International Women's Day: the worrying rise in female burnout

Written by
Ritu Mohanka, VP Strategy & Business Development EMEA, Glint Inc.

08 Mar 2021

08 Mar 2021 • by Ritu Mohanka, VP Strategy & Business Development EMEA, Glint Inc.

Why do women feel a heavier burden from their workload than men? Ritu Mohanka offers some practical steps on how to address this trend.

This year’s International Women’s Day is all about choosing to challenge the restrictions many women still feel are holding them back. But people success platform Glint (part of LinkedIn) has just released results that show female employees have started to report experiencing overwhelming workloads 20% more frequently than men over the course of the pandemic.

When we look at the aggregated data, from 9 million employee engagement survey responses from companies around the world, it highlights a worrying increase in employees experiencing challenges with their mental health affecting all genders. Burnout risk trended upwards year-over-year, spiking in late March 2020 and climbing by nearly 4% between August and December 2020. Burnout levels across different industries reached record highs.  

The latest numbers show a clear gender divide, with a survey of LinkedIn members showing that the difference is most acute in smaller organisations, where women are expressing concern about these pressures 28% more frequently than men. Seniority is of no help here: women in management positions are 41% more likely to be reporting these issues over male colleagues.

Managers can help prevent burnout by keeping up with communication

Faced with profound changes to their day-to-day lives, including severe restrictions on social contact, enforced working from home, homeschooling, worries about health and future uncertainty, the reality of how much ground women have lost during the pandemic is disheartening.

So how can managers help alleviate these profound feelings of mental exhaustion and of overwhelming workload their female team members are experiencing? 

Managers can start with one of the most straightforward habits to help their employees—having conversations with them. Employees who have regular conversations with their managers are better able to find specific solutions for their unique circumstances and say they’re better able to do their work and take care of themselves. These conversations need to be frank and open and address the needs of the whole person rather than focusing solely on work goals if they’re going to have any real effect. 

It’s important for managers to check in, first and foremost, on how people are doing rather than immediately discuss the next item on an ever-growing to-do list. These last few months of lockdown and enforced homeschooling have been an overwhelming situation and managers need to pay careful attention to their own and their team’s emotions and well-being. And while scheduling a structured check-in with a team member over video may seem slightly artificial, it’s vital that we have these regular catch-ups. After all, we can no longer rely on water-cooler moments or meetings over coffee or at team social events to build those human connections between employees.

Why finding our how your people are feeling will facilitate creative solutions

Sending out regular employee engagement surveys helps feed into these conversations. The employee engagement survey process also contributes to employees feeling involved and having a voice. Our data suggests that when leaders get even closer to employee feedback, and ask for it more frequently, they’re better positioned to counteract the burnout levels we’re seeing, helping prioritise tasks and clear barriers.

Finally, in our experience, organisations doing the best job of fostering connection among their employees are thinking differently and appreciating that what one group needs for connection or to overcome burnout is likely different from another—be flexible, creative and as human as you can. 

Understanding employees’ unique experiences is the best way to build strategies for creating connections and overcoming burnout, which should be a priority every day, not just on the 8th of March.

Ritu is the leader of Glint’s business development and strategic growth in EMEA. She joined Glint from IBM Kenexa after fifteen years in senior leadership positions. At IBM, she worked with some of the world’s most recognisable organisations to drive rapid revenue growth across the EMEA region. Throughout her career, she has been widely recognised for having peerless CXO relationship skills and an ability to source, partner, win and flawlessly execute complex technology solutions mandates from the largest global organisations. 

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