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PhD experience (and progress) is more than work: life-work relations and reducing exhaustion (and cynicism)

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>25/03/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Studies in Higher Education
Number of pages15
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Prior studies have reported high levels of PhD stress resulting in exhaustion and cynicism related to negative institutional factors. Yet, we know little of the possible influence of personal lives on exhaustion/cynicism. This mixed-methods study examines the interrelation. We drew on exhaustion, cynicism, life-work relation scales and free-write responses about managing life and work of 123 Swiss PhD students. Respondents typically reported positive life-work relations, with this experience particularly buffering exhaustion, which can lead to cynicism and possibly burnout. The analysis of free-write responses supported this view. Respondents reported they largely balanced/managed to balance life and work, with family most frequently referenced in this regard. Finally, we combined the scaled and free-write responses. Individuals, even if reporting exhaustion and negative aspects in their life-work relations, consistently reported being able to combine their career and life goals. This alignment may serve as a mechanism for buffering other life-work and institutional challenges.