Stressed staff can't get no satisfaction

May 13, 2010

People working in higher education are "dissatisfied with their jobs and careers" and are "stressed at work", according to new research.

Academics from The Open University, the University of Portsmouth and the University of Bedfordshire quizzed more than 2,500 people from four universities for the paper, "The work-related quality of life scale for higher education employees", published by the journal Quality in Higher Education.

Staff were asked questions about job satisfaction, well-being, work-life balance, stress at work, control at work and working conditions using a Work-related Quality of Life (WrQoL) scale devised by Darren Van Laar, a Portsmouth psychologist.

"Overall, higher education employees in the sample are dissatisfied with their jobs and careers, are generally dissatisfied with working conditions and control at work, and report that they are stressed at work," the authors write.

The paper says the WrQoL scale has "psychometric properties" that would be useful to institutions "throughout the UK to evaluate employees' quality of working life".

The authors argue that issues such as career satisfaction, stress and work-life balance must be looked at as a whole.

Increasing well-being would "enhance the delivery of education to students and improve working relationships among work colleagues", they write.

Simon Easton, senior lecturer in psychology at Portsmouth and one of the authors, said: "Studies around the world show work-related stress is widespread in higher education.

"University staff in the UK tend to report that demands are increasing, while support and a sense of having control at work have fallen. Many complain about the rushed pace of work, the lack of respect and esteem, having too much administrative work to do, inadequate support and lack of opportunity for promotion. The psychological stress among university employees appears to be much higher than in other professional groups and the general population."

The WrQoL scale was devised in collaboration with Portsmouth spin-off company QoWL Ltd.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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