It’s here again.
Like the season finale of your favorite show, it got here way too soon.
One minute, you’re dreaming of the start,
Now, you’re hoping for a well-delivered finish.
But that anticipation is quickly dampened by a
predictable, one-dimensional ending that leaves you feeling cheated out of the finale you were promised.
The truth is, many women feel cheated by their Christmas break.
For many of us, Christmas was far from a break:
Recovered from Covid or worried about or cared for someone who did,
And caught up on the lingering To-Dos we couldn’t get done because of our full-time entanglements.
As we return to our offices, in-person or virtually, and switch off our "Out of Office" autoresponder with rising anxiety, we want our employers and loved ones, who expect us to start the New Year on 10, to know that many of us are returning with fuel tanks far below acceptable or safe levels despite our “break.” We want you to know that, unlike years past, when the start of the year signified
a fresh start,
and big energy
For many of us,
January 1 is the official start of “more of the same” Season.
But we’re not the same.
In fact, the research tells us that women have never been more dissatisfied, stressed out, and frankly, more “Over it” than they’ve ever been before. According to Psychiatrist & Founder of Black People Treat, Dr. Raynia McGee, "Women are realizing life is precious, and they no longer want to stay where they feel undervalued or underappreciated."
So, instead of returning to the status quo of their lives with a feigned smile, many are jumping off corporate ladders, leaving unfruitful relationships, and traversing once-forbidden land.
They're leaving behind the bill of goods they’ve been sold of "success"
and searching for a life of less
Where they’re tired less
And no longer doing the most
With a benefits package that feels like the least.
It’s all just become toooooo much.
Where women find themselves today often starkly contrasts to the start of their careers when they felt prepared to
Come, See, and Conquer.
For many of us, our passion and drive have been sullied by bottomless workweeks and forever blurred virtual backgrounds, hiding the mess that is erupting in our personal lives leaving us disheartened and ready to explore other options.
I mean when McKinsey & Company (one of the top consulting firms in the world) dedicates a whole report to the topic of burnt-out women,
And while the pay equity & inclusion gap are center stage at most companies (as it should be), there is another unspoken gap plaguing many successful women-
The “Out of Office Responsibility Gap.”
What many employers fail to recognize is the same skills that make women outstanding employees:
Who Make things Happen
Are the same skills that make them highly demanded outside the office:
In their homes,
Places of worship,
With extended family,
And in their communities.
Women's responsibilities extend far beyond the virtual conference room to the living rooms of those they truly love. And the pandemic, along with rising single and co-parenting dynamics, has only exponentially increased these responsibilities.
With so many competing demands, everyone is losing out: the women, their loved ones, their clients, and their employers. Distracted, overwhelmed leaders, don’t make the best contributors in the office or at home.
In fact, according to a recent study by McKinsey and Company, when managers support overall employee well-being, employees are happier, less burned out, and less likely to consider leaving.”
And sadly, women are leaving.
The research indicates the number of women either leaving or contemplating leaving their current jobs has jumped to 33% from 25% at the beginning of the pandemic.
The bottom line is some of the brightest, most resilient, fierce assets on the planet feel they have no choice but to exit stage left of their current work situations to salvage what’s left of their physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being.
The "outside the office responsibility gap" is a real threat.
The good news is many employers are looking for solutions. The time is ripe for women to bring to their employer’s table effective ways to help soften the impact of their growing responsibilities.
Below are 5 suggestions:
Create Work-Life Balance allowances or subsidize discounts for vendors that provide home relief services like meal prepping, extracurricular transportation, assistance with virtual schooling, elderly care, and childcare expenses.
Eliminate the subtle penalty employees experience when they take off days by creating a mandatory PTO policy. This may help eliminate the guilt working women experience when taking time off to simply care for a child, elderly dependents, or themselves.
Offer personal development courses that are more than professional development hiding in sheep’s clothing. Offer dance classes, painting, and opportunities to explore their creative side. Also, consider offering classes that address their out of office challenges like healthy co-parenting and Air-Fryer cooking classes. Women want to connect with their lives and passions outside of work.
Create Mandatory short days where the office closes 2-4 hours early on certain days. Check the research on employee productivity and imagine what can be gained by an employee who is given permission to break. Many times, the gains will outweigh the losses.
Make lunch breaks mandatory. Can lunch meetings be obliterated or at a minimum be limited? Bonus points if you add an extra 30 minutes a day to step away, regroup and come back to our laptops ready to go than ready to leave.
And, if an employer is unwilling to make the changes needed to facilitate total well-being, I challenge you to come up with a plan to do so yourself. Below are some practical ways to address this:
To the extent your disposable income allows, delegate and outsource as many non-core responsibilities as you can (even if you have to barter): meal prep, house cleaning, home organization, tutoring, etc. Put these items on your birthday, anniversary, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s, and just-because gift lists. Help goes a much longer way than one-time niceties.
Create recurring accountability to recharge: set up monthly massages, weekly classes, coaching, and therapy. The research says those who create accountability in the areas that matter most make more progress in those areas. Two is better than one.
Schedule time off at home. Women schedule time off in the office but are less diligent about scheduling time off at home. It is ok to tell loved ones, “I will not be available between these times on these days.” Then, get lost. No explanation is required.
Take PTO days to devote to personal well-being. Often, the coveted PTO days are reserved for vacations, sick days, and doctor’s visits. Proactively scheduling regular days off (in advance) to replenish your physical, mental, and emotional well-being can prevent women from reach a breaking point. You truly deserve a day OFF to invest in you.
Stop hitting snooze in the morning. We often think the answer to exhaustion is to sneak in more sleep, but you could need more fuel. Ask yourself, “how do you want to feel in the morning and what can you do to facilitate the feeling you desire?” For many achieving women, a morning routine is critical to giving them that extra boost and clarity to start the morning off on the right foot and show up their best.
Have more fun. Do more of the healthy things that bring you joy. Reclaim your hobbies, passions, personal goals, and dreams. Having a vibrant life outside of work will only provide you with more energy to bring to the office.
Women deserve to feel heard and seen. And, whether they choose to take the full-leap or not, we all know something needs to change. This is the time to ask for it. Plan for it. And, then make it happen.
Let’s make 2022 the year of doing less and not more. And in the end, we all will win.
Najah Drakes is a Work-Life Balance Strategist, Personal Development Coach, and Self Care Expert at Spark Her Blaze. She helps successful women to purposefully achieve as much success in their personal lives as they do in their professional lives. After over 20 years of working with multi-million dollar companies, Najah now uses her strategic and data analysis skills to help women harness the data of their lives to empower them to live more purposefully physically, mentally, and spiritually.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
LinkedIn: Najah (Ade) Drakes