Despite more flexibility in working hours arrangements and the growing trend to consider quitting a position less of a taboo, burnout numbers are still on the rise. Women look, once again, more affected by it, especially if they are mothers as some suggest, still more due to school summer breaks.
In April, Deloitte’s survey “Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook” noted that over half of the women interviewed said they were more stressed than the previous year. And almost 46% reported feeling burned out. Interestingly, many respondents confirmed they could not switch off from work, citing concerns about the impact that taking time off may have on their future careers.
It seems as if this first sort of normal (pre-Covid) summer break, however necessary, is unlikely to allow some rest and offer a respite to the global mental health situation that is clearly hitting female employees more broadly than ever. Like on a downward spiral, the workload feels heavy, but employees find it arduous to put it on pause.
The problems and some possible solutions are known and shared. Still, we seem not to be at the point where the measures taken by some companies, industries and even governments to help employees effectively accommodate their expectations and needs and thus lift the load off their backs. Nor seem capable yet of defining and designing appropriate new ways of working.
In the struggle to manage personal time and be practical and meaningful in their position, workers that are parents of school-aged children in these months have to bear the added element of juggling the summer breaks. That is relevant today because if hybrid working models and more flexible hours have helped to navigate through the pandemic, their format seems not to be paying off in the long run, for women in particular. They not only since the beginning have been more heavily involved in front-line occupations, such as healthcare, or the industries most affected by the crisis, as in the hospitality sector. They also have already statistically more often managed tasks such as home-schooling or caring for the elderly, even when full-time employed.
Now that the global health emergency has somewhat slowed its pace, although maybe temporarily, they find themselves tangled between dealing with children or house needs and their professional lives, most often than not in working environments that have taken over the personal space-time ratio.
The need for a break
No magic trick works for everybody in the same way, particularly regarding stress or any mental condition. Nonetheless, the topic is widely discussed, dissected and acknowledged by mental health experts and managing teams likewise. So much so that some key factors are well known and accepted. Starting from that mentioned need for a break, sometimes difficult to enjoy when employed with flexible hours or remotely. But not always because of lack of support from the company – there are many examples around the world of businesses offering prolonged paid leaves or allocating budget and offering benefits specifically to improve mental wellbeing. Undoubtedly, after recognizing high degrees of stress or even a condition of burnout, one need to take some first steps at a personal level. And since summertime might be a further challenge for working mums, some tips can come in handy.
Diana Blažaitienė, a remote work expert and founder of Soprana Personnel International, believes in the importance of planning, as many mothers already do, to hold off, among other things, the added stress that summer school closures bring. “Planning the time to the smallest details – meals, activities, play dates, important phone numbers, emergencies contacts – offers assurance that all parts of the day are taken care of. But at the same time, the plan does not have to be overcrowded with activities”.
If this feels quite an obvious suggestion, it is sometimes an overlooked practice that risks melting into a work-life flow while it can help balance the feeling of missing out on the one hand on working opportunities and, on the other different aspects of motherhood. “Working at home – continues Blažaitienė – does not mean that a person must complete all household tasks at the same time. On the contrary, working mothers should stick to a strict work and rest ratio and complete work tasks only during business hours instead of doing the chores all day and working late at night when everyone’s asleep. Overtime might further boost stress levels and burnout, so I advise monitoring the hours worked and not exceeding the required limit”.
As much as a further burden actively and intentionally planning for the summer months may appear, according to the founder of Soprana, a blueprint can instead facilitate enjoy and exploit the time off from work. A well-deserved and well-utilised leisure time can be crucial in reducing stress levels. “This is where diligent time planning pays off—scheduling quality time for (one)selves only might help working mothers to strike that work-life balance”.
Alley Oop’s newsletter
Every friday morning Alley Oop arrives in your inbox with news and stories. To register click here.
If you like to write or contact Alley Oop’s editorial team, the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org