The Ikeaisation of society and one day in the life of an academic

Ikea: choose your own items, fill in your own forms, collect the items yourself, put them in your own car, drive them home and fit them yourself = low overheads and staffing costs, and maximum profit for the store (also see the McDonaldization of Society).

31st October 2012. I arrived at work at 8.25am today. I stayed overnight in the Travelodge because I now live 160 miles from my place of work and stay over two nights (working at home two days a week). The first thing I do is print off and fill in a claim form for the external examining job I have been doing. Why can’t I simply be paid, without having to fill in and send off my own claim form? This involves locating the form on the relevant web site, printing it off, walking down the corridor to the printer to collect the form (because I no longer have one in my office), then going up three floors to get an envelope and to put the letter in the mail.

I then go back down to my office, get my milk, my bowl and oats, take the lift to the fourth floor (with my water bottles to fill while I’m there), make my breakfast in the microwave, take it, scorching hot, down to the third floor and eat it in the student common room, because we no longer have a staff common room. While upstairs I check my post and throw most of it in the bin.

It’s now gone 9am, and I’m ready to start work properly. Two students who had arranged to see me at 10am have cancelled so I have until 10.30am to get some things done. I spend a bit of time looking for some references for a student doing her dissertation on young women and body image. I then try to arrange flights to a conference in Tel Aviv in January. First, find the university travel agents from our web pages, give up and ask the secretary, she sends me a phone number for them, I call them to get their email address, then email them the details. I’ll wait for a reply, then will need to ask the secretary to arrange payment as it is coming from my grant (wouldn’t it make sense to simply tell a secretary what I need in the first place?). Once those flights are sorted I will then need to sort the hotel. Next I check that the laptop I have brought from home will correctly play the video I am showing tomorrow and that I have the right cables I need. This is because not all of our teaching rooms have the necessary equipment, and though we can borrow department laptops we need to go and collect them from the top floor in advance of the lecture and when you have a 9am start this can be tricky. By the way, we have to find out for ourselves which rooms have which equipment in advance of giving lectures (check the web site). Wouldn’t it be easier if all rooms were properly equipped and fitted with instructions for use and a phone so that lecturers can call technicians if they get into difficulty? It turns out I don’t have all the cables I need, so later today I have to go and get a laptop ready for my 9am lecture tomorrow.

The rest of the day: see students about dissertations and worrying about their coursework, and have personal tutor meetings, between 10.30am and 12noon. I am supposed to keep a record of all these meetings on the web site but there just isn’t time. 12-2 we have a sociology group meeting to discuss who will be teaching what next term (good job I bought salad last night and have brought it with me for lunch today). 2-4pm we have a department staff meeting (last week at this time we had a school staff meeting!). After that I print off some slides that I am using next week for a presentation in Oxford, so that I can work on them at home. Then I spend some time looking for articles on well-being and multiculturalism because I have to write a paper on that for the conference in Israel. In the evening I grab a quick bowl of noodles in the noodle bar near the hotel, and then read the notes for my lecture tomorrow to remind myself what I am going to be talking about. I calculate I have worked 11 hours today with one short break for a bit of breakfast. Tomorrow will not be much different, and there are already loads of emails that I didn’t manage to deal with today, and this was a day with no teaching!

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