Burnout is defined as a syndrome manifesting from chronic workplace stress. Globally, just over 42% of women report being burned out! Productivity is at an all-time high right now so what we’re seeing is that women are delivering the performance and business results, but at a great personal toll.
International studies have shown that women in senior management roles, do more to help their employees navigate work-life challenges, relative to their male peers, spending additional time helping to manage workloads and they’re 60% more likely to be focusing on emotional support. This is important, as it not only helps employees feel good within themselves, but employees have reported to say that when they receive additional support, they are happier in their job and less likely to make a move.
One in three women, and 60% of mothers with young children, spend five or more hours a day on housework, homework and caregiving. Five hours a day is equivalent to half-time job! And covid stripped bare what was already under the surface and well understood by working women which was how imbalanced those responsibilities outside of the workplace are. For the majority of women, the thing they worry about in the workplace is how they’re going to be evaluated in their performance, not how much extra work they’re doing at home.
“Burnout arises when individuals cannot access enough recovery between stressors,” explains Kerry Rudman from Brain Harmonics, a Neurofeedback organisation specialising in retraining brains. “We see this particularly with employed parents who face a higher number of, and longer exposure to stressors from the multiple roles they play compared with nonparents and they have less ability to access periods of recovery as a result. Employed parents report several stressors, in particular a lack of work-life balance, increased responsibilities at both work and home, greater concern for safety at work and for their kids at school, a loss of social support and isolation.”
In collective studies conducted around the world, employed parents have reported the following in comparison to non-parents:
- They are worn out at the end of the day
Employed parents often lose interest or enthusiasm for their work or find their work insignificant. They are facing illness, financial worry and isolation. The compounded pressure of working while parenting, including remote schooling and working has left many with feelings of apathy and fatigue, where they feel that they are failing to live up to their own expectations across their multiple social roles. There are also indications that parents are not finding support or help from their employees.
“Of the parents who report burnout – 90% believe their management consider productivity to be more important than mental health,” says Rudman. “Because of this, a lot of people will never discuss any issues that they are experiencing with their management or co-workers. People don’t want to look bad or seem as if they are not coping when everyone else looks like they do. They also don’t want to be seen as incompetent or be at risk of being replaced. There is an assumption that people should be glad that they have a job right now and everyone just needs to do the extra work demanded of them as they could easily be replaced.”
Of the six main causes of burnout—an unsustainable workload, a general perceived lack of control, insufficient rewards for effort, the lack of a supportive community, absence of fairness, and mismatched values and skills—many are challenges that employed parents may be more likely to face, particularly from this pandemic.
Employed parents report a range of stressors that have deteriorated their mental health. The level of household responsibilities is a particular problem. “In a survey conducted by Brain Harmonics, parents experiencing symptoms of burnout are more often responsible for all household duties, compared with parents not experiencing symptoms of burnout (57 percent versus 41 percent),” says Rudman.
In fact, the majority of parents responsible for all household duties report symptoms of burnout. These responsibilities, including caring for older adult family members in addition to children, most often fall to women, who have also been more likely to cut back on paid work during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to provide childcare. For these women specifically, reduced paid time at work could also serve to further exacerbate the symptoms of burnout they are experiencing, if their responsibilities at work do not also decrease.
- Parents are understandably worried. Four in five employed parents say that they feel concerned about their child’s mental health, and more than one-third rate this concern as extreme.
In a McKinsey and Co survey, parents are more likely than nonparents to report missing days of work because they are experiencing symptoms of burnout. They are also more likely to use leaves of absence and supported employment.
While employed parents are more likely than nonparents to see themselves staying at their employer in two years’ time (79 percent versus 64 percent), burnout correlates to employed parents’ likelihood of not recommending their place of work to others. Their perspective on senior management’s attitude toward the importance of mental health, as well as the level of supportiveness their employer shows toward colleagues with mental illness, also declines.
“What’s more, stress and burnout, are the main reasons that cause people to consider leaving their jobs,” says Rudman.
What resources do burnt out women, and in particular, working mothers have at their disposal to assist them in their situation? Talk therapy and life coaching is one aspect that can help to achieve a work-life balance. Neurofeedback is another option for those who might not be able to adequately verbalise their feelings.
“We have found Neurofeedback – brain training – to be an effective tool to assist in balancing stress, depression and sleep as well as traumas which exacerbate burn out and ongoing mental health issues. Addressing these imbalances as soon as possible will help parents and employees to be more effective, happier and more productive as well as giving them the opportunity to cope with the ongoing stresses that they are confronted with.”
Neurofeedback training is a non-invasive tool that you can help to improve your mental health and feelings of physical and emotional burnout. For more information about neurofeedback training please visit Brain Harmonics on www.brainharmonics.co.za
Some of the comments from parents included in the surveys:
- The stresses and pressures of being a parent mixed with the demands of work have made life nearly impossible.
Primary Caregiver of two children, United Kingdom
- It’s a lot. Having no break from kids or working at night. No time to switch off.
Primary Caregiver of two children, Australia
- Trying to balance work demands, running a household, paying bills, dealing with [the] issues of an elderly parent, as well as providing emotional support to my son has left me burnt out.
Primary Caregiver of one child, Australia
- I cannot concentrate on my work and always worry about my child’s health.
Primary Caregiver of one child, Canada
- My employer could better support me through allowing me] to work flexibly . . . [so that] when I need to take care of my family, I can work remotely . . . [and by] providing more health support, such as childcare services and mental-health consultations.
Primary Caregiver of two children, China
- Employers should] allow more flexibility in terms of working in the office and from home so that employees can better take care of both their work and family matters.
Primary Caregiver of three children, Singapore