“We want to remove the cause of work pressure”
Dr. Roos Schelvis is Senior Policy Advisor ‘Healthy and Safe Working’ at HR. She also researches approaches to workload and work stress in organisations. Together with Rector Magnificus Rutger Engels, she updates us on the Dealing with work pressure project. “We not only want to remove the consequences, but also the causes of work pressure.”
What does the Dealing with work pressure project entail?
“It is a follow-up to the project that took place between 2017 and 2019, in which facilities, such as Work-life balance coaching, were set up for employees who experience stress. The recently introduced option for every employee to have appointments with an OpenUp psychologist also remains. What we aim to do now is to also remove the cause of work pressure.”
How will you do this?
“For example by organising work processes differently. We want to analyse bottlenecks at various layers and come up with solutions together with employees to decrease the workload. Sometimes this concerns the job demands: are there too many tasks or are these unclear? Sometimes it concerns a lack of control options, such as autonomy or support from a manager. It also concerns issues that lie outside our influence, such as the amount of budget the government allocates per employee to deliver education per student. We need to discuss this at a national level. ”
“Tackling work pressure within the organisation is very important to us. We have ambitious objectives in our strategy, such as delivering top performance. Such top performance can only be achieved if employees do not suffer from increasing work pressure. That is why we are going to focus on a preventive solution to work pressure and stress." - Rutger Engels (Rector Magnificus).
How do you find the source of work pressure?
“If someone has many ‘job demands’, as it is known in the literature, they also need to be offered sufficient and appropriate ‘job resources’. Stress symptoms develop if these two do not match up. The starting point is to stimulate managers and employees to discuss this. We use the TNO work pressure model for this. This model enables us to structure discussions between managers and employees so that it becomes clear which factors you need to influence to manage work pressure.”
Can you have such individual discussions with all 3,500 employees?
“Why not? Managers and employees should be meeting anyway to discuss progress, development or salary. I imagine that discussing work pressure is not yet the norm, because it can be difficult. Someone’s personal life may come up, for example. The work pressure model can help here. Layering is what is new in this approach. We recognise that the solution not only lies with the individual, not only with the organisation and not only with the government - rather, we all need to do something to ensure that we can work in a pleasant and healthy way.”
What is the ultimate goal? That people are happy, no longer become ill, or continue to work for EUR longer?
“We want everyone who works for Erasmus University Rotterdam to be able to get the best out of themselves, and that people leave here better than they arrived. Work pressure burnout complaints are a social problem. It’s not just an issue at universities, but is generally prevalent throughout education. Which is why it is so important that we tackle this.”