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University truly acting on workload pressure now


More attention to cooperating in teams, better dialogues with managers, and more expertise in HR departments. Those are some of the measures the UU is taking to reduce the workload pressure within the university, according to an action plan.

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With the new action plan (pdf), the university is honoring the collective agreement with the unions. In June of last year, a deal was struck that said all universities would cooperate with local union representatives to form a plan to battle workload pressure. Many universities took their time, but now, finally, most plans are ready.

In Utrecht, over 40 percent of those questioned feel the workload is too much (33.2 percent) or even way too much (8.9 percent), an employee monitor showed last year. Often-mentioned causes are the combination of several tasks, the pressure to reel in funds, and the pressure to publish. Teachers and researchers in large faculties with many students such as Humanities, Law and Social Sciences say the current workload is unacceptable.

The university starts the action plan by pointing a finger at The Hague. Reducing the financing per student, as well as fewer research subsidies, are the roots of many of the problem, according to the UU. “Within the given context, there are limitations to the measures that can be taken to reduce the workload.”

Still, the UU sees they see possibilities to act on reducing the workload. Strengthening the culture of trust, and increasing employees’ autonomy – something the strategic plan focuses on – should, for one thing, help increase the enjoyment felt at work. The quality of managers is crucial in this, the university says, so that’s what they’re investing in now.

The new action plan names eleven specific and less specific measures that are meant to lead to noticeable results in the next few years. This includes, among others, developing a policy to stimulate collaborations within research groups and departments. Indicators to reward team achievements will also be implemented. Academic departments that want to learn how to divide tasks and responsibilities, can receive coaching.

Workloads also need to become open for discussion at the work floor. Managers need to talk about the subject during performance reviews and team meetings. If they don’t know how to handle this, the university’s HR department can assist.

Other measures are for instance about follow-up research into causes and solutions of workload pressure, and offering training to individual employees. More attention will also be given to temporary teachers, who will receive improved coaching in their career planning.

The idea is to set up a short-term project for each point of action. An overview should be added to the action plan shortly. A first evaluation in early 2019 will show whether additional measures need to be taken.

Translation: Indra Spronk


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