Burnout is a Social Justice Issue
Updated: Feb 15
I love when things align. So for this week’s article, I was working on the impact of burnout on women. We, as women, are disproportionately subject to burnout, more likely to be impacted by the economic stress of COVID-19, overworked, unheard, and fed up. At least that’s how I’m feeling. Then I saw a news report that reinforced those feelings with data.
So, I began to wonder if that was true. I started to think about what my day entails.
Thankfully, I can wake up around 8am. I start by tiptoeing through the house trying not to wake my 3yo as I prepare breakfast for the 11yo before he begins his day at virtual school. If I’m lucky (which rarely happens), I can make a cup of coffee for myself before my 3yo wakes up.
At 9AM, breakfast has been made, the oldest has eaten, school starts and the toddler wakes up. While feeding the baby (I know he’s not a baby, he’s my baby), I log onto my work computer. Plus, I'm trying to keep an eye on the oldest to ensure he’s actually doing his work and not playing computer games.
Then I conduct my second daily email scan (the first was when I woke up), feed the 3yo during breakfast's second shift and redirect the oldest for the third time by 10AM.
Now, the real juggling act begins because I start to take meetings. So, I’m usually on mute with my camera off because I have no clue what might happen in my house that I would have to explain. For the meetings I have to lead, at some point a child jumps in my lap or the boys start to fight. Plus, it seems like I’m preparing, feeding or cleaning up a meal all day.
My day usually consists of 3-4 hours of meetings (yay!) with me answering emails in between while switching between my work/childcare roles without the ability to fully focus on either (which costs time and is unproductive). For me, this leaves little time for me to be thoughtful as a professional or a mother. Actually, I would just like to complete a thought without some calling out “mommy.” And it’s just me doing this. I’m a single mom.
This insanity usually continues to 8PM because it feels like my job is always in jeopardy because of our current climate. And I CANNOT afford to lose this job. Finally once the kids go to bed, I work another 3-4 hours on the things I couldn't accomplish during the day like reports/writing/analysis/research that requires deeper thought.
So, am I stressed? Yes. Am I burnt out after 7 months of this? Yes. Am I ready for this to end? Yes.
But, it was encouraging when I saw this news report expressing exactly what I was feeling. I felt so connected to this news segment that I had to take some pictures.
I’m not alone. Someone feels my pain 😿.
Then, I realized I’m not alone 🤨. That means too many other women are dealing with these issues too.
So, let’s get academic for a minute.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome that occurs because of chronic stress in the workplace (maybe 7 months of consistent stress 🤷). People usually get burnt out due to factors such as money, work stress, overscheduled days, financial strains, relationship issues, etc. compounding on top of each other. And, different individuals react differently to a situation for multiple reasons like their temperament and/or personality traits. What one person may think is simple stress could be a more serious problem for another person.
Burnout Disproportionately Impacts Women
A survey conducted in 2019 by Meredith Corporation in collaboration with Harris Poll found that women tend to burn out much faster when compared to men. The survey also revealed:
48% of women say their burnout is so extreme it keeps them up at night
81% of women say American society glorifies being busy
1 in 3 women (36%) say they feel more stressed in their day-to-day life than they did five years ago
73% of women consider adding wellness regimen to routine; 65% consider opting out of social media
So, is there a solution to the burnout that women experience both at work and home? Well, to minimize the burnout rate in the workplace, it is important to recognize the different pressures that women face while at work, or even at home.
There are a few factors that leave women more burnt out in comparison to men. These include unequal treatment at work, women usually have lesser authority in the workplace than men and less freedom to manage their schedules. Women are expected to remain content with fewer opportunities at work when it comes to exercising their unique abilities or skills. Apart from this, women do not get as much credit at work as men and are therefore overlooked for promotions and leadership opportunities. The decreased opportunities to advance and ultimately earn more money leads to an increase in financial stress.
I think we need to reimage what work looks like. If you want more from employees, then let’s start by giving them more. Let’s engage women at work and support the various stressors that impact their lives. Employers and managers need to listen to their employees about what they need, help them troubleshoot work-related issues and advocate for them to hold positions of prominence and power.
As stated in the study, "work-life balance is a myth." With women responsible for more of the life part (cooking, cleaning, kids, aging parents, etc.), the stack is weighed against us. If employers don’t start to step up, organizations will begin to lose employees.
About the Author
Natalie Robinson Bruner helps organizations develop systems and implement strategies that engage their workforce by offering a three-stage process of training, planning and individualized consulting. By using research, experience, pragmatic solutions, humor, engaging activities and her own secret sauce; Natalie delivers a powerful message on engaging staff. In a fast-changing world, we need information that engages the organization fulfilling the mission, reducing turnover, and impacting the bottom line. Her clients include large to medium-sized businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Glad●ED Solutions develops succinct, research-based, experienced-informed training coupled with a pragmatic action plan for implementation. We are more than the fly-by-night training. Glad●ED Solutions specializes in facilitating training, professional coaching, and staff development events that transform people’s lives and helps organizations thrive.
Linkedin Group: @GladEDSolutions