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Survey Reveals Significant Challenges For Caregivers Support During Pandemic

More than 2,200 Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and graduate students recently participated in a survey designed to gather feedback and perspectives on the challenges of balancing caregiving and work responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey, developed in collaboration with faculty, academic leaders, Human Resources, and the Graduate School, solicited both quantitative and qualitative data related to impacts of caregiving responsibilities for Virginia Tech employees during the spring, summer, and fall 2020 semesters.

Distributed in October 2020 through a number of communications channels, the anonymous survey looked specifically at the degree to which employees’ lives and work were affected by additional responsibilities of caring for school-aged children and/or adults, with questions targeted to instructional and research faculty, administrative and professional (A/P) faculty, university staff, wage employees, and graduate students. Respondents represented positions and units in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Northern Virginia as well as centers and Extension sites throughout the commonwealth.

summary report of initial findings confirms a variety of concerns that have been shared by faculty, staff and wage employees, and graduate students during discussions with university leaders this past year. These concerns include an increase in time during the workday spent on overall dependent caregiving needs, not having adequate uninterrupted work time or dedicated workspace, shifting schedules due to the need to support at-home K-12 education and/or adult caregiving responsibilities, limited availability of community-based caregiving options and support resources, and the physical and emotional stresses of meeting job performance goals while concurrently addressing family and dependent caregiving needs.

“The pandemic and its impact on our campus community has created significant caregiving challenges for nearly every department, every employee group, and every university location,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. “The effects are real, and the information faculty and university employees have shared through this survey is essential to helping us develop appropriate strategies and solutions and improve our support programs and processes. It is important that we continue to have open and straightforward discussions on what our campus needs and what university resources are available so that we can position our employees to be successful both at work and at home.”

Using the data collected and ongoing discussions with faculty, staff and wage employees, and graduate students, the university will continue to leverage programs already in place to support caregiving needs and will work together with campus and community stakeholders to use available resources to develop additional capacity for employees with pandemic-related caregiving needs. In direct support of these efforts, specifically those related to issues of child care, a search is underway for a child care program manager who will serve in a coordinating role across the institution and within the community to advance university programs and services. This new position will help develop a broad understanding of child care issues in our area, the needs of Virginia Tech’s employees and students, and issues related to affordability, accessibility, quality, and flexibility.

“The survey results underscore the need for continued collaboration within the university community and with external partners, to better understand and overcome the barriers to accessible and affordable caregiving alternatives for faculty, staff, and students,” said Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer Dwayne Pinkney. “Our ability to recruit and retain a workforce that can advance Virginia Tech’s mission and strategic planning goals and objectives is directly impacted by our ability to address the caregiving needs of the campus community. There are no quick fixes, but these data are critical as we explore and develop strategies to address this ongoing need, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The offices of the Executive Vice President and ProvostSenior Vice President and Chief Business Officer, Human Resources, and the Graduate School are continuing to review the quantitative and qualitative survey data to identify specific areas where support can be enhanced or prioritized. The summary report as well as other resources, information, and updates regarding caregiving support and community resources will be posted on the provost’s office website as they become available.

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