Overwork fraying nerves at the OU

November 7, 1997

OPEN University staff are suffering stress and ill-health as a result of overwork, the university's own internal audit has discovered, writes Phil Baty.

The report, Health, Stress and Well-Being, discovered a "generally lowered state of psychological health, compared with the rest of the population".

The document, which comes a year after The THES first revealed that the OU planned to shed jobs and reduce its regional structure after moving from a Pounds 9 million surplus into deficit, said that high stress levels were caused by "change in the way HE is managed and funded".

OU director of personnel Philip Marsh said: "Increasingly staff are having to work harder to meet demanding targets."

"The senior management team accepts these findings and is committed to carrying through an action plan to deal with both the symptoms and the cause."

Academic, research and professional staff said they had too many work demands and too much job insecurity, the audit found. Secretarial and clerical staff were unhappy about their low status.

OU health and safety manager Kate Lobley said: "There were clear signs of rising stress levels in the past two years. We have a proactive health and safety programme."

The survey of 1,915 staff at the OU's Milton Keynes headquarters and its regional centres,produced by an independent consultant, covered 58 per cent of the entire OU staff of 3,300.

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