CSI: Computers, Stress, and the Online Instructor

IT - StressBy Dr. Maria Minor, Purdue Global Faculty
Published June 2015

Do you feel tied to your electronic devices? Do you feel anxious if you do not have access to the Internet? Do you feel the need to check your emails several times throughout the day, seven days a week? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing stress and not realizing it.

The definition of stress is a "normal physical response to events in life that makes you feel threatened or distorts your equilibrium." (Symptonfind, 2014, Para 1) People can function effectively with stress for a long time, but eventually the wear and tear on the body physically, mentally, and emotionally will result in burnout (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996). Online faculty constantly balances time throughout the day with work, life, and online teaching. The demanding culture of online teaching, work availability, and limited time contribute to stress (Ross & Vasantha, 2014).

Workplace stress, if ignored, can be costly to a business. The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (2015) notes that job stress costs the U.S. industry up to $300 billion annually. Stress in the workplace leads to higher rates of accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, decreased productivity, substance abuse, higher medical, legal, and insurance costs (Singh, Tripathi, Yadav, 2010, p. 184). In a 2012 American Psychological Association workplace survey conducted online, 41% of 1714 working respondents felt tense and stress during the workday. Yearly results show the rates are up from 36% in the 2011 APA survey.

A study was conducted in 2006 to examine stress and job satisfaction among distance educators from various colleges across the United States (McLean, 2006). The findings of the study indicated the greatest stress on online faculty to be related to issues of: students that were not prepared, complying with university and department requirements, attending meetings, heavy workload, and pressure being available to students around the clock 24x7 (McLean, 2006). A study conducted in 2013 with faculty at UCLA indicated a need for educational leaders to address faculty work-life balance. UCLA took the results and conducted faculty training that concentrated on strategies for faculty to allocate time to family, work, life, teaching, and personal health (UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development).

So, what steps can one take to cope with stress? Findings from a study conducted in 2011 at a Saudi Private University indicated the following coping strategies for faculty to reduce stress (Iqbal & Kokash, 2011):

  • Find time to exercise even if just a few minutes every hour
  • Spirituality
  • Effective time management
  • Make time to spend with family and friends
  • Say no to extra demands on your time when you feel you are or will be overloaded

Everyone is different, but it is important to effectively manage stress in a healthy manner.

Dr. Maria Minor is a full-time faculty member at Purdue Global. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Purdue Global.


Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace. (2015, January 1). Retrieved from https://www.uml.edu/Research/CPH-NEW/

Iqbal, A. & Kokash, H. (2011). Faculty perception of stress and coping strategies in a Saudi Private University: An exploratory study. International Education Studies, 4(3), 137-149.

Maslach, C., Jackson, S., & Leiter, M. (1996). Maslach burnout inventory manual. (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

McLean, J. (2006). Forgotten faculty: Stress and job satisfaction among distance educators. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, IX(II), 1-3.

Ross, D. & Vasantha, S. (2014). A conceptual study on impact of stress on work-life   balanceSai Om Journal of Commerce & Management1(2), 61-65.

Singh, A., Tripathi, V., & Yadav, P. (2010). Workplace Stress among Technical and Management Faculty-An Investigative Study. A Management Journal, 2(1), 181-216.

Stress: What is Stress? (2015, January 1). Retrieved from http://www.symptomfind.com/diseases-conditions/stress/

UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development (2013). Balancing work & life as an Assistant Professor. Retrieved from https://equity.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/DiversityintheClassroom2014Web.pdf