New data shows women face workplace burnout at significantly higher rates than men. In the past two years, nearly half of women – 46 percent – reported higher levels of burnout than men (37 percent), new data from the Future Forum shows.
Additionally, women are over twice as likely (67 percent) not to take a break than men (33 percent).
It’s part of the reason why Arianna Huffington, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global (which aims to end the burnout pandemic), teamed up with the mental health brand, Calm, to work on combatting workplace stress.
According to Calm, nearly a quarter (22 percent) of people feel guilty or judged when they step away from work at midday. Huffington said that feelings of guilt tend to be stronger in women.
“Women often pay a higher price for our ‘always on’ culture of stress and burnout,” Huffington said.
The report showed that 78 percent of full-time employees want more opportunities to care for their mental health while at work but aren’t offered it.
Calm, along with Huffington, will host the first-ever global “mental health break” for work on Tuesday, an event that coincides with Mental Health Awareness Month. The event will be a live, guided meditation session followed by a discussion on combating work stress and balance.
Know Your Value recently chatted with Huffington about her partnership with Calm and her best tips to fight burnout in the workplace. The conversation is below and has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Know Your Value: The recently released 2023 “Women @ Work” report by Deloitte surveyed over 5,000 women, and it showed 28 percent feel burned out at work. Meanwhile, just over half (51 percent) said their stress levels are higher than a year ago. What tips and tricks have worked best for you in terms of fighting burnout? Do you have any daily must-dos?
Huffington: I have several tips. It’s all about building habits into your day that help reduce stress and improve your well-being. And the science that shows that the best way to learn new habits is to start as small as possible.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Pick a time at night when you turn off your devices — and gently escort them out of your bedroom! Our phones are repositories of everything we need to put away to allow us to sleep — our to-do lists, our inboxes, the demands of the day. So, charging our devices in another room allows us to wake-up as recharged as our phones.
-When you wake up, don’t start your day by looking at your phone. Instead, take 60 seconds to breathe deeply, remember what you’re grateful for or set your intention for the day.
- A simple breathing exercise to reduce stress is called “box breathing.” All you have to do is inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four and exhale for a count of four.
- One way to create a new healthy habit is through “habit stacking,” which is to attach a new habit onto an existing one. For example, every time I brush my teeth, I think of three things I'm grateful for. Gratitude is one of our most powerful emotions, and the science shows it helps lower stress and anxiety. Doing it while brushing your teeth is an easy way to reduce stress without requiring any more from an already busy day.
Know Your Value: The Deloitte report also revealed that just 25 percent of women feel comfortable talking to their employers about mental health. What can employers do to foster a more open environment in terms of workplace stress?
Huffington: Women often pay a higher price for our “always on” culture of stress and burnout. For the sake of all employees, employers need to create a culture where everybody can be heard and talk about what they need to do in their daily lives to prioritize their mental health. At Thrive, one way we do this is with the Entry Interview, which is a core part of our onboarding process. It’s a conversation in which we ask new hires what’s important to them in their lives outside of work — not just responsibilities they have, like childcare, but what allows them to reduce stress and nurture their mental health and resilience. Then we revisit this discussion in an ongoing way.
It's also important for leadership at companies to create a culture of permission to speak freely about mental health, both by being open about it themselves and by prioritizing their own mental health.
Know Your Value: And if you are an employee, how can you broach the subject with your boss, particularly if you feel they aren’t very accommodating?
Huffington: I would hope that most managers and leaders now recognize the importance of their people being able to speak up about stress and mental health – certainly, that’s what we’re seeing with the partners we work with at Thrive. One way we make sure this happens at Thrive is through our core company value of Compassionate Directness. It’s about empowering employees to speak up, give feedback, disagree, and surface challenges they're having in their lives or at work in real time — with compassion, empathy, and understanding.
From an employee perspective, when you’re communicating with your boss, it’s also important to connect your mental health to your work in a meaningful way — for example, how taking care of your mental health helps you be more engaged, productive, creative or find joy in your work.
Know Your Value: You’ve decided to partner with Calm, whose goal is to help consumers with mental health, sleep and meditation, to host the first ever “mental health break” for work. How does it work, and why is this initiative important to you during this particular juncture?
Huffington: More than half of America’s employees say they’re stressed at work, every day, according to Gallup. At the same time, research consistently shows that if we can build time to reset and recharge, we can interrupt the sort of cumulative stress that leads to burnout. And the even better news is that it takes very little time to do this.
One of the most popular tools on our Thrive platform, which is also available to employees in the flow of work in Microsoft Teams and Slack, is Thrive Reset. It’s based on the neuroscience that shows that we can course-correct from stress in just 60 to 90 seconds. There are hundreds of Resets to choose from on themes like gratitude, movement, mindfulness, and reframing problems. You can also create your own personalized 60-second Resets by selecting images, quotes, and music that bring you calm and joy.
Know Your Value: Research shows women are over twice as likely NOT to take a break than men, why do you think that is, and what’s the takeaway?
Huffington: In a culture in which burnout is taken as a proxy for commitment and dedication, many women are worried that being open and up front about when they need to take a break will make it harder for them to advance. But of course, for women – and for everybody – the science is clear that we’re better at our jobs and more productive at everything we do when we take time to recharge. That’s why it’s so important to change the way we work to be more in line with the science of how humans recharge and perform at their best.
Very often, the voice that keeps us from taking breaks and recharging is coming from within. We tell ourselves that if we take a break, or eat lunch away from our desk, or stop working at a decent hour, we will be judged or perceived as uncommitted. We tell ourselves it will be a catastrophe if we step away from our work or don’t respond immediately to a late-night email.
That’s not to say we as women are to blame. It’s to say that we have more power than we realize – to take breaks, take care of ourselves, know our worth, and ask for what we want. That’s how we’re going to improve our own work lives, and how we’re going to shift the culture.