Mason Employees Weigh In on Quality of Work Life

Posted: July 19, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: July 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

The results have been tallied for the 2009 Quality of Work Life (QWL) survey. This was the second time all Mason employees were invited to participate in a QWL survey, which consists of a series of detailed questions regarding work life at Mason.

The first time all Mason employees were surveyed was in 2006; previously only a sample of employees was surveyed.

A total of 5,518 employees were contacted across eight job categories on each of the three campuses and the Loudoun location.

A total of 1,531 surveys were returned, only a slightly lower response than in 2006.

According to the latest survey, overall job satisfaction appears to have stabilized after rising steadily throughout the past three surveys. Nearly three-quarters (73.8 percent) of employees indicated they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their jobs.

Similarly, the levels of perceived organizational support – the degree to which employees feel the organization values their contributions – remained at virtually the same levels as in 2006.  This was also true for affective organizational commitment – the degree to which employees feel connected to the university.

“It’s not particularly surprising that there hasn’t been a lot of change, because when the survey was conducted [in 2009], we were in the midst of uncertain times about the university budget,” says Linda Harber, associate vice president for Human Resources and Payroll and co-chair of the Quality of Work Life Task Force.

“In contrast, although the university budget was also tight in 2006, [that] survey was conducted in the afterglow of the Final Four, which may have helped increase employee perceptions of the university.”

Generally, employees in each job category expressed satisfaction with most aspects of their jobs. As in past surveys, employees at all levels value the autonomy they have in their jobs, which can be seen in several areas, such as support for flexible work options, the opportunity to use a variety of skills and the opportunity to work independently.

Some of the areas in which employees were least satisfied included salary; availability of on-campus child care; and health care and retirement benefits for select groups of employees.

The greatest differences between this year’s survey and the previous one were the reactions to the stress items.

In 2006, only a few stress items reached the 50 percent level of moderate or extreme stress. However, this year, nearly all job categories reported concern about university and department budgets. Workload, parking/commuting and personal finances also reached this 50 percent threshold.

In developing the most recent survey, the QWL Task Force included additional items about the diversity climate suggested by the university’s Minority and Diversity Issues Committee.

Although there were statistically significant differences between minorities and non-minorities in these diversity areas (e.g., fairness), both minorities and non-minorities expressed positive views about the climate. Further, some dimensions of the climate contributed significantly to the sense of organizational support for both groups.

In addition, no racial or ethnic differences were found in employee perceptions that Mason cares about their well-being and values their contribution.

Three satisfaction items showed significant differences between males and females.

Females were most satisfied with the climate of respect for individual differences, special recognition for achievements and the opportunity to interact with individuals with diverse backgrounds.

Males reported higher stress for parking/commuting, whereas females reported higher levels of stress for managing household responsibilities.

For the first time, the QWL survey asked employees about their perceptions of how various events and development throughout the years at Mason have enhanced the public’s perception of Mason and their own attitudes about working at Mason.

Some of these events include Mason faculty members winning the Nobel Prize, the men’s basketball team advancing to the Final Four and major political figures visiting Mason.

Employees indicated that the Final Four had the strongest impact on enhancing the public’s perception of Mason, while the U.S. News & World Report ranking of Mason as the #1 Up-and-  Coming University had the biggest impact on enhancing their own attitudes about working at Mason.

“The QWL survey is important because it offers the university community an opportunity to voice their opinions about their quality of work life,” says Sandra Scherrens, vice president for University Life and co-chair of the QWL Task Force.

“The Task Force takes this input and works together as a team to make the best recommendations that will benefit the quality of work life for all Mason employees.”

As a result of the survey responses, the QWL Task Force plans to explore the diversity and child care issues in more depth. Additionally, the task force will encourage continued communication from the university regarding salary, budget and pricing increases.

The task force also invites faculty and staff members to take advantage of the many opportunities available to them through Human Resources and Payroll (hr.gmu.edu), including assistance in accessing benefits through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP); one-on-one financial counseling provided by retirement vendors Fidelity, TIAA-CREF and ING; flexible work options; and a range of discounts opportunities.

A link to the survey executive summary can be found at qwl.gmu.edu. For more information about the 2009 QWL survey, contact Janet Walker at jwalker8@gmu.edu.

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