Universiteit Leiden

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Reducing work pressure

Work pressure is still high across the entire organisation. Leiden University is not unique in this respect, as all Dutch universities are facing high levels of work pressure. In an effort to reduce work pressure, we have launched a toolkit including practical measures at central, faculty, and individual level. This will hopefully make work pressure easier to address and manage.

Seven focus areas

Leiden University aims to create realistic task assignments, norms for task load, and a good balance between teaching and research tasks. The Leiden University action plan (Dutch only) defines seven focus areas:

  1. Focus on improving resource deployment in the primary process
  2. Reduce regulatory pressure (‘keep it simple’)
  3. Attention for staff resilience and vitality
  4. Organise smarter support for academic staff
  5. Create regulatory space for staff members
  6. Better harness ideas coming from the organisation
  7. To measure is to know: use the staff monitor

Work Balance Community of Practice

The Work Balance Community of Practice is a forum consisting of Faculty and central HR advisers, aimed at exchanging best practices for reducing work pressure. In an effort to translate policy development into practical measures, the Work Balance Community of Practice has started bundling measures into a ‘work pressure toolkit’.

Some of these measures are implemented at University level, such as the ‘Leidse kwartier’ (the practice of starting lectures 15 minutes late) at the start of a meeting, or managers acting as role models. We expect faculties, institutes, and units to use the toolkit to address local bottlenecks.

Work pressure toolkit

The toolkit lists measures that make work pressure more manageable. Faculties, institutes, and units can use the toolkit to formulate their action plans and faculty and other policy. The toolkit is in Dutch.


If you have an idea for reducing work pressure, and you would like to share it with the Community of Practice, please contact your HR adviser.

Approach and initiatives

E-mail free weeks, working hours to be used at the employee’s discretion, and protecting private time: these are some of the measures we implement to reduce work pressure. Other initiatives include

To measure is to know

We use a number of methods to investigate the impact of our policy and initiatives:

This allows us to measure whether the gap between the current and the desired work pressure level is decreasing, overtime hours are being reduced, and the general task load is manageable. We also check whether specific job groups or units are suffering from work pressure, so that we can adjust our policy aims accordingly.

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