You can always tell when it’s Friday in my office – you can see the metaphoric tumbleweed blowing across our open-plan offices; this is possibly not helped by the wonderfully long Easter weekend, we just had for which some people tagged on some additional leave. And where I work it was wonderfully long, as the university was shut from Thursday to Wednesday.
I was discussing the length of Easter holidays with a colleague from another university, which was only shut from Thursday to Monday; whilst I know of another university which is shut only from Friday to the Monday (the bank holidays). For both of these universities, they are both post-1992 universities in which there is the standard 35 days annual leave, whilst at mine, it is 30 days annual leave. Perhaps, the need for additional university closure days is not expected in post-1992 universities as these can be taken from annual leave.
I know anecdotally that academics are often reluctant to take annual leave or feel guilty except during the acceptable holiday times (i.e. Christmas, July & August) particularly when they are aware their line managers would be in the office or it is term time*. Therefore, considering that recent studies reported in the Times Higher Education confirm that academics face a high level of stress and workaholism particularly young female academics** then perhaps it is part of the duty of care of universities to have specific closure days***. Closure days demonstrate that the universities are sanctioning time off and therefore does not make any academic feel guilty for having time off. It, therefore, encourages a work-life balance and less of a workaholism culture which hopefully will pay dividends to the university in having healthier and lowered stressed staff who have genuine pleasure, enjoyment and intrinsic motivation to do their work.
* I am particularly lucky (or unlucky?) – as an academic developer I teach all year around, so I take leave at any time that best suits my timetable which can be sometimes in the middle of the traditional teaching time.
** I’m pushing the boundary of being young – but let’s pretend that I still am!
*** Universities usually tend to close because of energy efficiencies but this is a good reason as well.