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Coronavirus Is Hitting Women Harder. Here’s How To Turn The Burnout Train Around 

Lindsay Mott  |  July 24, 2020

Think the coronavirus is impacting you more than the men in your life? Nope, it’s not all in your head. Here’s how to fix it. 

Whether you’re worried about losing your job or you’re the only parent at home taking care of what seems like EVERYthing, or you’re still working and then coming home to a house that’s an absolute wreck, you’re unfortunately not alone. The coronavirus is disproportionately impacting women. 

You may have heard the term “she-scession” used to imply a recession that’s hitting women the hardest — this is a topic HerMoney took a deep dive into where layoffs are concerned — and the term originated when economists noticed that 2020’s initial job losses impacted women at higher rates than men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women made up 49% of the overall workforce, but accounted for 55% of job losses in April. 

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Katica Roy, gender economist and founder and CEO of Pipeline, a software company Pipeline that helps employers manage everything from the hiring process to employee reviews, says this was to be expected because women make up the majority of the industries that were most heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Women make up 62% of all minimum wage earners and 70% of the lowest paid workers in our country. But just because it’s expected doesn’t make it any easier to handle. 

Still Employed = Working Harder Than Ever 

On the flipside, women also make up the majority of all essential workers, Roy says, so while many women did lose their paying jobs, countless others are still working and taking on even more than before. 

“On average, historically, women have done more unpaid work than men,” Roy says, highlighting how much caregiving and other forms of unpaid work at home that women do, including homeschooling and homework, house work, shopping, and so much more. 

With the amount of things that need to be done during this time just to keep a household running, and shifts in the work/life/school/everything else balance, Beth Benatti Kennedy, a leadership coach and resiliency expert, says that women are also facing decision fatigue. (In addition to the physical and mental fatigue that are already off the charts.) This has now become a common refrain from many of her clients: “I’ve never had to think about so many personal and work decisions. It’s so overwhelming.” 

In an average day, women are making decisions for their families regarding school, play, meal planning, cleaning, pets, who goes to the grocery store, and whether or not risk for catching the virus should be taken in order to go to an event or have an experience, and all this is being done alongside a paying job for which you’re hoping to have a nice quiet office space in which you can comfortably earn a living. If it sounds like a pipe dream, that’s because it is. Because working from home has removed the boundaries that helped separate work and life, women are now working longer hours and are unable to turn work off, Kennedy says. 

“Another challenge is they are passionate about their careers and forget that it’s so easy to be spending too much time doing work,” Kennedy explains.   

The Burnout is Very Real (But Thankfully Preventable) 

If you’re “going down the burnout escalator,” Kennedy says it’s important to be aware of the symptoms: exhaustion, getting cynical about your work, not taking things as seriously, and getting detached from friends and other relationships. 

Thankfully, burnout is preventable — here are a couple of strategies that can help you tune out the noise and turn into your resiliency when you start to see the warning signs.

Create a clear boundary at the end of your workday: Today, the video calls that those of us working from home frequently have (in the middle of our living rooms, no less) can frequently seem more exhausting than regular work days. “Technology really does something different to the brain,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy suggests an end-of-day ritual: Disconnect from your phone and computer for at least an hour, and take time to recharge and do something fun. Go outside, enjoy time with your kids or pets, meet a neighbor friend for a socially-distanced walk or drink. She also stresses getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, and staying hydrated. 

Fix the imbalance: If you find yourself doing more at home, communicating with your partner is your first step towards righting this imbalance. Kennedy says it’s important to communicate about strategies that will make this time more manageable, focusing on each other’s strengths, because this is likely not a short-term situation. 

It’s also important to simplify where you can. If it’s in the budget, plan to get takeout or delivery for dinner once a week, or perhaps cook on the weekends for the entire week. If you and your family are comfortable with it, you may want to hire someone to help with cleaning or laundry. 

And speaking of cleaning, no, your house is not going to be as clean as you would like during this time. And maybe the food you’re eating isn’t all pasture-raised organic charcoal-activated gluten-free paleo probiotic goodness. That’s okay, too. We all need to be kinder to ourselves during this time, Kennedy says. You might be surprised how much giving yourself a little grace can help take the pressure off. 


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