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Shattering the Glass Ceiling, Igniting Burnout: The Dual Roles of Women in the Workplace

Woman working from home with additional domestic duties

In the pursuit of breaking barriers and reaching new heights, women have become an unstoppable force in the modern workplace. However, beneath our triumphant strides lies a hidden battle that often goes unnoticed: the burden of juggling dual roles at home and at work.

This relentless balancing act is taking a toll on women, fueling a burning epidemic known as burnout.

It's not a new topic but an important one. We need to shed light on the challenges women face, and here we'll delve into the reasons behind this gender disparity, and explore ways to ignite change.

The Burnout Bombshell

Recent studies have uncovered a stark reality: women are more susceptible to burnout in the workplace compared to their male counterparts. Here are some eye-opening statistics that paint a vivid picture:

  • The Women in the Workplace study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that 43% of women reported feeling "burned out" at work, compared to 34% of men.

  • A report by the World Economic Forum states that women tend to have a higher workload due to unpaid caregiving responsibilities, spending an average of 4.5 hours per day on unpaid work, compared to 1.7 hours for men.

  • A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that women with multiple roles, such as being a parent and an employee, are at an increased risk of experiencing burnout.

  • A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that women who work long hours are at increased risk for developing burnout symptoms, such as emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation.

  • According to a survey by LinkedIn, women are more likely than men to experience imposter syndrome, which can contribute to feelings of burnout and stress in the workplace.

The Double Shift Dilemma

The root of this gender disparity in burnout lies in the double shift phenomenon. Despite progress in gender equality women often continue to bear the weight of societal expectations, finding themselves shouldering both professional responsibilities and the lion's share of domestic duties - cooking, cleaning, managing household finances, caring for children or elderly family members, and more.

Women face external pressure to conform to these expectations, which can hinder their ability to achieve a healthy work-life balance and pursue their career goals fully. The struggle to excel at work while maintaining a harmonious home life can lead to emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, and a pervasive sense of being overwhelmed.

And the trouble is, we've begun to accept it as a way of life. Modus operandi. Whilst trying to have it all, we've just begun to do it all, instead.

Breaking the Cycle

Now, this isn't something we're going to resolve overnight, but we need to continue to raise awareness of it whilst changing perceptions, shifting expectations, and getting comfortable with setting boundaries. Here are just a few places to start...

Normalise and Share the Load

We need to recognise the importance of gender equality not only in the workplace but also within the confines of the home. By sharing household responsibilities and challenging traditional gender roles, we can alleviate the burden on women and foster a more equitable distribution of tasks. It's time to start asking for support and making adjustments at home that are going to lighten your load. It can come from a partner, family, friends or external help such as a cleaner, babysitter etc. This of course, also involves being ok with relinquishing some level of control ie: the kitchen not being as perfectly tidy as when you do clean it.

Address the Perfectionism

Negative or neurotic perfectionism can manifest in several ways - comparing yourself with others, frequent validation, being overly self-critical, poor decision-making, overcommitting etc. And yes - this happens both at work and at home. Admitting you are a perfectionist is the first step to overcoming it - then it's about peeling back the layers and shifting the way you approach tasks, set goals and view accomplishments.

Advocate for Flexible Work Arrangements

Granted, this is not necessarily something an employee can control but organisations play a pivotal role in promoting work-life integration by offering flexible work arrangements. Providing options like remote or hybrid work, flexible hours, and extended parental leave empowers women to better balance their professional and personal lives. Women are typically higher when it comes to agreeableness, so talking to your boss about what you need in order to thrive and achieve that balance, whilst not always an easy or direct conversation, needs to happen.

Prioritise Self-Care

Say it with me...let's prioritise self-care without guilt or hesitation. This is such an underrated and under-utilised tool we have at our disposal, and it's a no-brainer. Engaging in activities that promote mental and physical wellbeing, can help combat burnout and replenish depleted energy reserves. But often, these activities are demoted to the bottom of the list. And that is where the mindset shift needs to occur. No one is going to pop that time into your calendar for you - the accountability to book in time to yourself, a yoga session, massage or 10 minutes of daily meditation is on you, girlfriend. If you're stuck on self-care ideas or inspiration - here are 50 of them to try out.

Identify the stressors

Once we're at the point of burnout, it can be difficult to see things as they are or what drove us to this point. That's because things feel insurmountable and completely overwhelming to the point where we are disconnected. Try and identify what the root cause of the issues you are facing are before you reach burnout - is it a particular aspect of your role, too much to do around the house, zero time to exercise? All of the above? Identifying what is creating stress in your life is the number one step in resolving it. With awareness comes action.

Champion Workplace Support

Organisations need to foster a culture that values work-life balance and wellbeing. This can be achieved by implementing policies such as mental health resources, employee health programs, and regular check-ins to ensure employees have the necessary support to thrive. Thankfully, more and more organisations are placing greater importance on the wellbeing of their employees, so the conversation is getting easier.

Raise Awareness and Seek Change

By raising our collective voices, sharing personal stories, and advocating for change, we can challenge societal norms and ignite a transformation in workplace cultures. Creating awareness about the unique challenges faced by women and demanding equality can pave the way for a more inclusive and balanced future. And this is best done by speaking up - whether that's in an organised forum, by the coffee machine in the office or at the cafe over lunch. It all starts with a conversation.

Women's triumphs in the workplace should not come at the expense of their wellbeing. The battle against burnout requires collective action, shifting societal expectations, and dismantling the barriers that hinder progress.

By recognising the dual roles women play and implementing measures to support their work-life integration, we can create a workplace where both women and men thrive, free from the suffocating grip of burnout.

Let's be the catalysts for change and build a future where women shatter the glass ceiling without sacrificing their wellbeing.

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