IN DEALING WITH WORK PRESSURE, IT IS IMPORTANT NOT ONLY TO DEAL WITH THE STRESSORS BUT ALSO TO ENSURE THAT THERE ARE SUFFICIENT ENERGY SOURCES AT WORK. THE RESEARCH YIELDED THE FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATIONS FOR UNIVERSITIES TO FOLLOW.
In order to deal with work pressure in practice, a number of potential solutions or related directions have been established.
• Review within teams how to divide up work as best as possible, so everyone is working on the things at which they are best.
• Change the way of dealing with the acknowledgement and appreciation of academic staff, focusing less on research (number of publications) and more on such things as teaching and impact.
• Make policy choices that fall within the financial framework. The ambitions, performance standards and task requirements must be balanced with the available resources. The policy choices must be comprehensively assessed in their entirety.
• Exchange experiences of implementing work pressure plans, so universities are able to learn from each other and good examples from practice can be shared.
Investigate how the administrative burden can be relieved, provide additional support and/or task others with certain administrative duties.
• Pay attention to specific target groups; older staff and academic staff experience greater regulatory burden.
• Use any available support at the sector level, such as agreements between the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science on the one hand and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) on the other as set out in the 2018 research universities sector agreement (Sectorakkoord wetenschappelijk onderwijs 2018) on relieving the regulatory burden.
In order to deal adequately with all the changes at work and in the working environment, it is important that staff keep their competences up to date. These competences do not just concern being able to execute the current profession, but also more general ones which are important if another type of work were to be undertaken.
• Supervisors and managers can encourage staff to work on their development by bringing up the topic and making agreements about it (e.g. taking a training course, or taking on new/other work or duties).
• Supervisors and managers can aid staff in developing an insight into their competences as well as qualities by showing them how they can be used elsewhere, whether at the university or outside it.
• Universities can ensure that employees are aware of the possibilities on offer at their university for facilitating and supporting staff career development as well as employees’ personal development.
• Agreements have been made in the collective labour agreement (CAO NU) on the development of support and management staff (ondersteunend en beheerspersoneel, OBP). Staff with a permanent contract stay in their position for 4–6 years and work on their development during this period or take the next step in their career.
It is important that staff experience a certain degree of independence at work and in the way that they execute their duties. This study shows that the vast majority of research university staff is either satisfied or very satisfied with the degree of independence which they experience at work – maintaining this independence is imperative.
• Universities can increase or enhance staff autonomy; for example, by involving them in decision-making, offering them the opportunity to take the initiative and by engaging with them on the working methods at the institution (why do we do things the way that we do them).