Science - October 23, 2008

Half of workforce feels too much work pressure

Over half of the employees at Wageningen UR experience too much pressure at work. At Van Hall Larenstein the percentage is even higher: VHL scores worse on nearly all aspects than other parts of Wageningen UR. The information comes from the Employee Monitor 2008 the results of which were published on 23 October.

Wageningen UR employees are generally more positive this year than in 2006 when the last survey was held. The feeling of involvement with the organisation is high: almost eighty percent of the employees are proud that they work at Wageningen UR. Fifty-three percent experience the pressure of work as too high.

Most employees are satisfied with the work atmosphere and their immediate managers. But as the distance increases, confidence in management declines. On average, half of the employees say their own directors perform sufficiently well. At the Agrotechnology & Food Sciences Group just over thirty percent feels this way about their directors, and at VHL the figure is just over thirty-five percent. According to seventy-five percent of the respondents, however, the Executive Board is not in touch with what matters on the work floor, and sixty percent have no confidence in the Executive Board's management. At VHL the figure is seventy-five percent.

VHL scores lower than other parts of the organisation on other aspects as well. For example, ninety percent of the VHL employees are of the opinion that cooperation between the various parts of the organisation is not going well, as opposed to fifty percent at Wageningen University and the DLO research institutes.

Starting in November, working groups will take up the issues that are affecting employees’ work satisfaction. The groups will be supported by Henk van den Bergh, head of Human Resource Management at the Social Sciences Group. According to Van den Bergh, employees are generally more positive than in 2006 because Wageningen UR is doing well. ‘The organisation is looking to the future again and all sciences groups are paying a lot of attention to improving management. The positive results also increase self confidence. A few years ago the situation was different: most people regarded themselves as being in an underdog position. That’s what you see now at VHL (the most recent addition to Wageningen UR, Ed.), where people are still in a sort of process of mourning for how things used to be.’

Pressure of work is one of the most important issues where improvement is needed, Van den Bergh thinks. ‘The subject can at least be talked about, but little action has been undertaken to reduce work pressure. Often it’s the feeling of not being able to deal well with the pressure.’ Workshops and training for personnel and managers, realistic project planning and a good division of labour can all help. ‘Many of the processes had already started,’ says Van den Bergh. ‘It’s not that the Employee Monitor has speeded things up. It hasn’t changed anything radically, but we are making moves to get rid of the biggest stumbling blocks.’