When the boss phones you up once more in the evening or a colleague sends an email… A survey in the “MASTER – Management of constant availability” project of 150 IT workers showed that one in three is not sure whether he/she should respond. The project is sponsored by the German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs within the framework of the New Quality of Work Initiative (INQA) and supported by the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; in it, a research team from the University of Freiburg und the Institut für Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung München worked with five IT companies to find out how availability can be reduced, expectations clarified, and concrete steps taken to prevent negative effects. They found that employees who took part in these activities felt less exhausted after several months than their colleagues did. The project now moves into its second round; the ministry is extending the funding from January 2018 to December 2019.
The first phase – with the IT company employees – was successfully completed at the end of 2017. The measures developed in the project are summed up in a video which is available via Youtube and the project website: https://youtu.be/nx5fHsUKOcM. “We are very pleased with the response to the issue of availability at the collaborating companies,” says Dr. Nina Pauls of the University of Freiburg. “Overall, more than 40 employees were interviewed and more than 400 took part in an online survey.” Also available via the project website is the free brochure “Ständige Erreichbarkeit – Ursachen, Auswirkungen, Gestaltungsansätze” (Constant availability – Causes, effects, approaches) http://erreichbarkeit.eu/images/Ergebnisbroschuere_250817.pdf which summarizes the project’s findings.
The second phase will seek to transfer the first phase’s recommendations for action to other sectors. “On the basis of interviews and online surveys, we decided to try the financial services sector as the next field of application,” explains Professor Wolfgang Menz of Hamburg University, which is a new partner in the research team. “Our analyses show that a heavy workload influences the degree of availability. Employees in financial services companies always report large volumes of work.” Therefore two workshops aimed at seeking solutions will take place at two companies in the sector in the next two years. Whether the measures they come up with will effectively reduce availability and its negative impact will be investigated using surveys and interviews.
Dr. Nina Pauls
Occupational und Consumer Psychology
University of Freiburg