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UT employees highly dedicated and experiencing a high workload

A welfare survey has been conducted among UT employees in recent months. The results show that employees are dedicated and committed to their work. The survey also revealed that workloads have significantly increased in the last four years and that more UT employees experience a too high workload.

The balance between work involvement and work pressure appears fragile and requires serious attention from the university board and management. Among others, for this reason the Executive Board has decided to participate in the new pilot project and appoint a university Ombuds Officer. The Board also plans to carefully examine a recently published report on the subject of healthy practices in the Dutch PhD system and work on shaping the university’s own action plan for tackling heavy workloads (only Dutch).

Key results of welfare survey
UT employees are generally relatively satisfied and give their jobs an average mark of 7.2 on a scale of 1 to 10. This mark has to do with a high degree of dedication, involvement with their teams and the degree of freedom employees experience in their positions at the university.

The welfare study was combined with an exploration of unexplained absences. Although absenteeism has steadily increased in recent years, at 3.37% it is still lower compared to other sectors. However, a trend can be observed in a number of groups. This is demonstrated by an increase in unexplained absence in our female doctoral candidates (in 2018 4,9% and in 2016 3,40%) and in our male lecturers (4,89% in 2018 and 1,99% in 2016). But several support departments also show a higher degree of unexplained absence than the UT average. Other marked results were observed in the faculty of Behavioural Management and Social Sciences (4,48% in 2018 towards 4,66% in 2017), the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) (3.28% in 2018, coming from 2.18% in 2017) in Human Resources department (6.91% in 2018, coming from 9.62% in 2017) and in Library, IT Services & Archive department (LISA, (7.49% in 2018, coming from 4.80% in 2017). A clear explanation for these developments is not easy to give. Often there are several factors involved. Every situation is unique. In many cases it is a matter of personal circumstances, in combination with work-related factors, such as changes due to digitization, work pressure-related factors or a reorganization.

An increase in the experienced workload was also observed. For example, 44% of respondents (47%) say their workload is far too high, compared to 35% in 2015. This situation is not unique to the University of Twente but occurs at all universities in the Netherlands. All Dutch universities are responding to this issue by drawing up action plans for managing heavy workloads. For many years, various parties have lobbied for more resources in beta sciences and technology, in order to solve the capacity problem in education. The published Van Rijn committee advice appears to be a step in the right direction.

Finally, the welfare survey provides insight into the extent to which employees experience unacceptable behaviour. At the University of Twente, 14% of the survey’s respondents (47%) indicate that they have experienced some form of unacceptable behaviour at work in the last two years. This percentage is much lower than the impression given in the FNV Dutch Trade Union Confederation report on university staff experiences in unsafe working environments. Nevertheless, the Executive Board is carefully reviewing the results from the welfare study and will be collecting feedback for organizational improvements in the coming weeks.
In addition to joining the financial lobby, working to improve workloads and contributing to healthy practices in the Dutch PhD system, the university is also actively promoting prevention of unacceptable behaviour. Mirjam Bult, Vice President of the Executive Board, explains: “The University of Twente wants to provide a socially safe environment for everyone. Respect, integrity, honesty and consideration for others are all part of the norms of behaviour that are expected in this kind of environment. Any form of unacceptable behaviour, such as inappropriate sexual behaviour or other forms of intimidation, aggression, bullying or discrimination, is unacceptable. Every single person who experiences unacceptable behaviour is one too many, as far as we’re concerned. We have high expectations of our future Ombuds Officer and hope that our employees will feel comfortable in reporting any issues to the right office and will familiarize themselves with our complaints procedure and integrity regulations and codes.”

For more information about integrity at UT please go to www.utwente.nl/integrity

Find the entire report here: “Work commitment and work pressure: still balanced? A study into the well-being of UT employees.”

Contact: Bertyl Lankhaar, Spokesperson of the Executive Board, mobile no.: 0620027435