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Increase mobility and reduce work pressure: but how?

A high level of work pressure and few opportunities to for personal development or to make a move to a new position. These were two of the major points of concern from the 2015 staff survey. In this article we will highlight a number of measures taken to address these problems. Part three of the series of articles on the findings of the staff survey and what we have done about them.

The University's career policy was given a poor assessment in 2015. The main problem was the opportunities to move to a different type of job and the possibilities of advancing in your career. In that same year a new guideline on career policies for academic staff was drawn up. This guideline broadens the possibilities for promoting people from lecturer to assistant professor: this is now possible on the basis of excellent teaching, in combination with good research. Each faculty or institute now monitors on an annual basis whether this new policy is being implemented.

Broadening mobility

For support and administrative staff (OBP) attempts are being made to broadening mobility within the organisation. It should be easier for staff to change jobs. A mobility coordinator - Alex Vernoooij - was appointed in January this year to oversee this issue.  'Mobility is good for the organisation and good for staff. If gives people new chances and challenges, brings innovation into their work and promotes personal development.' 

Vernooij will be using different practical means for improving mobility. One of his first actions will be to make people more aware of internal vacancies, which are now also distributed by mail. There is also a clear role for the P&D interview between members of staff and their supervisor. 'That's your opportunity to talk about how you see your current job and how you would like to progress in future. This system gives mobility a place in the internal system,'Vernooi explains. 'And anyone who wants to change jobs is always welcome to come and brainstorm about the options. I will be happy to explore the possibilities with you.’

Reducing work pressure

Many faculties and institutes have introduced specific measures to reduce work pressure. PhD candidaes at LACDR scored work pressure higher than average. The underlying cause seemed to be the amount of teaching - particularly practicals - that they do in the Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences programme at the Science Faculty. That gave them a lot of problems dividing their time effectively between their PhD research and teaching. To combat this, it was decided that PhD candidates who have a role in teaching in the Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences programme will have their contract xtended by three months. This will give them the opportunity to carry out th eir extra tasks better and will also reduce the stress they experience in trying to complete their PhD in four years. 

Following the 2015 staff survey, an in-depth exploration was made of the causes of work stress within the Faculty of Humanities. On the basis of interviews and surveys, a ten-point plan has been drawn up that includes such issues as making processes, including teaching processes, less bureaucratic and providing more support in compiling reports of P&D interviews. ‘We addressed the last of these with an improvement process and information about the purpose of these interviews,' HR adviser Brigitte Heming explained. Other issues are still being worked on.  ‘Ringfencing tasks and finding the right balance between teaching and research are still under discussion. We don't have an ideal solution, but we are working on it,' says Heming. ‘The real benefit of this ten-point plan is that the problem of work pressure has become open for discussion. Too high work pressure is not good for staff, nor for the organisation.' 

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