This paper reports on research exploring the academic workload and performance practices of Australian universities. This research has identified a suite of activities associated with teaching, research and service, each with an associated time value (allocation). This led to the development of the academic workload estimation tool (AWET). In 2020, to validate the findings, we contacted academics willing to participate further and conducted interviews. We used the AWET to estimate workload for each individual for the previous year and compared it to the workload allocated according to their institutional workload model. Discrepancies were then discussed to ascertain to what extent the AWET was able to capture their work. In general, the participants thought the AWET provided a more realistic estimate of their actual work and highlighted how much is underestimated or unaccounted for by the workload models used within their institutions. It also showed how academic performance policies, focussed primarily on research output, disadvantaged many individuals because they ignored or minimised many scholarly, teaching and service-related tasks inherent in the academic role. Overall, the findings showed the AWET was a useful tool to discuss academic work and assisted them to better capture the complexity and extent of what they did. We offer the AWET as a validated approach for academics to estimate their workload in a holistic and transparent manner. We suggest its implementation institution-wide, along with an aligned performance policy, will facilitate negotiation of reasonable performance expectations. This will rebuild trust in the processes and improve a university’s effectiveness.