answer for you, seeing as how last week I was pushing 70 hours and am sick today (and by sick I mean sore throat, fever, runny nose, cough; not that I'm sick of work).

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