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In the past year and a half, 55% of faculty at higher education institutions have seriously considered changing careers or retiring early (The Chronicle of Higher Education). They’re growing tired, stressed, and emotionally drained due to overwork and lack of work-life balance.

The Chronicle compared the levels of stress, anger, and fatigue that faculty members experienced in 2019 vs. 2020. The numbers more than doubled:

Stress in 2019 – 32%   |   Stress in 2020 – 69%

Anger in 2019 – 12%   |   Anger in 2020 – 35%

Fatigue in 2019 – 32%   |   Fatigue in 2020 – 68%

The pandemic introduced new stressors, which have compounded into burnout, which has led to high employee turnover rates within colleges and universities. We’re experiencing what Dr. Anthony Klotz (associate professor of management at Texas A&M University) refers to as “the great resignation.” As faculty members resign, institutions must refill job roles, which is difficult when a university’s value lies in its people. Rebuilding a workforce can take years, especially when turnover rates are high.

Universities need a way to alleviate stress, retain faculty, and simplify jobs so new hires can settle into their roles quickly. Faculty are longing for a better work-life balance as they juggle student requests while making sure their own kids are doing their homework and getting to bed on time. They’re desperate for a reprieve—just a little extra breathing room during the jam-packed workday.

Job performance suffers when faculty are being pulled in all directions. They don’t have time to figure out a solution because they’re too busy transitioning out of the pandemic, fielding student requests, and just trying to stay afloat. They’re putting out fire after fire with handfuls of water when what they really need is a fire hose.

The Fire Hose

How can we make life easier and workloads more bearable for faculty? After all, it’s the faculty, staff, and instructors who make each university what it is. Without people, a university doesn’t have much to offer besides a pretty campus.

The key is democratizing access to university services. We’ll explain:

Faculty members spend hours each day responding to student emails and phone calls, holding office hours, meeting with students, jumping on Zoom calls, etc. Think of all the platforms used to accomplish these tasks—email, chatbots, Zoom, Blackboard, Starfish, Google Classroom, Canvas, Ellucian, Slack, Zendesk, Populi (to name a few). They get emails from students, alerts from Starfish, and notifications from chatbots that can’t answer a student’s question. They have Zoom office hours, in-person office hours, scheduled appointments, walk-in appointments, and it’s no wonder they’re struggling to stay afloat.

None of these communication methods are democratized. In other words, they don’t give all students the same access to the same resources whenever they need them. There are hierarchies and silos that benefit students whose parents attended college but not the first-generation students who are navigating college for the first time. They benefit students who are on campus all day, but not those who head to work right after class and aren’t able to study until 10pm.

Democratizing access would level the playing field and address the root cause of faculty stress: the inability to balance it all. Imagine if students had one centralized place where they could access any and all student services without having to deal with a chatbot, wait in line, wait for an email reply, or locate a physical office building. Imagine one app where students could go to find all the help they need and get in touch with a faculty member in just a few minutes. And imagine how much that would alleviate frustration and stress among faculty. All they would have to do is open one app and answer questions as they come anytime, anywhere. Sounds nice, right?

Democratizing access gets to the root of the problem instead of just covering it up. It changes universities from the inside out. Democratizing access to university services will be key to equity, success, and value in higher education in the next 10 years and beyond.

Making It Happen

Wondering what it would look like to democratize access to student services at your university? Reach out to a member of our team to learn more. Email info@evan360.com.

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