Pandemic Burnout Could Set Gender Equality Back a Generation, Stanford Sociologists Warns

Women are more burnout than men during the pandemic, and this is leading them to opt for quitting work. If this continues, it could set gender equality back by a generation, warns Stanford Sociologist, Shelley Correll

Studies show that women are more stressed out during the work-from-home time of the pandemic. The women who must manage the housework, childcare and office work were easily under burnout during this time. This burnout situation is leading many women to change their workplace to something less demanding or to quit work altogether.

Shelly Correll is a professor of sociology in the School of Humanities and Sciences and director of the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab. Since the start of the pandemic, she and her team had been running focus groups with employees from across the country to learn how remote work is transforming their workplace culture and norms.

Although many women find the flexible arrangement of work from home welcoming, because they can manage to attend the Zoom calls in between their household chores, many others find it difficult to manage both caregiving and their career at the same time. Shelly Correll points out that Harvard Economist, Claudia Goldin’s study shows that women in heterosexual couples currently do 66% of all caregiving. And so, the latest Women in the Workplace report found that 42% of women said they were always or almost always burned out. This is an extremely high number and Correll finds it as a matter of concern as this is leading the women to quit their work. And this situation can even set gender equality back by a generation.

Also, the ‘always-on’ working system of work from home situation has led people to feel burnout. The fact that they need to be ready for a work meeting whenever and wherever has led people to feel like they are always working. The offices can ask the employees to “jump on a quick call” at any odd hour and they need to be prepared for this. This leads to stress for the employees.

Correll believes that to reduce burnout, leaders need to be clear in their messaging that they don’t expect people to be on call 24/7, and they need to put policies in place to ensure employees are getting time away from work.

Even though our lives are resuming after the pandemic, many companies are opting for a hybrid working system where people can either come to work or work from home. “By hybrid working system there is an opportunity to reduce stress and burnout, thereby increasing gender equity and inclusion, but we must be intentional in how we design these policies, or we risk importing old biases and barriers into our new hybrid work arrangements,” Shelly Correll stresses.

She further says that “At the individual level, it is important to recognize that we all have the capacity to make our workplaces more inclusive by treating our colleagues with dignity and respect. Employees experience workplace culture through their daily interactions with others. These interactions are what make us feel like we are included and belong in our organizations versus isolated and excluded. I urge people to set an intention each day, whether they go into the office or meet over Zoom, to carry out one act that makes someone’s day better than it was the day before. That may sound small, but it can make a big difference in how people feel about their job, and we need that right now.”

-Staff Reporter

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