'Now looking at appropriate local measures'

| Rense Kuipers

The results of the employee survey in times of crisis cannot be captured in one single picture. UT employees got more on their plate and worked overtime, but are more satisfied than last year. A follow-up survey is in the pipeline, says human resources director Hans Oeloff.

Photo by: Arjan Reef
HR director Hans Oeloff.

The survey was conducted last summer, hasn't a new reality already caught up with us?

‘The time frame is clear. We deliberately chose to take the survey in the summer, in order to take the situation of the previous months into account and before moving to a new situation in September with 40% occupancy on campus. Also, it is a well-being survey. We want to measure the well-being of staff and students anyway. We can compare these results with a year ago.'

Can a general conclusion be drawn?

'Not one, but several. Working from home had its advantages and disadvantages. Employees had a bit more work and also a bit of other work. Given the increase in overtime, they spread their work out over more hours. A large proportion, 65%, also says: after corona, I want to keep working from home, at least for part of the working week. It is also clear that employees mainly missed their colleagues.

The response rate is high at 54%. And we were able to compare these results with the employee survey of 2019; satisfaction increased and the workload decreased slightly across the board compared to last year. It is also good to note that the vast majority indicates that the UT responded adequately to the crisis.’

The main findings

  • 55% of the respondents indicate that the amount of work increased, especially teaching staff and managers.
  • 71 percent were able to continue to carry out most or all of their work
  • Two-thirds of the respondents want to continue to work partly from home in the future. Most of them prefer one or two days a week.
  • Top 3 positive effects of working from home: less travel time, taking a break when possible, ability to concentrate
  • Top 3 negative effects of working from home: colleagues not seeing as much as they want, being more 'stuck' to the computer, getting less exercise than on campus
  • Experienced health remained the same for 61%. 12% of respondents said they had better health. 27% said their health declined.
  • 70% are happy with the UT measures. The UT receives an overall 'score' of 7.6. This is 0.4 higher than last year's employee survey.

You can read the entire report here.

Can the increased satisfaction be attributed to this?

'In any case, we try to arrive at the best possible considerations, with guidance from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and agreements at sector level. In the end, what matters is the health of our people. The fact that 70% say that the UT has done well reinforces our judgement. Even if you make a comparison with other universities, I think we took good measures: a lot of work could go on, we had a week to convert education to online and everyone within the organisation worked extremely hard.'

It is striking that the academic staff, where the work pressure was already high, reported increased work pressure...

‘This has to do with the switch to fully online teaching. Yes, it is true that the total amount of work has increased as a result of the crisis and that some groups are more affected than others. However, we do not know what the knock-on effect of the crisis has been. We hope to compare that in a later study, because the total workload has decreased compared to 2019. There are many initiatives, mechanisms and support to improve conditions. We will continue with those.'

60% of teaching staff indicate that they notice a reduction in the quality of their own teaching by working online. Is that not as bad as it sounds?

‘That's a question of conscience. I think we as an organisation are doing our best to provide the best possible education and research. I think that we at UT are succeeding well within the possibilities that we had and have at the moment. This research also measures the period in which we quickly made the switch to working and studying online. We also need to get used to that and learn from it. And we will continue to monitor the long-term effects of online education.'

Vulnerable groups can also be identified. Employees under 40 are more negative about their health. And young researchers, as previously reported by the Young Academy, are struggling with uncertainty...

'I think that the crisis situation imposed more restrictions on young people in particular, especially on a social level. The uncertainty among young researchers is also a logical consequence. You're just starting out, you're already a little uncertain about your future and then suddenly the world turns upside down. It has our attention, although there's also an important role for direct supervisors and managers.'

The recommendations from the study boil down to a plea for customisation, what is going to happen in that area?

'Above all, the researchers say: see what is needed for each specific group. They also indicate that managers and supervisors have an important role to play in this. Over the next few months, the researchers, together with the work pressure task force, will visit all units to look at appropriate local measures.'

What will be done with the results?

'The report contains recommendations that have already been taken up. Over the past period, we have also rolled out all kinds of other initiatives, schemes and support, including in the area of welfare. As far as working from home is concerned, there is now a portal on which information can be found on how to set up the ideal home workplace. You can also purchase resources on this portal. For the long term, we are working on a home-working policy. The signal that emerges from this study is clear; now we need to think about what that policy will look like. And there will be a follow-up research, because well-being is a topic that's not only high on the priority list because of corona.'

Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.