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Being “the new person” at work can be both exciting and intimidating. In addition to the actual workload, new roles come with the pressure of building new relationships and making the best impression possible—which can lead to long hours and, soon enough, to feelings of stress and of being overwhelmed.

This begs the question: When did working longer become synonymous with working harder? While advice articles for how to manage your own expectations for your new role are readily available (such as this one from LinkedIn), there are fewer resources geared toward how to manage workplace expectations—and how to recognize when those expectations are unreasonable.

How common is the “60-hour week”?

Recently, The Guardian ran an article, “How to be an academic without working 60 hours a week”. In that story, the author, Lucy Foulkes, explores the early February Twitter storm surrounding a tweet citing a 2014 report documenting the long hours that academics work. Some academics participating in the Twitter dialogue wrote that they do inform their students and postdocs that full professors work far more than 60 hours a week. Others feel the data are not truly representative of academics, and that further distinctions in the results are needed before any generalizations can be made.

Foulkes points out that this expectation of a 60-hour work week being perpetuated before students even enter their careers in academia is unfair, discouraging and can lead to faster burn-out rates among early professionals who think they have to meet this standard. In her own Twitter survey of academics, she found that “people often seem to be working long hours because they work (and send emails) outside of office hours, but this doesn’t mean they are working round the clock.”

Smarter, not longer

Many respondents to both Foulkes and the original Twitter thread have shifted the conversation toward how to “work smarter, not longer.” A few tips for greater workday efficiency:

  • Setting up an appointment on your online calendar to block out time with yourself to focus solely on a research problem.
  • Minimizing “task hopping.”
  • Refusing to check email more than four times a day.
  • Being mindful that the occasional longer day should be temporary and not the norm.

For more ideas, check out “How to Streamline your Workday to Maximize Efficiency” by Ryan Ayres.