“When is the UM going to adopt a four-day working week?”

“When is the UM going to adopt a four-day working week?”

Employees can ask management anything during the first Ask Me Anything session


MAASTRICHT. Anything could be asked during the online Ask Me Anything session with president Rianne Letschert and deans Jan Smits (Law) and Harald Merckelbach (Psychology and Neurosciences) last Friday. Well, anything? Questions had to be related to one of the two themes of the session: Future of working at UM and Sustainable Employability, named after the working groups of the same names, chaired by Smits and Merckelbach, respectively.

The managers themselves were also limited to some extent: they had to answer within (approximately) one minute. Firstly: when is the UM going to change from a five-day to a four-day working week? “That is an option that we will have to create,” said Merckelbach. “Work pressure is more than just the amount of work. It is also important that people have control over how they do their job. When you give them the opportunity to work fewer days or to work from home, you give them control.” “We need to pay constant attention to this,” Smits added. “Within our working group, we speak of the ABC: Autonomy, Balance (between work and private life) and Connection (with colleagues and the university). That balance is very important here too. That is why we want to give people the tools to help them maintain that separation when they work from home.”

Some questions were primarily practical. When can we order furniture for our home office? “At the beginning of May.” Can the UM offer free courses in Dutch for foreign employees? “We already do that.” 

Other questions concerned the university’s vision. Is the UM really an international and inclusive university? “We have come far, but there is still a lot we can do,” said Letschert. “What I often hear from international staff members is that they are not familiar with the informal routes. There are unwritten rules that the Dutch know about and they don’t. With ‘Recognition and Rewarding’ we want to make the routes, such as the one towards a PhD, as open and transparent as possible, so that it is clear to everyone.”

Speaking of this: Why is ‘Recognition and Rewarding’ not also geared towards support staff? Letschert: “Because we had to start somewhere. We are still in the pilot phase. We have started to talk about this within the working groups. How can OBP develop further? Why, for example, do we not let people change from faculty to faculty more often, so that they can gain experience elsewhere in the organisation?”

And so it went on and on. Because of the set-up (short and to-the-point answers, written questions asked via an app), it was possible to answer more than twenty question from the 240 employees present in 45 minutes. More Ask Me Anything sessions will follow, with other themes and guests. When the next session will be, is still unknown.