written on December 27, 2013 and saved for publication until tenure
A month or so ago, the STOC’14 PC chair took an informal poll of when we wanted the PC meeting: Friday & Saturday, Saturday & Sunday, Sunday & Monday. What the hell? Why not any two day combinations that don’t include a weekend day? So it doesn’t get in the way of work? What on Earth do you think a PC meeting is if not work? So it doesn’t get in the way of teaching? I am pretty sure all our department heads want us to go to conferences and take part in program committees and will happily accommodate a cancelled class or two or a sub by a graduate student or colleague.
My response to the PC chair was: “I would greatly prefer Fri-Sat or Sun-Mon so it doesn’t take the whole weekend away from me.” In the background, my partner works in Portland during the week, and so we live apart during the week, and the weekend is the only time we have together. Also, committing to work a Saturday/Sunday combination means 12 straight full days of work (on top of the cross country flight the program committee means) since taking a weekday off to compensate for the weekend is very difficult to arrange — guilt kicks in and I would inevitably work. On a very serious note, down time is key to “work life balance” also known as one’s mental health. We shouldn’t be defaulting to working on the weekend. Our conferences shouldn’t be on a weekend either. They should be on weekdays. Weekends are for rest and weekdays are for working. Anyone read about the labor movement? In speaking to friends with kids, particularly dual-career couples, travelling over the weekend is not cool.
You know who doesn’t expect you to work on the weekend? NSF. Panels are on WEEKDAYS. You know who else? Europeans. Dagstuhls are run Monday to Friday. ESA is Monday to Wednesday. ICALP is Monday to Friday.
So you know what? If you want to retain more people in our field, and you want to seriously push work-life balance, you shouldn’t plan work events on weekends. Keep them to weekdays.
Oh, the STOC PC meeting was Saturday/Sunday. THANKS.
continued January 18, 2014:
Continued annoyance in regards to the STOC PC. We have been asked, late on a Friday afternoon to pick 2 papers out of a stack of 40 to provide extra reviews. By Sunday at 3PM. Seriously? I know we are all expected to work ALL THE TIME and are supposed to LIKE THAT. But you know what? I don’t. I am tired of this expectation and I would like to protect some time to be free of work commitments. Choosing papers for STOC is not so important that some task needs to be completed in a 2 day span over a weekend.
continued February 6, 2014:
There has been another emergency “feedback needed within 48 hours” emailed out on a Friday evening. This is timely.