MAASTRICHT. The resolution by the Executive Board to fit in more rest and recovery time in an attempt to lower work pressure, has not been received well by everyone, rector Rianne Letschert said last week during a University Council committee meeting. She received reactions of approval but also some very unpleasant, “nasty” ones.
Before Christmas 2020, the UM closed four days earlier to give employees extra time to rest and recover. These days off – not extra free days, employees had to use their own holidays – went down so well that the Executive Board asked a working group to look into more of these kinds of breaks in the academic year. Fixed moments of holidays appear difficult to organise, but what is possible is making structural agreements on texting and e-mail behaviour in the evenings and weekends, or on preparing meetings outside normal working hours. The working group also advises to take another look at the structure of the academic year.
As far as e-mail and texting goes, this is an important task for those in charge. They should create a culture in which working during your time off, whether this is answering a text message or reading articles, is not required.
All those plans were not welcomed by everyone, the rector said when the minutes were being dealt with. She did receive positive reactions, but also absolutely negative ones. University Council member Mark Govers (academic staff) said that he could imagine this: “You are touching the freedom of academics.” But is that what it is about, Letschert wondered out loud. Only to conclude together with Govers that this wasn’t about academic freedom, but about the “autonomy” of academics.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with e-mails during weekends and evenings, as long as you don’t feel pressured into answering immediately,” said council member Maarten van Wesel (support staff, OBP). “That last bit is difficult,” said the rector, “when your boss sends you that e-mail and everyone else replies, then you should feel free enough not to answer.” Council member Pia Harbers (OBP) solves this by “sending a message when it suits her but adding that she does not expect an answer in the evening or the weekend.”