Burnout is a big factor in employee turnover. The pandemic has put a lot of stress on staff and admin in Higher Education. This has caused a surge in resignations and attrition, forcing institutions to look for new talent while still figuring out how to give students a good first year experience and manage student retention. Burnout is much more than being stressed from work. It’s a bone-deep fatigue, a hard shutdown that someone experiences when they have been burning the candle at both ends for too long. Burnout and the turnover it causes disrupts school operations, causing major setbacks as schools scramble to find people to fill key roles.

In the article Higher Ed Burnout is Real, the website Apogee concludes that “The research and findings from The Chronicle, Educause, and Apogee all point to the need for strategic institutional support for health/wellness initiatives to mitigate stress and burnout.”

Prevention is the best tactic here. Self-care and stress management can only go so far if the situation refuses to change. We need to look at jobs at the environmental level and figure out what can be done differently. Here’s 3 key areas to target when preventing burnout.

1. Honoring the Work/Life divide

We need to take work/life balance seriously. We often look at work/life balance as the responsibility of the employee, but if institutions want to avoid burnt out employees – they are going to need to set the tone of off-work hours being off-limits.

Employees should be encouraged to use their vacation and sick days and not respond to emails when they are not at work. The website Changing Higher Ed goes as far as to recommend waiting to email or text an employee until they are back on the clock instead of interrupting recuperation time with future to-dos. Mental distance is an important factor in recharging, and it is becoming harder to achieve with so many people working from home.

Modeling this separation lays the groundwork for a healthier environment, encouraging employees to set boundaries so that the effort they put in is sustainable.

2. Employee-driven Conversation

Changing Higher Ed emphasizes the need for more open and honest communication. This whole situation is bizarre and ever-changing, and it takes a toll on folks. They are forced to simply make it work, even if there’s no fuel left in the tank.

Creating unity and inviting employees into the conversation about what moving forward looks like gives them the chance to voice their needs and pitch in their ideas. It ensures that they are part of the team instead of just receiving new marching orders, preventing disillusionment.

3. Getting Rid of Headaches and Busy Work

It might seem economical to shuffle on with a software system that you have had for years or try to run online orientation through a clunky LMS. But the truth is, that cost is landing somewhere, be it building frustration or fatigue. It is much better to simply have something that works.

The more work that can be streamlined and automated, the less busywork admin are stuck with. In their article, Apogee says “we believe that now is the time to take a serious look at managed services and outsourcing as high-value mechanisms to relieve staff of operational burdens so that they can focus on the school’s mission and prevent burnout.”

Investment in software tools that make the job easier, such as Virtual Orientation, automatic reminders for students, and new student checklists pay off in the long run because they aid in the retention of your students and your staff.

These changes allow people to focus on the parts of their job they actually like, such as welcoming new students to college and brainstorming ways to keep them engaged instead of being stuck dealing with spreadsheets. It gives employees more energy to tackle complex problems like high attrition rates of first year students. They can focus on the barriers to student success in higher education, on what they are passionate about, instead of busywork. The clearer we can make that vision, the more stuff we can get out of the way, the better.


People pick Higher Ed because they are passionate, because they are drawn to it. It has been a tough field to work in these past few years. If schools want to retain their talented employees and avoid burnout-induced turnover, they will need to make changes to how work is structured. Putting healthy measures in place, cultivating communication, and acquiring better tools will help prevent burnout and save Higher Ed institutions time and stress down the road.