Work pressure and work stress have featured high on the Executive Board’s agenda for quite some time now and in conjunction with the joint trade unions an Action Plan has been drafted to reduce both.
Yesterday the topic was also addressed in the Dialog session about the course of TU/e towards 2030. A student quota has already been assigned to four study programs for the next academic year. Rector Frank Baaijens reported that by now the maximum intake figures for all programs have been set and that if these are exceeded the application to impose an intake restriction will be considered seriously. “Although we are fully aware that this is a controversial subject, we certainly do not exclude it if we want to attain the lecturer-student-ratio of 1:17”, says Baaijens. “For while student numbers at TU/e have doubled over the past ten years, the proportion of our academic staff (WP) has remained virtually the same.”
Gerard Verhoogt, who cooperated in the plan on behalf of the joint unions, is convinced that the measures proposed will help to reduce the work pressure. Verhoogt says that the unions adopted a tough “but constructive” stance in the negotiations in order to insist on attention being given to the administrative and support staff as well (OBP). Over the past few years the Executive Board has emphasized several times that any extra resources would be invested especially in education and the recruitment of lecturers. Verhoogt: “The growth in the number of students also has a strong impact on the OBP, which has to grapple with other problems than the WP. More students here simply implies more work, and often complaints are heard about a lack of clarity about what exactly needs to be done. And you should not forget the impact which the reorganization of the education support has had on a large group of OBP members.”
The unions are pleased that the plan has been presented now and Verhoogt indicates that there are great expectations of the training sessions for managers. “Those training sessions are aimed at making teams function better. Managers need to be open about what they expect from the team, they must consult more within the team and must also dare to say no when an extra task would just be too much. For that is precisely what occurs regularly now: people will take on extra tasks, develop stress and eventually drop out with a burn-out. However, that person’s tasks do have to be taken over and substitutes have to be shown the ropes. That also takes time again and thus results in more work pressure.”
Research Support Network
One important measure to relieve the work pressure among WP members is the support that will be provided by the Research Support Network in the writing of project proposals. Other measures include the upgrading of educational duties and the reduction of the administrative work pressure. In the Risk Inventory and Assessment (RI&E) of two years back one important cause of the high work pressure that was mentioned was the combination of research and education. This particularly concerned activities relating to the organization of education. The new WP policy of TU/e is aimed at deploying staff members in areas where their talents are done the most justice, starting from the components education, research, valorization and organization. According to the plan, certain initiatives in this respect have already been unfolded at various departments. ‘What the fruits of this will be, must become clear within a number of years’, as the text says.
Executive Board member Jo van Ham says that whilst there were already a number of measures in place to tackle the pressure of work, “these sometimes lacked coherence. This plan is combining all those activities, and a great many good new initiatives are added. We are confident that the tailor-made approach will lead to a substantial improvement.” Verhoogt expects that once the measures have been implemented properly, the next RI&E will clearly show a significant reduction of the work pressure.