NAIS COVID-19 Staff Reopening Survey: Personal Impact Across School Groups

By Carol Bernate, NAIS Research Associate


During the fall and winter of 2020, NAIS launched the COVID-19 Staff Reopening Survey among independent schools. The survey measures the extent of the pandemic’s personal and professional impact on faculty and staff, as well as their level of comfort and professional confidence with the prospect of returning to school. These data can help school leaders navigate and communicate decisions about the resumption of in-person learning and build targeted supports for their workforce.

Research highlights the importance of a culture of safety, trust, and support to engagement, productivity, and retention in the workplace. The results of this survey can help schools assess their effectiveness in cultivating support and connection among staff and the wider school community, evaluate areas of concern about reopening among staff and target support around these areas, and start a conversation with staff that will help validate their needs.

The aggregated national data provide a view of the response to the pandemic across the independent school industry and the opportunity to evaluate changes as the pandemic continues to evolve. NAIS is deeply grateful to our members for their participation in data collection efforts: Taking the time to provide us with information about individual schools’ experience of the pandemic enables us to provide analysis and recommendations to continue to support the success of independent schools during this difficult time.

Executive Summary

Participants in the NAIS COVID-19 Staff Reopening Survey were asked to evaluate the negative impact of the pandemic in four areas: the health impact on their physical and mental well-being, the personal impact on their family and their home life, the social impact on their connections with their community, and the professional impact on their performance capacity. They were also asked to evaluate the extent of the personal impact on their lives in general.

Overall, just over two-thirds of participants (67%) reported that the pandemic had at least some level of impact on their personal lives in general. The most commonly noted negative impacts had to do with participants’ social lives.

There are key differences in the extent of the personal impact of the pandemic felt by groups with different roles and responsibilities at school. Faculty reported at least some level of impact across areas of their personal lives at higher rates than did administrators and staff (“staff” includes coaches, librarians, etc.). Those with teaching responsibilities consistently reported at least some impact at higher rates than colleagues whose focus was outside of the classroom.

The survey asked respondents to identify the learning model their school was using at the time of their participation. In a fully remote model, all instruction and interaction take place online. A hybrid model includes some remote elements but also incorporates some combination of in-person interaction or learning. In an in-person learning model, most students attend school in person most days of the week.

Nearly half of the respondents (47%) reported that their school was using a hybrid model, and these participants reported general personal impact and negative impacts on home and health at higher rates than those teaching in a fully remote or an in-person model. Participants teaching remotely reported some level of impact on their social lives at higher rates than other groups.

The policies and practices in place at a school impact the personal lives of faculty and staff. For example, nearly half (49%) identified increased workload as a challenge during the pandemic. To establish and protect a healthy work-life balance and to cultivate trusting teams, schools should consider strategies to reduce workload and provide flexibility for everyone in their workforce. These supports should be targeted to groups reporting high levels of impact.


In the fall and winter of 2020, 907 faculty and staff in 51 NAIS schools across all regions of the United States and in Ontario, Canada, completed the COVID-19 Staff Reopening Survey.

This report includes the aggregated results of the surveys completed from mid-October through December 2020. This section of the report highlights key differences in the personal impact of the pandemic across school groups and those working under different learning models—remote, hybrid, and in person. Additional sections include key differences in the professional impact of the pandemic across these groups, as well as their levels of comfort and confidence in returning to an in-person model.

Survey responses are compared in several ways:
  • Between different roles (administrator, faculty, and staff)
  • Between responsibilities (those who have teaching duties and those whose focus is outside of the classroom)
  • Between current learning models (fully remote, hybrid, and in-person)
The report also identifies action steps to address challenges faculty and staff face with the goal of reducing burnout, building trust, and boosting retention.

This report was written by Carol Bernate, research associate at NAIS.

Downloadable Content


More Reports From This Survey

Additional NAIS Research