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Faculty of Science takes action against high work stress

The Faculty of Science has presented an infographic with tips and tricks for work stress. The reason for this was the Personnel Monitor 2018, which showed that work pressure is a problem for many employees at the Faculty. ‘It is important to start the discussion about work pressure, and to break the existing taboos,’ says Head of Human Resources Valérie Héraud-Lagro.

Faculty scores well, but not on work stress

In mid-2018, the results were published of the Personnel Monitor, the monitor that measures the satisfaction of the employees of Leiden University. The Faculty scored well on issues such as autonomy, satisfaction, and social inclusiveness, but scored less on work stress - a trend that is visible throughout the University. As a result, the Faculty Board decided to work on the subject. ‘I then sat down with former Dean Geert de Snoo, asking: how exactly are we going to discuss this,’ says Héraud-Lagro. ‘It’s a taboo subject and it’s very diverse and complex.’

Open and friendly sessions

They decided to hold sessions with all the institutes, in which they could share experiences in an approachable way. What is the reason for the work stress? What are you running into? These were the central questions during the sessions, which, according to Héraud-Lagro, were ‘very open and easy-going’. Employees from five job groups were invited from each institute: secretaries, professors, Dutch-speaking associate professors, non-Dutch-speaking assistant and associate professors, and PhD students.

Work stress: positive or negative?

‘It became clear from the sessions that there are actually two types of work pressure: positive and negative. If, for example, you have a lot to do, but you get satisfaction out of it, it’s not a problem.’ According to Héraud-Lagro, it is therefore important to think: ‘Does my work give me enough satisfaction?’ She also mentions other insights from the session. ‘Some of the attendees said that there is a taboo on discussing work pressure. In addition, work pressure is very personal, everyone deals with it differently. Perfectionism, for example, plays a role in this. And some people just feel that work pressure is part of the job.’ It also emerged from the discussions that temporary contracts cause uncertainty and stress among academic staff.

Use the infographic as a conversation starter

The most important insights and tips on how to deal with work stress have been collected in an infographic. ‘We hope that this infographic will help to start the discussion about work stress,’ says Héraud-Lagro. The infographic explains the definition of work stress, the causes of work pressure and stress, and tips for dealing with work stress. ‘We see that there are also employees who suffer from perfectionism. That’s difficult, but we try to communicate that good is also good enough,’ she says. ‘In addition, communication is an important topic on the infographic. Talk to your manager, set limits and explain clearly what your expectations are. Unclear expectations can cause stress. And not unimportant: celebrate successes with your colleagues!’            

The role of the manager

Héraud-Lagro also emphasises the influence of a manager. ‘Managers have a signalling role, an exemplary role, and a supporting role. They are ultimately the ones who motivate employees or bring matters up for discussion. And they recognise the signs of work stress, such as insomnia, persistent headaches, faster irritation or extreme fatigue. It is therefore really important to take action as a manager and not to let things run their course. And that’s what we want to do as a Faculty, by coaching the manager in this.’

Getting started

In the coming period, the Faculty will be actively working on the theme of work stress. For example, a leaflet will be made for managers, containing information on how to recognise an upcoming burnout. Héraud-Lagro: ‘In addition, I presented our findings, including the infographic, to the Scientific Directors, the Institute Managers, the Heads of the support departments and the Faculty Board. All parties recognise the discussion and agree that a follow-up is needed.’ That is why the HR advisers, together with the Institute Managers and Scientific Directors, will come together in January to see what is needed within the institutes and to come up with a plan of action. The Faculty Board also takes a closer look at the organisation and its own role within it. It will focus on issues such as job (in)security, appreciation for employees and the balance between control and letting go.

Questions, suggestions or remarks? Contact Valérie

Know your way around!

Do you experience problems at work?

  • Discuss them with your manager.
  • Can’t solve it with your manager? You can always contact the HR department.
  • Can’t fix it with HR either, or do you prefer to speak to one of the confidential counsellors? Then contact them. An appointment with the confidential adviser is always free of charge and confidential.

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