Every few days, a viral tweet or TikTok says something to the effect of “why are we still working with everything that’s going on.” Based on the number of shares these posts get, it’s clear this sentiment is highly relatable. Regardless of what you do, work these days feels like a huge distraction from the things that really matter, like mental and physical health, safety, family, friends, and the environment. Is work pointless? No. Does it feel mildly ridiculous to send an “apologies for the delay” email given the state of things? Yes. How do you stare at a laptop all day when everything is falling apart?
We haven’t found the answer to that last question. No one has.
But knowing this feeling of disillusionment is on the rise and that employees all over are on the verge of burnout, InHerSight asked women at different companies what they’re doing to power through their workweeks despite continued uncertainty and negativity. These are nine must-haves for this stage of the pandemic, according to women like you.
9 must-haves to help you work through this stage of the pandemic
1. Benefits and values that support needs that have surfaced during the pandemic
Many women’s needs, values, and goals have changed during the pandemic. Whether you’re actively participating in the Great Resignation, you’re passively looking for new job opportunities, or you’re simply assessing how much you’ve changed since March 2020, take note of how companies have been supporting their employees through the unexpected and change course, if necessary, to find the benefits you need. Here’s what one recent job seeker kept in mind when navigating her search for a new role:
“I'm new to The Zebra, but one of the main reasons I was looking for a new job (and why I chose this one) was because the company has evolved their policies to adapt to the changing times and allow people to work where and how they work best. I'm able to balance my family and work obligations by working from home and adjusting my hours as needed. That said, I like working for an Austin company (where I'm based) so that I will be able to go into the office when I choose to and not lose the value of in-person meetings with my team.” —Susan Meyer, The Zebra
2. Time off
Burnout rates are high these days, especially among working moms, who are still taking on the lion’s share of caretaking at home, and all women, regardless of parenthood status, say mental health support is the wellness benefit they want most right now. What should that tell you? It’s time to take a break—and to make sure you’re working for a company that understands the value of time away. Four women share why the ability to log off matters so much to them and how their companies encourage them to do so:
“This year, PI (Penn Interactive Ventures) management organized our release schedule to allow employees to take time off this summer. When I told my managers I wanted to take advantage of this by booking a week-long trip to Colorado, they said to go out and have fun and that they’d have things covered while I was away. I came back physically tired from hiking, whitewater rafting, and other adventures, but mentally refreshed and ready to get back to work!” —Tamara Jennings, Penn Interactive Ventures
“I really appreciate The Zebra's work-life integration approach. Full time, non-exempt employees have unlimited paid time off, meaning there is no limit to the amount of days we can request off (although you are required to take at least two weeks). For the first time ever this year, I took off two whole weeks (consecutively), and just got back from spending nine days in France!
I also appreciate that, more than once, my manager has come to me and said, ‘You're overworking yourself. Let's look at your schedule and find some days you can take off in the next two weeks.’
The Zebra also works to implement small work-life integration strategies from a day-to-day perspective. Our whole company blocks off noon to 1 p.m. every day as a ‘no meetings’ lunch break, and we've officially implemented Summer Fridays year-round (company-wide, we stop work every Friday at 2 p.m.).” —Haley Scruggs, The Zebra
“The first vacation I booked/went on (during the pandemic) was my honeymoon in May to Hilton Head, South Carolina! My manager, Laura Freeman, was encouraging when I asked to take the two weeks of PTO. She told me to enjoy the wedding we spent months planning (rescheduled from August) followed immediately by the honeymoon and that she and the team had me covered!” —Katie Murray, Penn Interactive Ventures
“My manager, Michael Loban, is a superhuman manager. He always has my back and knows what inspires me. My growth is very important, so he invests in that with me and he always tells me that there are some things that you just need to let wait so I can disconnect. He reminds me we are not brain surgeons—everyone will still be alive if I leave for a week.” —Stacey Shiring, InfoTrust
3. New boundaries and routines
As many of us already know, working from home can erase the line we’ve all carefully drawn between work and life, making it challenging to find balance and pursue things that bring us joy. Add to that the fact that many of our old hobbies are still out of reach, and it’s easy to slip far into the doldrums of answering emails at all hours. Latch crampons onto that slippery slope ASAP. One woman shares, here, the importance of recreating boundaries and routines that fit our current environment:
“I’ve had to be a lot more thoughtful and proactive to maintain balance. Instead of going to a gym on my way home from the office I’ve had to schedule midday walks or find ways to exercise at home with less space and equipment. Working from home has also blurred the lines between work hours and free time so I’ve had to be careful in setting boundaries for myself to keep from overworking and feeling burnt out. On the other hand, with my free time I’ve had to keep myself engaged in different ways since a lot of activities still don’t feel safe (which has resulted in a LOT of sourdough and DIY projects). It’s definitely been a process, but I think it’s important to be gentle with yourself and find what works for you. The pandemic has been hard on everyone, and I’ve learned that it’s okay if I didn’t become super fit or read 100 books—I’m growing and figuring out my own routine and my own balance.” —Enja Reyes, The Zebra
Elle Woods said it best: "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't." Be active, if only, like this woman, to boost your mood:
“For as long as I can remember, I've prioritized movement and exercise in my daily routine. Most days, like many, I find myself sitting at my desk in front of my computer for a large portion of the day. The time between waking up and sitting down at my desk is a sacred time for me to move my body and turn off my mind. Usually, I will turn on an at-home workout, hop on the Peloton, or get outside for a walk before sitting down for the day. When I do that, I find myself having more focused and productive days. Daily movement has become medicine for me, but it didn't happen overnight. Once a habit, has transformed into a lifestyle. It's something I look forward to doing each day for myself. It makes me a better person to those around me, a better family member, a better friend, and a better coworker. I don't feel the need to follow a schedule, a program, or any sort of structured regimen. I just prioritize moving, because sometimes it's all you need to turn your day around!” —Dara Good, Penn Interactive Ventures
6. Time outside
Want to reduce stress? Hug your house plant. Seriously...sort of. Nature is scientifically proven to make us happier, and hiking, kayaking, scenic drives, and other outdoor activities remain low-risk activities during the pandemic. You can even make a road trip of your nature excursion, like these women did:
“During the pandemic, my husband and I discovered that when we go for walks in the woods, we can call it ‘hiking’ and sound much cooler [laughs]. Our first trip after lockdown was to a state park in Ohio that is known for its hiking trails. We picked it because spending time outdoors in a scenic setting is relaxing and a total change of pace from how we had been spending our time during lockdown.” —Pam Castricone, InfoTrust
“After being confined to the four walls of our home for what felt like a lifetime, my husband and I decided to reenter the world by booking a trip to White Sands National Park in New Mexico. For us, this was the perfect way to start safely transitioning back to normalcy. Living in Texas, it was close enough for us to embark on a scenic one day road trip; avoiding the still-looming risks associated with flight. Plus, frolicking (and sand-sledding) around in the picturesque rolling white dunes was the ideal way to get a breath of mask-free fresh air and recover from the doldrums of life indoors.” —Kate Wisher, The Zebra
There’s no right way to do self-care, except that you have to find some way to consistently put yourself first, which can be hard if you’re the nurturer or providor of your bubble. We like how this woman frames self-care as an investment—you’ll do more, longer, if you give yourself grace. What was that about the importance of taking time off again?
“It is really easy when you are juggling all of your priorities to put yourself on the back burner. This year we dealt with virtual school, a pandemic, and natural disasters. It was a year like no other that challenged us in a way we haven't been challenged before. So, more than ever I made a point to ensure I had time for myself each day. This outlet for me was taking time to work on my fitness. I carved out at least an hour each day and put it on my calendar. Sure, there are physical benefits from working out. For me, it was bigger than that. For me, it was the mental benefit of being able to put music on, let my mind wander, and sweat out the stress of the day. I think it is so important for folks to take time to do the things they love. For me, it is fitness and spending time with my family. What is it for you? Taking time for yourself ensures that you will be a better more engaged employee (or spouse, or mom, etc.).
You won't look back at the end of your life and wish you worked more days or took less vacation. The regrets will be rooted in not spending enough time with the ones you love doing the things you love to do. So invest time in yourself. You are worth it!” —Jen Fulton, Columbia Distributing
8. Human connection
Raise your hand if you missed someone during lockdown? Call. Text. Plan a trip.
“I love to meet up with my childhood friends up in the mountains. Just helps me reset and remember what is important in life—the people.” —Maddie Cantrell, InfoTrust
9. Future plans
Life during the pandemic can feel both monotonous and hopeless at times. As we navigate regulations and changes in this vaccine and variant era, give yourself both small and big things to look forward to, like the release of a new season of your favorite show or a carefully planned trip that aligns with your personal COVID restrictions. Having plans, even if they need adjusting, gives you a taste of normalcy.
“My spouse and I have had Hawaii on our bucket lists for years. We lost my mother to COVID-19 in January, and one important thing my parents instilled in me was a love of travel. So as soon as Hawaii reopened for tourism, we booked a luxury vacation to Maui for September 2021. Although no one could have predicted that we would still be in pandemic mode now, we chose to stay within the United States just in case Europe and other parts of the world had not yet opened up to flights and tourists. This trip has been a wonderful anticipatory event to look forward to for a while, as we used to travel regularly before the pandemic hit.” —Amanda DeGroof, The Zebra
*This post was created in conjunction with some of InHerSight's paying partners. Although InHerSight partners join us in being dedicated to amplifying the voices and experiences of women at work, InHerSight maintains complete and total editorial review and approval of content featured on our platform.