In Brief: US Survey on Employee Well-Being Within Higher Education

Diana Gerasimov shares survey findings on the experiences of higher education faculty within the past year in the US.

Diana Gerasimov

April 19, 2021

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STUDY: Fidelity Investments and The Chronicle of Higher Education. “More Than Half of College and University Faculty Considering Leaving Teaching, Citing Burnout Caused by Pandemic,” BusinessWire, no. 968530.1.0 (2021). Link:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the employment landscape, departments in higher education have faced significant challenges around their work environments and duties over the past year. A US survey conducted in October 2020 by Fidelity Investments and The Chronicle of Higher Education of more than 1,100 faculty members shed light on the well-being of faculty and impact of the pandemic on their work and career.

Due to the changing contexts of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 55% of faculty have thought about switching fields or beginning their retirement early.

Faculty members report feeling discouraged and emotionally drained

  • 69% of faculty felt stressed and anxious compared with 32% in 2019.
  • 35% felt angry compared with only 12% in 2019.
  • 68% felt fatigued compared with 32% in 2019.

Female faculty members have been disproportionately affected by the changes experienced as a result of the pandemic. Among female faculty members:

  • The percentage that felt stressed climbed to 75% in 2020, more than double the 34% that felt stressed in 2019. In comparison, 59% of male faculty reported feeling stressed in 2020.
  • 82% indicated their workload has increased due to the pandemic compared with 70% of male faculty.
  • 74% specified their work–life balance had worsened in 2020 compared with 63% of their male counterparts.

Some faculty considering early retirement

  • More than one-third of tenured and non-tenured faculty members reported declining career satisfaction – 40% among tenured faculty and 33% among non-tenured counterparts.
  • 55% of faculty have thought about changing fields or beginning their retirement early, including 35% of tenured faculty.

Although many faculty members have experienced challenges due to the evolving context brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of the faculty reported feeling supported by their institutions during this period.

  • 53% of faculty indicated they feel their institution prioritizes their safety.
  • 50% reported their institution’s pandemic response and efforts to support faculty’s work and lives was “very or somewhat good.”

A knowledgeable and diverse faculty plays a fundamental role in the success and standing of its institutions. Losing faculty members because of early retirement or career changes could take years for some institutions to return to their pre-pandemic standards.

This survey provides insight into those working the education sector during the pandemic – valuable to those in the sector that are reimagining their models of employment to ensure that their staff and faculty have the support and resources they need in order to perform to the best of their abilities.

Diana Gerasimov holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Communication and Cultural Studies.










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