Feedback from our Staff Survey in 2022 showed that excessive workload was the single biggest issue causing dissatisfaction.
You told us that your workloads were unpredictable and ever-increasing. The constant pressure was having an impact on your mental and physical health.
Some of you were regularly working weekends and evenings.
A high teaching and administration load for academics was making it difficult for you to pursue your research interests and was leading to 'firefighting' rather than having the time and space to reflect on working practices and make improvements.
Professional Services staff were having to deal with issues such as covering for colleagues, absorbing additional tasks to cover vacant roles, incorporating project or change work on top of day jobs, and managing uneven workloads across the year. These issues meant some staff couldn’t find the time to learn new skills to cope with the demands being made of them.
A sector-wide issue
Identifying the issues behind workload is complex, and solutions need to draw on addressing pressures and ways of working both beyond and inside organisations.
As a sector, we can work as a collective, and as individual universities, we can examine our own pressure points to identify challenges, remove barriers and find better ways to support our staff.
Above all, we know how important achieving a positive workload balance can be to the mental health and wellbeing of our staff, who are the driving force in making our universities such great places to work, research, teach and study.
Professor Tracy Lightfoot, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students
The University Executive Board has committed to resolving the problem of excess workload. A Joint Working Group* has been set up, to engage with the issues and establish an agreed set of principles, policies and procedures.
The group includes representatives from all three campus trade unions, academic departments, Professional Services and HR, and is chaired by board member Professor Tracy Lightfoot, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students.
Our goal is a manageable workload for all employees. We are considering the challenges of workload across all areas of activity, including teaching, research and professional services, as well as within the University's culture as a whole.
- Tracy Lightfoot - Chair, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students
- Iona Rodger - Project Lead, Assistant Director of HR, Specialist Services
- Rachel Dunmore - Project Manager, HR Project Officer, Programmes Office
- Cathy Neligan - Communications support, Content Producer (Internal Comms)
- Andy Dougill - Dean, Faculty of Sciences
- Helen Smith - Head of Department, English and Related Literature
- John Hudson - Deputy Dean of School, School for Business and Society
- Rebekah Desport - Director of Planning and Risk
- Rachael Millhouse - Director of HR
- Tom Banham - Director of Student Administration and Academic Affairs, Student and Academic Services
- Neil Smith - Head of Professional Services Operations
- Natalie Armstrong - Head of Faculty Operations, Faculty of Sciences
- Matthew Badham - Deputy Head of Faculty Operations, Department of Environment and Geography
- Jonathan Fanning - UCU representative, The York Management School
- Michelle Hickman - Unison representative, Department of Economics and Related Studies
- Emma Hague - Unison representative, Finance
- Mike Harman - Unison representative, Student and Academic Services
- Joanna de Groot - UCU representative, Department of History
- Bob Hide - Unite representative, Department of Physics
Our progress so far
We have developed University-wide principles which will provide an overarching direction that Faculties and departments can apply to their own initiatives. The principles will also provide a benchmark for future assessments of workload.
We have gathered some 'quick wins' and we are developing ways to share examples of best practice with staff.
We have highlighted the implications for workload when projects are considered by UEB and Senate, to ensure that careful thought is given to the impact on workload when new initiatives are being planned.
Our next steps will be to develop workload frameworks within academic departments and create action plans for specific initiatives in Professional Services.
The working group will also engage with the Director of Strategic Change, as staff feedback highlighted the University's strategic change programme as an area that is generating workload challenges.
If you want to ask a question or make a contribution to the workstream, please get in touch. You can fill in this form anonymously, or supply your email address if you would like a response.