Why Are Women More Likely To Experience Burnout?

The stress of work and experiencing burnout is nothing new, especially for women who have to work harder than their male counterparts to get ahead and achieve the same amount of success. And many women carry the primary responsibility of childcare and housework, along with their careers. Even with extra work and perseverance, there are still gaps for women in the workplace that haven’t been closed. Women are still dealing with a pay gap and also burnout gap. 

A study in collaboration with Berlin Cameron surveyed over 1,000 employees in the US and UK. They found 66% of women felt burnt out in the past seven days when the survey was conducted. Out of the surveyed women, 57% also felt stressed, and only 50% of those women said they were likely to ask for help or support when feeling burnout. This survey shows the widening burnout gap for women that’s only been exacerbated by the pandemic, showing the burden of doing additional housework and keeping up with their careers and ambitions. 

In fact, since the pandemic, women have reported feeling more exhaustion and burnout than their male counterparts. The 2022 Women in the Workplace survey said that 43% of women felt burned out compared to only 31% of men. And the increasing burnout for women over the past few years has resulted in an uptick in career changes, voluntary resignations, quiet quitting, and a demand for more work-life balance employment benefits.

Many factors contribute to the growing risk of burnout among women. Societal structures, gender norms, and gender quality gaps in the workplace all play substantial parts in this issue. Factor this in with the way work has shifted over recent years. With more working from home, a higher demand for childcare, and many working women multi-tasking between working from home, caring for kids, and staying on top of the housework simultaneously, it’s no wonder women are burning out more than men. 

A study from University College London shows that women living with men continue to manage most household responsibilities. For example, women are five times more likely than men to spend at least 20 hours a week on household chores on top of their careers. 

So what exactly plays into why women are more likely to experience burnout?

Mental & Emotional Load

In addition to undertaking an unequal share of tasks on top of their careers, women are also more likely to carry the burden of mental and emotional load. Many women struggle to ask for support or may keep it to themselves, an invisible work and stress women are often under that go unseen. These can involve the mental and emotional workload of managing the household, kids, family life, and relationships. The mental and emotional demands include continual awareness of what’s happening in the home, planning for the family, making doctor’s appointments, keeping up with school projects, play dates, grocery shopping, and other family and household needs. 

For many women with families, or even women just living with their partner, it’s their job to act as project and house manager for the unit. Add in all of this on top of women who are trying to grow their careers, and the mental and emotional load can be exhausting. While the physical demand of these things takes its toll, the mental and emotional demand can often push women over the edge to burnout if there’s little to no support. 

On top of the mental and emotional load already created by women’s invisible work, not being recognized for it can add even more stress. Women surveyed by Berlin Cameron stated that they want recognition for their invisible work at home and the workplace, and it’s the first thing women want from their husband and their boss. 

Lack of Time for Self-Care

Between balancing home and work demands, blurred boundaries, and the “always on” or “always productive” expectations remote work and hustle culture have created, there’s a lot less time for women to prioritize self-care and well-being habits. And even when there is time, many women feel pressured to sacrifice self-care to do something more productive. 

Almost 40% of women never or rarely do something for themselves and spend about 60% of their week doing things for others. And 64% of women stated that they wish they could take more time to devote to their health and self-care, with 53% wishing they could devote more time to their interests.

The negative effects of combining the mental and emotional load with a lack of adequate time or support for healthy self-care habits, many women turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a result of burnout or to relieve stress. Women aged 25-34 said they have many negative coping habits and seem to have a harder time balancing work and home responsibilities. Some of these coping mechanisms include stress-eating, increased alcohol consumption, and using sleeping aids. More physical, mental, and emotional support in the workplace and at home could help women who struggle with taking time for themselves develop regular healthy self-care habits to decrease the risk of burnout.

Noticing The Signs of Burnout

Organizations and society must start to recognize that many old workplace practices are no longer fit for the modern day to prevent burnout. It’s unrealistic to expect women to maintain traditional gender roles and the majority of the household responsibilities while building a career simultaneously. Managers can learn to recognize the early signs of burnout and offer support since many employees, especially women, are reluctant to say something or ask for help.

In addition to the stigmas around mental health in the workplace, employees may also fear the career consequences of struggling with work stress and needing extra support. This can be especially true for women dealing with stress in a male-dominated workplace or industry. Often, this stems from women feeling like they need to work harder to prove equal competence to their male counterparts. Many women suffer in silence and eventually experience burnout rather than get support. 

But managers can be proactive about helping provide women the support they need to avoid burnout by being aware of the signs:

  • Reduced performance and productivity
  • Anxiety and detachment
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of creativity
  • Fatigue
  • Low mood
  • Lower immunity and frequent illness
  • Frequent headaches 
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits
  • Irritability

Leading With Support

Leaders and managers should prioritize creating a physiologically safe environment where women can truthfully express their needs and feelings to avoid burning out. This can be done by frequently reminding your team of the open-door policy and checking in to ask how they’re doing and if they need support. 

Showing support helps build a positive culture around mental health, productivity, work-life balance, and burnout. Women will be more likely to seek support at the earliest sign of difficulty before reaching burnout. Better attempts at maintaining a level playing field in the workplace for women and showing support for individual physical and emotional needs can reduce burnout and help women employees feel supported and thrive in both a personal and professional capacity.
To learn more about how your organization can create and promote a better-balanced workplace culture that helps employees avoid burnout, get in contact with the Chris Dyer team. Chris is an international keynote speaker, consultant, and bestselling author, sharing his expertise for organizations worldwide on positive company culture, leadership, and remote work.