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Workload Survey final report

The UCU branch undertook a survey on workload in the autumn, which was publicised to all staff by HR/People Services. The prompt for this was anecdotal evidence of a severe and ongoing workload problem, and fear this might increase after the recent round of voluntary severance.

Initial findings are now available (view report) and support these concerns, while also confirming and contextualising some of the relevant responses on ‘stress’ reported in the Staff Engagement Survey.

The published report focuses on the 641 responses from the respondents who are not ALs, while a separate report from the Workload Group is in progress on the issues raised by ALs (150 respondents). The latter will inform the AL Contract transition planning.

We are very pleased to report the university has committed to a joint action plan to understand and tackle workload issues, including at a unit and sub-unit level, and we are looking together at the recommendations in the report. The Workload Group will update UCU members soon about next steps.

Unfortunately the response rate did not allow us to release sub-unit results, which we know is disappointing. However, we can see from the overall results that workload issues are currently endemic in many areas, and this preliminary evidence is a very helpful starting point. Again, we will be working closely with People Services to conduct further information gathering and action plans in local areas. This is very much the beginning of the process, not the end.

The key findings in this report are:

  • The average member of staff reports working 116% of their contracted hours in a typical working week (so an additional +16% over and above their contract).
  • 78% of respondents say their workload is heavier, or significantly heavier than they would like it to be.
  • Over the last 6 months, 61% report that they often find it difficult to compete their workload within their contracted hours (with ‘often’ being defined as at least a quarter of the time). Within this, 32% say that this is the case very often (defined as occurring at least half of the time).

Of those who reported an excessive workload:

  • 73% have coped with this by working longer hours
  • 72% say that it has negatively affected their physical and mental health
  • 54% have reduced personal development activities which are relevant to their current role, and 35% report that they have reduced their annual leave, in order to deal with their workload.
  • Academic staff who reported an excessive workload say they are spending less time on research (54%), and taking less study leave (72%). This is despite the fact that this is a key period for preparation for the Research Excellence Framework (REF2021).       

UCU, both locally and nationally, remains committed to tacking the issues of chronic overwork, and the health impacts of overwork for our members. We look forward to working constructively with management to identify concrete steps we can take as an organisation to address what this report makes clear is a systemic, University wide issue.

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