Anne Annink was conducting research into the work-private life balance of self-employed people in different countries. The theory came close to home when she suffered a burnout.

You are sitting next to
your uncle at a birthday
party. How do you
explain what your research
is all about?

“The work-private life balance is a challenge for everyone: how do you combine your work with care duties, interests and your social life? Being a self-employed person seems to be very attractive in the sense that you can determine what you do on a given day and the number of hours that you work. The reality is less idyllic, however, because independent workers also face a great deal of uncertainty. Why does one person succeed and the other fail in finding a good balance? It has to do with the individual concerned, the kind of business that he or she is engaged in, the economic situation, cultural characteristics and policy in his or her country.”

What was the absolute low point
during your time as a PhD candidate?

“During a summer school, I had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance because I kept fainting. I started working again immediately after coming home. A few months later, I was lying in the office with my legs raised against the wall. Danny, who shared the room with me, advised me to go home and rest. Only then did I realise that I was suffering from a burnout. “The theory came very close to the practical reality. There is a similarity between being a PhD candidate and being a self-employed person in that you work alone and can largely set your own working hours. While the situation has many positives, I felt lonely at times and considered stopping. I now give workshops on the work-private life balance to PhDs. In addition to theoretical aspects, I discuss my own burnout-related experiences and loneliness. In hindsight, my burnout was therefore also a high point.”

If you had spent these four years
of your life doing something else,
what would that something else
have been?

“One of my plans was to become a very good yoga teacher in South India, but ultimately I would still have become a researcher or a science journalist. I consider it very important to combine theory, knowledge and feelings in my work. Yoga is primarily a means to get in touch with my feelings.”

How did you reward yourself after
completing your PhD thesis?

“I took a sabbatical year, mainly to find out what I wanted to do after being awarded my PhD degree, but I just heard that I will be starting a new job on 1 August. So from 17 March, the date on which I will be awarded my PhD degree, I will have a four-month holiday.”

Anne Annink Busyness around the Business

About the cover

“The blue man – blue being the colour that stands for business – is a one-man band. The bees visualise the buzzing around one’s head. The buzzing refers to the mental identification with one’s work and the importance of a self-employed person’s context. I drew the sketch. The detailed watercolour version is by a Romanian student. It was done through a website on which self-employed people can respond to assignments. It seemed appropriate to me.”