Pandemic burnout is leading to devastating consequences for women, and it could set gender equality back a generation, sociologist Shelley Correll warns.
Coming out of the pandemic is an opportunity to build more equitable workplaces—but only if employers act now. Otherwise, burnout is likely going to either drive women out of the paid workforce entirely or cause them to dial back their careers, potentially setting back gender equality by a whole generation, says Correll, professor of sociology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab.
“…if an employee wants to work fewer hours and have a less stressful job, that job is there for them.”
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, Correll and her team have been running focus groups with employees from across the country to learn how remote work is transforming their workplace culture and norms. While employees note many benefits of remote work and report a desire to keep working remotely in the future, the expectations that employees be “always on” for work and for family has also led to an increase in feelings of burnout—so much so that many, especially women, are leaving or considering leaving their jobs, Correll says.
As workplaces roll out new hybrid work policies, 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, Correll stresses.
Here, Correll shares some of the insights she’s gleaned from her discussions with organizations from across the country and some of her concerns that, if not done right, hybrid work could potentially roll back diversity and inclusion: