Faculty Well-Being 

In the demanding world of academia, where passion and dedication intertwine with relentless schedules and high expectations, it is easy to overlook our own well-being. As faculty, we pour our hearts and souls into nurturing the minds and futures of our students, often at the expense of our own emotional and physical health. This relentless pursuit of excellence can lead to burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can impair our ability to effectively serve our students, our families, and ourselves. 

Faculty Burnout 

Advice from Saint Leo University Professor, Tammy Lowery Zacchilli  

In the recent years following the COVID pandemic, the experience of education has changed for students, instructors, and administrators. During the pandemic, we all learned to be more flexible and adapt to the situation. We learned new ways to instruct our students and found creative ways to teach in a time of uncertainty. More than anything else, we learned the importance of taking care of ourselves physically and mentally. Unfortunately, taking care of ourselves is not always an easy task given the stressors associated with academia. However, failure to seek resources and support can quickly lead to burnout and other potential issues. Thus, instructors need to actively seek out strategies to improve their well-being and help them cope with stressors.  

As instructors, we need to be active, enthusiastic, and lifelong learners. If we begin to become discouraged or start to feel overwhelmed, our teaching can suffer, and we could face burnout. It is extremely important for instructors to recognize the warning signs of burnout such as detachment, cynicism, fatigue, and lack of energy. In addition to the personal consequences associated with burnout, there are workplace-related consequences such as decreased job satisfaction, higher turnover rates, and higher absenteeism. Each of these consequences can directly affect our students’ experiences in the classroom.  

What can we do to better cope with stressors and prevent potential burnout? First, social support is positively related to well-being. Having a strong support system in place is very beneficial in the workplace. Co-workers who support one another are more likely to notice when something is wrong and can provide suggestions for helping colleagues cope with stressors. Other strategies include taking time to rest, seeing a therapist, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, and taking time to do things you enjoy. If you find that your passion for teaching has begun to fade due to stressors, take some time to remind yourself of why you chose this career and find ways to rekindle that passion for teaching.  

As instructors, we will always face stressors, but choosing positive coping methods can help us get through even the most challenging day. Below are some additional articles that provide excellent strategies for coping with stress and preventing faculty burnout. 

Additional Resources  

The Harvard Business Publishing, Education posted two articles that provide faculty with positive steps to support faculty WellbeingEducators and Students Are Burned Out. These Strategies Can Help, and 4 Ways to Teach with Compassion—and Still Maintain Your Well-Being, offer valuable insights and practical strategies to combat burnout and cultivate a more balanced and fulfilling academic life. These articles remind us that our well-being is not a luxury but a necessity, and that taking care of ourselves is essential for our ability to effectively care for our students. 

Here are some key takeaways from these articles that can be incorporated into our daily lives: 

  • Prioritize Self-Care: Just as we encourage our students to engage in self-care, we must also prioritize our own well-being. Schedule time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, or pursuing hobbies. 
  • Establish Boundaries: Set clear boundaries between work and personal life to avoid feeling overwhelmed and constantly connected to your work. Avoid checking emails or messages outside of work hours, and establish designated times for work and personal activities. 
  • Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to seek support from colleagues, mentors, or mental health professionals if you are struggling with burnout or feeling overwhelmed. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. 
  • Practice Compassionate Teaching: Teaching with compassion not only benefits our students but also contributes to our own well-being. Foster a supportive classroom environment, show empathy for students’ challenges, and demonstrate flexibility in your teaching approach. 
  • Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Embrace a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. This mindset can help you navigate setbacks and maintain a positive outlook, even in the face of demanding workloads. 

Remember, faculty well-being is not a self-indulgent pursuit; it is an investment in our ability to effectively serve our students and contribute to a positive learning environment. By prioritizing self-care, establishing boundaries, seeking support, practicing compassionate teaching, and cultivating a growth mindset, we can create a sustainable and fulfilling academic journey for ourselves and our students. 

Articles to Help You Improve your Well-Being at Work