In late August 2021, the Caltech Back Together committee sponsored a survey to better understand the hopes, challenges, and resource needs of community members related to the return to full on-site operations. In addition to the summary below, open ended responses were analyzed into seven main themes which the committee used to develop three categories: information, skill building, and connection, under which to organize a range of programs, resources, and information sources to support the community through this transition. The committee thanks everyone who participated in the survey, and appreciates the candor and constructive suggestions that helped to inform this collection of resources.
All members of the Caltech community—faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars, undergraduate and graduate students, and external affiliates—were invited to participate in the survey and provide feedback on their experience throughout the pandemic, and questions and concerns as they returned to on-site work.
The survey was distributed in both English and Spanish, and responses were collected online as well as on-site at an appreciation event held for individuals who worked on the main campus throughout the pandemic.
In all 1,403 individuals submitted responses:
Survey results summary
About half of faculty and staff expected to return to campus full-time, and a slightly smaller percentage expected to have a hybrid work arrangement:
Top 3 methods of communication for information and updates on the Institute's response and plans*:
Top 5 resources accessed during the pandemic*:
Top 5 challenges experienced during pandemic*:
Aspects of return to full on-site operations that are most concerning*:
*Please note, respondents had the option to select multiple items, which affects the percentages shown here
An additional 8% of respondents shared their perspective in 429 open-ended comments. Those comments were organized into six themes:
1) Anticipation and Concerns for Returning to Campus
- Looking forward to collaboration and return to research
- Students wanting in-person rotation and socializing
- Concerns about implementation of safety protocols
- Desire for return of surveillance testing
- Support for vaccine mandates
I do hope that we can continue to move toward a complete re-opening including in-person seminars and meetings because I feel that these things are important to building community in academia.
2) Consistent and Clear Messaging
- Desire for more consistent messaging across divisions and departments
3) Discomfort with the Return to Campus
- Hesitation about the return in light of the Delta variant
- Concerns about unvaccinated children at home
I think that Caltech should wait until the Delta wave is over before attempting to return to full on-site operations. I think that we have managed rather well having limited numbers of people in the labs and all other activities done remotely
4) Reimagine Work
- Interest in remote work and hybrid work arrangements
- Flexibility including alternative schedules
I wish there was more flexibility from the Institute to allow partial remote work as long as this pandemic is not fully over.
5) Self- and Community-Care and Wellness
- Stress, feeling overwhelmed, isolation
- Missed out on collaboration and connections that defined the Institute
- Particular challenges for international community members
- Enhance and rebuild connections with colleagues, classmates and the Institute
- Concerns about morale
The mental health of almost everyone I know has suffered significantly over the pandemic because of
isolation. At the same time, Caltech is simply too difficult to succeed without collaboration. Many
students find it much harder to reach out and collaborate remotely, especially if their mental health is declining.
6) What Has Been Good and What Could Be Better
- Identifying silver linings
- Work/life balance
- Ability to work remotely
- New ways to learn and collaborate
- Things to improve
- Space for students to access private rooms for therapy appts
- Increased access to athletics facilities
- Technology available to facilitate teaching and learning
Where once I may have missed class due to chronic illness (or class scheduling conflicts or any other reason),
last year I could watch recorded lectures. Remote office hours or lectures are opportunities to expand accessibility, and we would be negligent to dismiss these opportunities as substandard as we return to being on