There is a workload crisis at Kingston – excessive workloads are damaging our physical and mental health. Staff are burned out and stressed out.
Permanent staff are contracted to work a maximum of 37.5 hours per week for 43.5 weeks of the year (taking account of regular Academic Leave allowance and Bank Holidays; pro-rata for part-time staff).
However, we are regularly asked, more or less directly, to work above and beyond allocated contracted hours.This includes direct requests mentioning ‘exceptional circumstances’ that are defined in a way that suits the institution at the expense of staff; and indirect requests through working contexts that in effect encourage the self-exploitation of members of staff. An extraordinary circumstance cannot be one that happens every week.
Demands to work over contracted hours (without remuneration or recognition) take advantage of the personal expectations that academic staff have for their own work and the care staff have about their wider role and its implications (educating students to the best of our abilities). Such pressures are exacerbated in the case of fractional and hourly-paid employment, where staff are expected to work on days they are not paid for, or to show over-efficiency in favour of re-employment.
Workload models fail to take account of all the work we do, and use unrealistic calculations for time spent on things like assessment (such as 20 minutes to mark and give feedback on a 2000 word essay or 1.5 hours to mark, give feedback on and moderate a 12-15,000 word MA dissertation).
We are working evenings and weekends, over fractions and scheduled hours, without being paid for it. This has to stop. It’s time to reclaim our time.
This is not just about our health, wellbeing and safety, and preventing and reducing work-related stress. Studies have repeatedly shown addressing excessive workloads improves productivity.
Kingston UCU have drafted a letter that can be shared in communications with line managers over excessive workloads and unreasonable demands on our time.
In recognition and solidarity, staff can also add the following to e-mail signatures, so that others are aware of your working practices and to encourage other academic staff at Kingston University and elsewhere to embrace more positive working practices for our personal wellbeing. Please add the first statement. If you feel comfortable, please also add the second:
Regardless of the time or day when you receive this e-mail, I do not expect you to respond outside of your normal working hours.
In an effort to enhance my mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing, I am working to my weekly contracted hours with Kingston University and would encourage other academic staff both here and elsewhere to do the same.
Further resources on workload campaigning are available on the national UCU website: www.ucu.org.uk/workloadcampaign
To help build and develop this campaign at Kingston Get Involved