A new study on the causes of the work pressure at WUR has been shelved for the time being. This is because of the commotion within the organization and on the intranet in response to the announcement of the study. People are concerned by the use of employees’ personal data from the latest Employee Monitor and they question the benefit of yet another study on work pressure.
‘We still believe the study would be useful,’ says Myrte Marechal of Corporate HR. ‘We think it can give us substantive insights. And all due care was taken regarding privacy. But given the reactions, you have to wonder whether the findings would be accepted. The commotion shows lots of people think such a study won’t help at present.’
Given the reactions, you have to wonder whether the findings would be acceptedMyrte Marechal, corporate HR
The new study, to be conducted by an external consultancy, involves linking personal data from the Employee Monitor to sickness absence data and information from MyProjects. People fill in the monitor questionnaire anonymously. Critics therefore think WUR is violating people’s privacy. But that is not the case according to corporate privacy officer Peter Ras: ‘The Employee Monitor is anonymous for WUR. We can’t trace the data to an individual. But Effectory, the firm that runs the monitor, can link results at the individual level. After all, they sent the emails inviting staff to fill in the monitor.’
Ras says WUR is allowed to process the data because resolving the work pressure problem is a ‘legitimate interest’ as defined in the General Data Protection Regulation. ‘Every time you process data, you need a defined purpose and a lawful basis. Legitimate interest is one such basis. Work pressure is a big problem, not just for WUR but also for staff.’ It is not clear whether the study will go ahead eventually, says Marechal. ‘First, we will look at where we are now and whether this really is the right route.’
For who wants to read more about the concerns raised (including a link to documentation on structural problems at the university – and ways to address them), please see this article on the intranet and its comments: https://intranet.wur.nl/umbraco/en/news/research-into-the-causes-of-high-workload-privacy-information/. Good to read that there will be more reflection and discussion on the design of this planned research!