How a Flexible Work Environment Can Support Educators — and Help Address Faculty Burnout
Long hours on campus attending faculty meetings, holding office hours, conducting research, and planning lessons — all in addition to time spent in the classroom — have contributed to stress and overwork for educators, making faculty burnout a common topic of concern even pre-pandemic.
With the uncertainties of the past two years, faculty have been asked to do even more, including learning new technologies and finding new ways to engage students through a computer screen. They’ve had to adapt their lessons on the fly as colleges and universities have gone from in-person to emergency remote learning, and most recently, to hybrid learning, all in the name of health or student-requested flexibility. Consequently, disengagement and low morale are on the rise.
There are many factors that contribute to burnout, so it’s important to understand the root causes, listen to faculty members, and determine how to best support them. If work-life balance, time management, and on-campus health and safety are common concerns, consider how a flexible work environment — and the right communication tools — can address and alleviate those issues.
See how flexibility can play a role in helping faculty manage busy schedules, save time commuting, and serve students more effectively.
Save time & serve students with virtual meetings
Faculty can use video to collaborate, connect, and build relationships with their students and colleagues, even when they’re not on campus. They don’t need to cram their teaching, office hours, department meetings, research, and administrative duties into a specific window of time on campus — instead, they can be flexible in where and how they work. Here are a few ways faculty can do more virtually:
Virtual office hours
Professors who only teach in person on certain days can open up their schedules to hold virtual office hours and save a trip to campus. Those who travel for research or conferences can stay connected with their students and not have to schedule office hours during the limited time they spend in their office. And for colleges and universities serving nontraditional or commuter students (whose schedules can make it difficult for them to meet on campus), it’s even more important to offer flexibility in scheduling time to meet with professors.
Virtual or hybrid meetings can be just as effective as in-person gatherings for disseminating information or presenting reports and proposals. You can even record the meeting so those unable to attend live in either format can catch up later.
Professional development & faculty collaboration
For professional development courses, colleague collaboration, and other discussion-based meetings, features like Breakout Rooms and chat can help facilitate conversation in a virtual setting. When faculty don’t need to travel to attend training, it creates better access and opportunities for everyone to learn and grow professionally.
More phone freedom & capabilities
An on-premises phone system is common on college and university campuses, but it acts as a barrier to a flexible work environment. Faculty often need to be at their desks to receive a call to their direct line. Forwarding calls from their landline to a mobile phone or checking voicemail messages remotely can be cumbersome. If they do need to call or text students while working remotely, it often means using their personal cell or home phone number.
With a cloud phone solution, faculty can make and receive calls and texts using their direct business line even when they’re not in their physical office, through an internet-based connection called a softphone.
Here are some ways a cloud phone system like Zoom Phone can help faculty achieve better work-life balance.
Keep personal phone numbers private
Even if they’re using their personal cell to make a call, faculty can choose to display their professional phone number on the outbound caller ID. This gives them greater mobility to work from anywhere, while also allowing them to keep their personal number private. Faculty can even text students or colleagues using their work number.
Set office hours
When working from home, it can be easy to lose track of time and end up taking calls at all hours. Zoom Phone allows faculty to set their business hours so any calls that come in outside that time frame will automatically be routed to voicemail or another line, like a main department line, for assistance. This enables them to manage their boundaries and create space between their personal and professional lives.
Tips for addressing meeting fatigue
We get it — more flexibility means more virtual meetings, and meeting fatigue can set in and contribute to feelings of burnout. Here are a few tips to help reduce meeting fatigue:
- Hide your self-view. Staring at your face all day can be distracting or exhausting.
- Stop all incoming video feeds if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by too many video screens. This will not affect the view of others in the meeting and your camera will stay on.
- Adjust the size of your meeting window so participant video tiles don’t appear too large or too close on your screen.
- Take some meetings on the go, depending on the context and your role in the meeting. Join on your mobile device and go for a walk or sit outdoors.
- Schedule meetings with a 5- to 10-minute buffer in between so you don’t find yourself in back-to-back calls without a break.
- Remember, not every meeting has to be a meeting. If you’re scheduling a meeting, ask yourself whether a phone call or group chat could accomplish the same goal.
For more information on how Zoom can help your college or university stay connected, reach out to your account executive or check out our Zoom for Education page.