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Burnout. It’s an “occupational phenomenon” caused by unmanaged, chronic workplace stress. It manifests itself in many ways, including exhaustion, disengagement, and cynicism. And while burnout as a concept is not new, it is certainly gaining new attention as the pandemic continues into yet another academic year.
Burnout among students is on the rise. From overloaded schedules and overwhelming workloads to financial concerns and the decline in face-to-face interaction during the pandemic, students are experiencing burnout in record numbers. It causes exhaustion, lack of motivation, and disengagement - from family, from friends, and from their courses. And with more classes going online, the need to keep students engaged becomes more acute. And this pressure falls on the shoulders of their instructors.
But instructors are feeling the effects of burnout as well. In a study conducted by The Chronicle and underwritten by Fidelity Investments, 75% of faculty said their workload increased since the beginning of 2020. The majority also said their work/life balance deteriorated. And just 10 months into the pandemic, research showed that burnout and anxiety rates among faculty and staff continued to rise amidst worsening student mental health and fears of job loss.
As we enter our second full academic year in the midst of a global pandemic, instructors continue to face challenges. Institutional demands and expectations continue to rise. Workloads are unsustainable and outcomes feel out of their control. And the pressure to keep students engaged both online and in the classroom, to meet them where they are, to give them extra time for assignments when they need it, and to help them stay on track during challenging circumstances adds a layer of emotional workload never felt before. Simply put, it’s “the perfect storm for professor burnout.”
But despite the grim reports about faculty burnout, we are learning how to better manage and cope with these feelings of overwhelm, emotional-drain, and frustration. And what we’re finding is that there are steps you can take to manage your own wellbeing and stay ahead of burnout. Here are five proactive tips to help you and your colleagues manage stress and hopefully avoid burnout before it starts.
As campuses head into the winter, new challenges will emerge and change is inevitable. Remembering to take care of yourself, to be patient with one another, and to be positive and understanding. This will help all of us to navigate today’s ever-changing world.
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