Making family leave more family friendly

It’s no secret that juggling a family and a career is far from easy. But early-career academic researchers hoping to start a family have it harder than most. Fixed-term contracts, less-than-sympathetic funders and the need to stay ‘in the game’ make family leave a nervous time. But there are ways to make it work.

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The UK Research Staff Association recently undertook a survey of researchers on fixed-term contracts, to explore their experiences of taking family leave.

I then worked with the UKRSA – on a pro bono basis – to analyse the results of the survey.

This allowed us to identify how researchers can get the most from their family leave, without feeling that they’re sacrificing their career.

We were also able to determine some simple steps that employers can take to manage researchers’ family leave in a supportive way.

We’ve summarised the findings from our work in a short ‘top tips’ guide for researchers and their employers. You can download your free copy here or find the guide on the UKRSA website.

I’m always keen to use my skills to help with projects like this, which make a real difference to people in the sectors in which I work. If you have a project that you think I might be able to help with, please do feel free to drop me a line.

Understanding university finance

UUF ImageI’m delighted to announce that the British Universities Finance Directors Group’s new guide to ‘Understanding University Finance’ has just been published.

I’ve been working with colleagues at BUFDG for the last few months to prepare this guide, which is essential reading for all those who want – or need – to understand higher education finance.

You can download the guide for free on the BUFDG website. You can also read Matt Sisson’s blog post, explaining why the guide is both timely and important.

Huge thanks to all of the reviewers, who kindly gave of their time and expertise to help to make the guide better. And to BUFDG, for asking me to write it in the first place.

Calling all sportspeople…

This survey is now closed. Thank you to all those individuals and clubs who submitted a response. I’ve very grateful for your participation in and engagement with the study.

I’m currently working with Sport England to help the organisation to review the effectiveness of its ‘Clubmark’ sports club accreditation scheme and to explore options for its future operation.

We’re keen to know what sports clubs and activities think about the scheme and how they feel it could better support them. To this end, we’ve developed a short online survey for all sports clubs and activities, regardless of whether or not they have engaged with Clubmark.

If you’re part of a sports club or activity, or know someone who is, please make sure your club completes the survey. It’ll take less than ten minutes and will help Sport England to provide your club and your sport with the support it needs.

You can find the survey here.

Learn how academic workload modelling can work for you

Academic workload modelling is an approach to understanding how members of academic staff spend their time when they are at work, from teaching and research to management, administration, academic citizenship and other activities.

It’s one of those things that universities and other higher education institutions and providers frequently feel that they should be doing, without really being sure why. And when they have a model, they’re not always entirely sure what to do with it.

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This is why I’ve written the Sockmonkey Guide to Academic Workload Modelling.

This how-to guide seeks to lift the lid on the workload modelling process, to consider what a workload model can – and cannot – achieve and to explore how an effective workload model can be developed in practice.

It also, critically, looks at how institutions can use their workload models to improve what they do, to be more efficient in how they work and to bring about positive change for their people.

The guide is free to download in PDF form.

I’ve also developed a basic workload model template in Microsoft Excel format, which institutions can use to get a feel for how a model might work. You can download the template here.

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I’ve released it under a Creative Commons license, so you can also play around with it and tailor it to your own needs.

And I’ve developed a suite of support packages for individual academic departments, faculties or institutions, too, which help them to design, develop and implement robust workload models. You can read about these packages and how they could help you in this brochure.

Please do let me know if you find the guide and/or the template useful. And if you’d like to discuss workload modelling in more detail, or to share your own experiences, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Evidence, evidence, evidence

I’m a big fan of evidence-based decisions. But the number of people who feel the same way I do appears to be on the wane. Whether it’s fake news, dubious think tank reports or unsubstantiated political claims, the idea of being able to support what we say and do with actual facts seems to have lost its appeal. Well, that’s not how we roll here at Sockmonkey HQ. And here’s what I’m doing about it. Continue reading