Understanding the Impact of Abolishing Roe on Employee Wellbeing

Stressed Businesswoman

While we commonly see burnout as an outcome of feeling stressed at work, I assure you, people can exhaust themselves at home.  This is especially true for today’s women and single-parents.

If you and your team are feeling completely fried, I understand.  I have recently felt depleted, myself, and I’m having flashbacks to years ago, when I burned out as a fundraiser.  I’m handling my new work as a coach and writer, however, this time I see that my life outside of work is the major stressor.

When I burned out at work, I discovered that my fatigue wasn’t just something I experienced in the office.  I was, in fact, depleted in all areas of my life.  Likewise, when we’re overwhelmed at home, it affects us at work.  As a Wellness Inventory coach, I learned that all of the dimensions of our lives are interconnected, and what we do in one impacts the rest. 

If you think your employees aren’t impacted on all levels by current events, I ask you to think again – and keep reading!

As a coach, I help employees who are burning out to renew their passion.  We need to take a hard look at the impact of the last few years on women and single-parents.  Why?  Because they are your employees.  They may even be you.

What’s going on?  Let’s take a quick look.

  • During the pandemic, there was an exodus of women from the workplace.  In addition, men returned to work and recouped their losses faster than women, according to the National Women’s Law Center
  • Families shouldered the weight of providing classrooms at home.  Parents, especially moms, made impossible choices between taking care of their kids or keeping their jobs.  Covid required additional responsibilities, and this was shouldered mostly by women as unpaid labor.
  • While it’s been tough for parents, let’s also remember there’s a shortage of workers in nursing homes, and many people (mostly women) are now caring for aging parents and sick spouses.  In fact, according to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers, one in five employees are also taking care of a family member.  They provide an average of 20 caregiving hours per week, and their work is likely unpaid.
  • Last November, the “quit rate” of employees reached a 20-year high in the US, in what is known as the Great Resignation.  I prefer the term, “Great Awakening.”  Why?  Covid gave people a chance to re-evaluate their lives, and employees are creating a better life, however they define it.  Women, especially, are seeking a greater work-life balance, according to a Gallup survey.  Who can blame them for wanting more?
  • . . . And then, in a major blow on June 24, the Supreme Court rolled back the long-held reproductive rights of women, attempting to relegate us to a second-class of citizenship.  A powerful faction of our government doesn’t trust women to make the best choices for ourselves or our families, and is forcing many women in red states to give birth, regardless of rape, incest, or risks to their health.

What are we to do?  How do we balance our desire to be effective employees and empowered leaders, with the fact that women are being treated as expendable incubators?  How do we respond when people say it’s not a work issue?

Creating Solutions Instead of Pointing Fingers

Right now, the headlines are alarming, and your staff may be impacted in ways you’re not imagining.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit our thinking may be messier than usual.  Women, including me, feel betrayed by our own country.  Some of us may feel distraught and grief-stricken, while others feel enraged.

Brave women are reaching out on social media.  I gave up Facebook a year ago (for so many reasons) and have devoted my efforts to the more professional LinkedIn.  Some women there are posting their deepest truths and receiving kind comments.  Thank you for your courage!  Others, unfortunately, are reprimanded for sharing their fears, essentially a version of –  I’m trying to escape what’s happening in this world, so why are you making this so inconvenient for me?

It is so inconvenient when women speak our minds.  When we say Ouch.  When we remind everyone that the world changed in a heartbeat on June 24 and we’re now living in a country we no longer recognize.  We’re heartbroken this is what our country has become, and we feel irate as we watch our sisters lose their fundamental rights, and scared that we are next.  

Instead of pointing fingers at women who are expressing displeasure on LinkedIn, what if instead we listened?  We might hear their pain, celebrate their courage, and begin to create solutions. 

Jill Suttie, at the Greater Good Science Center, wrote “Four Ways Access to Abortion Improves Women’s Well-being.”  In her article, she shares that the Turnaway Study shows, “. . . women who have the right to choose whether or not to give birth are happier, healthier, and more economically stable than those who don’t.  And their children benefit too, by having a mother who can afford to nurture and provide for them better.”

I help organizations to create a Culture of Wellbeing, where all employees (not just men) are cherished.  Women today are feeling abandoned and neglected, and the Supreme Court is adding to their burdens.  We must be able to listen attentively to our employees when they find the courage to discuss the impact of abolishing Roe on their lives.  This IS a work-related issue, because it directly affects the health and wellbeing of all women (as well as trans men).

It’s also a work issue because women need:

  • Health care that includes reproductive services and mental health benefits
  • The economic stability afforded by delayed motherhood
  • Equal pay
  • Excellent, subsidized childcare and elder care
  • Pay transparency, and
  • Parental leave that is gender-neutral.

In addition, keep in mind that women:

  • May be unwilling to move if your business expands to red states
  • Desire that your organization actively supports reproductive choice
  • Want you to join them in volunteering, marching, and voting for women,
  • Guide their daughters to attend colleges in blue states
  • Train and promote other women for leadership positions
  • Boycott companies that disparage women, and
  • Support women-owned businesses.

There is an immediate impact of abolishing Roe on employee wellbeing, and we need to calmly and openly talk about it on LinkedIn and in our conference rooms.  It’s not about politics or trying to change someone’s point of view (that’s not going to happen).  It’s about being able to talk about something that really occurred and accepting that all of our emotions about it are valid.  It’s also about listening to employees and meeting their needs for security and respect.

How might you best help your employees?

Two Businesswomen Talking

Tips for Team Leaders

  • Earn the trust of your employees by being authentic and vulnerable, yourself.  People think vulnerability is a weakness, but it’s a superpower that draws people to you, and then gives them permission to be authentic as well.
  • Pay attention to which direction you’re facing on the continuum of wellness.  Are you making small choices each day that lead you to greater health and happiness?  Or are you striding in the opposite direction, towards a premature death?  Model your healthy choices for your employees, so they too feel safe taking care of their own needs.
  • According to the World Health Organization, the three symptoms of burnout are exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness.  When we’re exhausted, we feel depleted and fatigued on all levels.  When we feel cynical, we don’t think we fit in with our team.  When we feel ineffective, we don’t produce our best work.  On a scale of one to ten, where are you with each symptom of burnout? 
  • Check in with your team.  Are they experiencing exhaustion, cynicism, or ineffectiveness?  Remember that for people to openly share, you must have first earned their trust (see number one).
  • Whether or not your team is all like-minded or has differing viewpoints, reach out to each employee individually, in private.  You might say, “Lots of people have felt overwhelmed by current events.  Please let me know if there’s something I can do to help.  I sometimes have a hard time, myself, and I’m here for you.”

Your goal is to LISTEN and not to change minds. Be curious about what is real for them and understand their needs.

How can you help each employee, even if you don’t agree with their opinion?  This will be easier to do if you see it through a values perspective.  Rather than judging people for being different, we can remember and respect that we all have different values.  Plus, no matter their beliefs, they still have amazing strengths.  Your job is to help them excel, not hold it against them that they may be struggling.

Let me repeat that.  Your job is to help your employee excel, not to hold it against her that she’s struggling or has a different viewpoint.  Stay kind and never gossip.

Let’s stop tiptoeing around the dreadful impacts on women of abolishing Roe, and start having an open conversation about how this ruling directly affects our ability to own our bodies, maintain our health, and design our lives – and of course all of this directly affects us as employees.  There has never been a more urgent time for women to focus on our wellbeing.

We can do it!

Danielle Collins

P.S. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and fatigued at home or at work, I can help you as a coach. Contact me to see how you can reduce your stress and reclaim your energy from the vortex of burnout.