In a white-dominant culture, the concept of burnout is traditionally attributed to workload and stress.
It is classified as an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organization, said to be caused by chronic workplace stress that has not been managed effectively.
Many companies have started implementing wellness strategies, but it is still not a widespread practice.
And, for people of color, and Black women, in particular, addressing burnout requires going far beyond workload and stress reduction. First, let’s dive into the most common advice we hear about burnout.
What You’re Used to Hearing About Burnout
The Harvard Business Review offers a fairly extensive list of suggestions for helping your team manage burnout when you feel burnt out.
Making your health a priority is at the top of the list, which is fair enough. The article suggests tackling workplace stress as a group (i.e., group meditation), exhibiting compassion for your team, advocating for your team, setting a good example, and being a source of optimism.
But as we mentioned, burnout for BIPOC and Black women, in particular, goes beyond simply managing workload and stress.
So, what are the added factors that make Black women more susceptible to burnout than others?
Black Women and Burnout
The core reason Black women are more likely to experience burnout is that the spectrum of what they deal with regularly at work expands beyond their White colleagues.
When we asked about burnout as a part of our Black Women Thjriving Research, our results showed us that:
- 78% of Black Women report that they sometimes, rarely, or never have the ability to go home at the end of the workday with any energy in reserve
- 88% of Black women sometimes have, often, or always experienced burnout.
Coupled with those burnout factors are these additional identity-based stressors:
- 72% of Black women engage in code-switching
- Less than 50% of Black women believe that they can talk about race without negative consequences, and only 41% think that they can raise the issue of anti-blackness.
This data shows that Black women are dealing with microaggressions, bias, sexism, and racism and carrying immense emotional loads as one of the few mentors or safe spaces for BIPOC colleagues. And they have a standing fear of raising it at their organizations because of how it may impact their careers.
So, What Can Organizations Do About it?
In this report, we dive deep into the root causes of burnout in Black women in the workplace and offer tangible, actionable steps that organizations can take to ensure their Black female employees feel as though they have space to breathe. Since burnout is an organizational problem, it requires an organizational response.
One recommendation we want to highlight is:
Explore shutting down once or twice a year as an organization. Set We recommend doing this at a time outside of faith-based holidays. Executives must model and support this decision.
This recommendation is essential for Black women who feel pressure to meet or exceed work cultural norms and work ethics that often push them beyond their limits, as seen by the data above.
Suppose you are reading this and think it’s impossible; it’s not. Organizations as big as Fortune 100 companies and small as tiny non-profit organizations are doing it right now. It is possible.
We invite you to dig deeper into how your organization can address burnout by reviewing our report to find interesting data and practical solutions.