In response to performance-based demand for increased efficiency and accountability in universities, academic and administrative workloads have increased dramatically over the past ten years. Indeed, this was identified as a common theme across many applications for the SAGE Athena Swan Bronze Awards. 

The onset of COVID-19 has further transformed, disrupted and exacerbated academic and administrative labour, so that the impact of workload intensification and change disproportionately affects particular groups of university employees, notably women. 

The SAGE Special Interest Group (SIG) on Workload recognises then that there is an urgent need for fair and equitable models for managing workload allocation across the sector which challenge and address such inequities, contribute to post–COVID-19 recovery, and empower universities to drive change in this space. 

Adopting a collaborative approach, the Workload SIG has been meeting fortnightly since 7 April 2021 to share insight on practices, problems and possibilities in the development of a fit-for-purpose guide of fair and equitable workload allocation for staff at all levels: the Workload Allocation Principles Matrix.  

The SIG comprises representatives from the SAGE ACT, NSW, QLD, WA and VIC regional networks, and includes professional staff, academic staff and university executives, giving a broad perspective and wealth of knowledge on workload allocation issues. 

We know that every university grapples with how to most efficiently allocate workload across its staff, with different institutions using single or multiple workload models, centralised or localised systems, sophisticated planning tools or simple spreadsheets, all with varying levels of engagement and accountability. The tool does not dictate how workload should be allocated but rather invites open reflection within the institution. 

In this workshop, we will: 

  • Introduce the Workload Allocation Principles Matrix 
  • Describe and deconstruct each principle 
  • Provide attendees with a guide to how the Matrix might be used 
  • Ask representatives to consider how the Matrix might be used and applied in their institutions 
  • Invite reflection on the effectiveness of the Matrix tool 

The feedback from this workshop will contribute significantly to refinement of the Matrix and the ways it can be used in workload allocation conversations, particularly in the current climate of negotiating new enterprise bargaining agreements. 


  • Elizabeth N. Mackinlay, Southern Cross University 
  • Cate Thomas, Charles Sturt University 
  • Tara Magdalinski, Swinburne University