Feeling stressed? You’re not alone

Workplace stress comes in many forms, has many effects and, ultimately, can prove to be damaging not just for the worker who experiences the stress, but also the workplace where the stress is generated. It was with that in mind the our Federation, in conjunction with the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), developed a survey instrument to measure and assess the kind of stress that post-secondary educators are experiencing here in BC. The survey instrument was modeled on work done by CAUT in a study that it did of workplace stress among Canadian university professors and librarians.

The original CAUT study of university professors and librarians found that those faculty were not immune to the effects of stress. Although a majority of those surveyed in that study were satisfied with their jobs and emotionally committed to their institutions, the reported incidence of strain was high with 13% of respondents exhibiting signs of psychological distress and 22% reporting relatively high rates of physical health symptoms. The rates recorded in that study appeared to be higher than those found amongst Canadian white-collar workers.

In the recently completed survey of FPSE members, the analysis shows that, similar to the original results from professors and librarians at Canadian universities, our members experience a high degree of stress. The common threads revealed through the survey showed that post-secondary educators in BC identified seven major sources of stress including work load, work scheduling, role conflict, role ambiguity, work-life balance, fair administration and fair rewards.

The survey instrument ranked responses on a 7 point scale with 7 being the most severe. For the major stressors identified in the FPSE results, the rankings averaged scores between 4.5 and 6.0. The results from the FPSE survey closely tracked those recorded in the Canadian university results. The only areas where the FPSE results diverged from the other study was in the areas of job control, work scheduling, role ambiguity and the perceived fairness of the departmental chairperson. However, the divergence was not significant and tended to reflect the underlying pressures that were noted in the university results.

For most local faculty associations here in BC, these results confirm what many of us have suspected for a long time: working conditions at our post-secondary institutions are becoming increasingly stressful as the pressures of chronic under-funding continue to push faculty to try and accomplish more with far fewer resources. Whether it is coping with the demands of students saddled with too much debt and, therefore, school/job conflicts or trying to stay current in your discipline despite cuts to professional development support within your institution, post-secondary educators are feeling the squeeze.

Local faculty associations are increasingly looking to their collective agreements as the most effective way to reduce workplace stress. Many are making the case that the more we can reduce the level and incidence of workplace stress, the more successful we will become at controlling the costs associated with that stress. In this round of bargaining, we will be pushing senior administrators to take a more pro-active approach to workplace stress, an approach that doesn't just make good sense for our members, but also makes a meaningful and positive change for the institution where they work.

For a more detailed report on the results of the Stress Survey follow the links at our website: http://www.fpse.ca/library/research

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.