Boundaries and priorities: An equation for a successful work-life blend
Setting boundaries and establishing priorities were almost always daily practices for the women who not only coped but thrived amid the personal and professional challenges of the pandemic.
The pandemic has been a mixed bag in terms of career opportunities for talented women. Some have flourished and some have languished. Two key strategies — setting boundaries and establishing priorities — were almost always daily practices for the women who not only coped, but thrived amid the personal and professional challenges of the pandemic. Their success was not about balance, which is tentative and elusive, but about blending what they spent time on with what they valued.
Boundaries and priorities: The urgent need
Recently, a number of articles and research studies have pinpointed how the pandemic has taken a greater toll on career women than on men.
According to a recent McKinsey report, from June to August of 2020, mothers were twice as likely as fathers to do an extra five hours of household chores a day in dual-career marriages.
Also, according to McKinsey, 79 percent of men said they had a positive work from home experience during the pandemic versus 37 percent of women.
VOX recently reported that despite the additional challenges of working remotely, women are more likely than men to want to continue to work from home.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Women’s Health Survey, one in ten working mothers said they quit their jobs during the pandemic. And, nearly 2 million women have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic.
The overwhelming consensus from several studies, including VOX, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and Fortune, was that the stress level among women increased dramatically during the pandemic, and significantly more than their spouses and their male colleagues.
These studies all highlight the benefits of women setting boundaries and establishing priorities with the help and support of their family, their managers and their corporate leadership. The importance of these strategies lies in them being both career-advancing and stress-reducing.
3 proven approaches to setting boundaries and establishing priorities
First, it is important to understand that in setting boundaries and establishing priorities women cannot fly solo. On an individual level, spouses and significant others must be willing to listen and buy into a more equitable division of household chores and caring for children or aging parents. On a professional level, women must engage their managers for support by:
Having conversations to identify and prioritize what is truly important.
Determining together what can be delegated.
Ensuring their managers provide opportunities for visibility with senior organizational leaders so women’s contributions can be recognized and valued.
Next, according to a study done during the pandemic by WOMEN Unlimited, Inc., managers gained a much greater understanding of — and empathy for — the specific challenges that women, and especially working mothers, face. It is vital for managers at all levels to continue their efforts to accept flexibility and individuality, a strategy with proven individual and corporate benefits. Organizations that supported women’s prioritizing when and how they worked performed significantly better during the pandemic. Additionally, the women had lower stress levels and, feeling valued and appreciated, they were more likely to stay on the job.
Finally, a variety of mind shifts are needed by women themselves. Learning to make the shift from being sole purveyors of tasks to being co-owners is an important start. Women must also abandon the guilt they often associate with taking time for themselves and be willing to embark on a strategy of practicing self-care, which includes nurturing both their physical and psychological well being. This shift brings with it the all-important realization that in order to care for others they love, they must first care for themselves.
The foundation for this self-care lies in setting boundaries and establishing priorities. It puts women in the right frame of mind to think of their own needs, and it frees up the time to make self-care happen.
Setting boundaries and establishing priorities have an immediate impact on women in the workforce. They become less stressed about prioritizing personal and professional responsibilities, more accomplished at the tasks that matter, and less likely to abandon the workforce. But that’s only the beginning. This quote from the article, “Women, Work and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity,” perfectly sums up the far-reaching benefits of these strategies