Research conducted by psychologists at QoWL shows that academics are experiencing higher levels of stress than other occupational groups within universities. However, the research also clearly demonstrates that working environments and well-being are more important factors than stress levels in determining quality of working life.
Dr Darren Van Laar, QoWL Researcher, comments: “We found that, in general, academics are more stressed than other occupational groups such as managers, research, admin and support staff within universities. However, the level of stress in universities did not predict quality of working life as strongly as other work life issues.
QoWL found very wide variation between Britain’s universities. A key question was why the variability occurs and what sets some universities apart in terms of the quality of working environments. Of the UK universities that contributed to QoWL’s research in 2007, the University of Huddersfield ranked highest for quality of working life.
Dr Van Laar explains: “Most Huddersfield staff rated their university as having excellent working conditions, with modern, well-equipped buildings and facilities. They saw their university as a flexible employer, promoting a good work life balance. Staff generally reported high levels of job satisfaction and highly rated their opportunities for development.”
The research shows that satisfaction with working conditions was highly correlated with quality of working life, and comments from university employees showed the relative importance of the physical working environment such as buildings, temperature, comfort and equipment, and ease of getting to and from work including transport, travelling time and parking.
Dr Van Laar concludes: “Overall, the results indicate that general well-being, working conditions, support from your manager and relationships with colleagues all tend to be more important than stress in predicting quality of working life in the university staff population. Academic staff in the highest scoring universities also report higher levels of autonomy and control and this may be buffering the negative effects of stress.”
Work life balance and opportunities for development were also important issues. Universities with higher overall quality of working life scores appeared to be perceived by their employees as being genuinely flexible and accommodating about the need to balance home and work life. People who worked in universities that scored highly on quality of working life felt much better in themselves in terms of their psychological and physical health.