Further education workers face low wellbeing and high stress, poll shows


Further education workers have reported low wellbeing levels across all seven aspects of working lives as defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

A report, Taking Its Toll: Rising stress levels in further education, found that 87 per cent of 2,250 staff working in further education colleges now find their jobs stressful – up from 78 per cent in 2012.

Furthermore, 89 per cent said that they were worn out after a day at work, while 68 per cent said they often had to perform tasks they considered unreasonable.

Fifty-three per cent often or always felt pressurised into working long hours, while 80 per cent reported having to work intensively often or all of the time.

Other problems uncovered in the survey – by the University and College Union (UCU) – included unachievable deadlines and time pressures, a lack of flexibility in how staff are allowed to work, and a lack of consultation about changes

The survey used the HSE’s Management Standards Indicator Tool to calculate scores across the seven HSE hazard categories based on survey responses to a range of questions.

The results show that further education has the lowest wellbeing across all seven categories when compared to other target HSE industries – with change, workload, and lack of control being the most stressful factors.

Further education’s scores as compared against the target industries average are shown below (lower scores on the 0 to 5 scale denote more distress relating to each dimension):

  • Change: 2.24 vs 3.54

  • Demands/workload: 2.3 vs 3.44

  • Control: 2.69 vs 3.32

  • Managers’ support: 2.7 vs 3.77

  • Peer support: 3.42 vs 4.03

  • Relationships: 3.43 vs 4.13

  • Role clarity: 3.48 vs 4.61

The biggest rise in stress levels since the 2012 survey was in response to how change is managed and communicated. The survey found that 70 per cent agreed that too many changes had been introduced in their institution and 90 per cent wanted to see a period of stability in the sector.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The report details how a lack of stability in the sector is one of the main causes of huge stress for staff. The sector and the people who work in it desperately need some stability.

“We appreciate a lot of the change has been imposed on colleges from above but this survey also tells us that the way change is being managed and communicated within colleges is a significant source of stress for employees.  

“Add to this workloads that many feel are untenably high and a lack of control over working practices and you have a recipe for disaster.”


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