Did you put your keys back in the fridge?
Workers of all genders, especially parents and caregivers, struggle to balance work and family responsibilities (the COVID-19 pandemic life has only added more stress 😱). But there are generations of societal pressures and expectations that make work-life balance a unique challenge for people who identify as women. Here is how you can find more harmony in your life.
Employees of all genders and backgrounds deserve to feel respected and valued. Period. But there are several challenges in the workplace that are specific to people who identify as women. Here are some of the obstacles.
- Sexism. Women still face absurd and frustrating challenges due to cultural attitudes and stigma. This sexism can lead to perceived poor health, mental health issues, and an all-too-real glass ceiling.
- Lack of affordable care. Many people cannot return to work after having children due to lack of support or financial hardship. And that doesn’t just impact their current income. Prolonged absence from work can impact future income and opportunities.
- Sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement was born from the collective experience of generations of women. It has brought the problem to light, but thousands of employees face harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace.
- Unequal standards. An old telephone survey from 1998 showed that some women feel the need for overcompensation at work simply because of their gender. This research was on the construction industry, but it can happen to anyone.
There are many proactive ways to improve your work-life balance. Here are five tips to help you take control of your life and well-being.
1. Focus on “time for me”
Between work, family and friends, “time for me” might be the last thing on your mind. But taking care of yourself is NOT selfish. In fact, this should be number one on your to-do list.
Research shows that self-care can greatly improve your mood. One study found that medical students who took care of themselves had a better quality of life and less stress than those who didn’t. A small research review also found that self-care can even prevent and treat anxiety and depression. We love to hear it.
Keep in mind that personal care is different for everyone and it can take time to figure out what works for you. Here are some great ways to get started.
PS The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) also suggests that you stay in touch with the people in your life who can give you emotional support and practical help.
2. Try to find a job you like
While all work can be very stressful, it can make your day-to-day life much more enjoyable if you enjoy what you do. Not to feel the love? There are many ways to branch out and find your passion. Here’s how to do it.
- Change team. You might love your business, but dislike your job. If so, see what other roles the company has to offer.
- Take online classes. It’s never too late to learn. If you’ve always been curious about a topic, do it! There are many free or affordable courses that you can take from the comfort of your own home. You can also see if your current company offers training programs.
- Share your CV. You never know what opportunities are waiting for you around the corner. Post your resume on LinkedIn or check out online job search websites.
3. Set limits
Working from home sounds good in theory. But IRL, it can be stressful AF. Here are some tips to make it more manageable.
- Do not disturb. If you live with a family or roommates, ask them to respect your space while you work.
- To leave time means to stop time. If your shift normally ends at 5:00 p.m., stop working at 5:00 p.m. Don’t overdo it just because your computer is always right in front of you. These emails can wait until morning.
- Switch to home mode. When you are done with your work, switch to home mode. Take a walk, change your clothes, or do a fun activity with the family.
- Create a workspace. A lot of people don’t have the space for a home office. But it’s still important to have a space that’s just designated for work.
- Keep your technology separate. If you use the same phone number or the same devices for work and life, sign out of your work accounts as soon as the business day is over.
4. Take a break
If you have sick, personal or vacation days… use them! If you don’t have paid time off (PTO), you might be tempted to overcome an illness or mental health crisis – don’t. Taking a day off once in a while can do wonders for your mental and physical health. It can also reduce the risk of burnout, which can make you more productive.
Message of public interest: Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing R&R. Remember you are not a robot. You deserve time off.
5. Ask for help
It is quite natural to sometimes feel overwhelmed, stressed or blocked. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. Contact your teammates and see if they can help you. Ask your roommates or family to help you with the housework. Wind to a friend. And remember, you have nothing to be ashamed of.
Positive change shouldn’t rest entirely on the shoulders of an employee. Some of the barriers affecting workers are just beyond what individuals can control. Employers have a responsibility to make their staff feel safe and respected. Here are some ways companies can improve work-life balance for women.
Offer paid family leave
Every year, countless employees are unable to re-enter the workforce due to their role as parent or caregiver. This means that companies are missing out on incredible and talented assets. A small 2012 study found that work-family enrichment can help people balance their work-life relationship. Thus, there is a better chance that employees will join the team if they are offered paid maternity, paternity or family leave.
Encourage flexible hours
Focusing on productivity on set schedules can provide the flexibility people need to find a healthy work-life balance. This may not work for people in the customer service industry, but there is a lot of work that can be done at any time of the day. Allowing employees to choose the hours that work best for them and their families could be a game-changer.
Many peeps might also benefit from the opportunity to work from home. This extra freedom could help them focus on their actual tasks rather than the stress of traveling.
Offer comprehensive benefits
Chances are, meaningful loyalty won’t come from hosting a monthly pizza party. However, offering benefits that spill over into an employee’s personal life can have a big impact. This may include:
- a solid health plan
- benefits for family members
- mental health counseling and support
- free fitness classes and gym memberships
- free internal accounting during tax season
- individual retirement accounts (IRA) or 401 (k) plans
- state-of-the-art technology with easily accessible technical support
- company cars, gasoline allowance or public transport allowances
There is no single solution to improving the quality of life of working women. But there are many ways to work towards a better balance that benefits your unique situation. Remember to take care of your needs first. You deserve it.