Today whilst many focus on the physical boundaries needed to keep safe there is a significant lack of boundaries that many will feel the effects of far beyond the Corona Virus.
As we settle into this new normal the boundaries between work and life have become more blurred than ever. Connecting with many of the women I work with, senior executives with established corporate careers, and I learned how much there is a significant need for more than physical boundaries.
The three biggest challenges they are facing right now are:
1. Overwhelm and Anxiety
Along with executive careers, they have now taken on the responsibility of not only doing a full-time job but now being on call whenever their bosses choose to – after all, now that everyone is at home, it’s fine to call at all hours isn’t it?
With teams to look after remotely, they also are now home-schooling, maintaining the ongoing functioning of their household – cooking, cleaning and dealing with children that want to be entertained because they can’t go out. Children who now, more than ever, need protecting from too much, and unsupervised, screen time.
Many of them have had to make some very tough call in standing down members of their team at this time and that is not only heart breaking but putting even more pressure on them to deliver more work with less people.
2. Fear of uncertainty
Whilst many of them still have jobs there is an underlying worry of ‘is my job safe?’ Some of these executive leaders are the main income source for their family, and some are single mothers carrying the load for the family.
Many of them would have experienced imposter syndrome before Covid-19 struck but now with decision making being even more critical, the fear of making the wrong call or not leading in the way others would expect, puts even more fear in their way.
3. Not looking after themselves
This was an issue for many of the women I worked with before this crazy time, now it’s even worse. These women are putting themselves last and not putting in place the necessary self-care time to ensure they can sustain working as they are for the long term.
In some cases, they are being martyrs. There is a secondary gain that being a martyr gives – it’s one of validation, of being needed and of use to others; and whilst it’s exhausting there is a sense of purpose attached to it which justifies why they do it.
But in other cases it's a genuine lack of know how and confidence to set in place and keep boundaries that are sustainable for long term wellbeing and strong leadership impact.
It is evident, there is much more than physical boundaries needed at this time.
So where to start?
1. Start with you – what do you need to sustain yourself during this time? What are the non-negotiables for you? Whether that be 30mins for yourself each day to have a walk and get some downtime. What is the minimum you need to keep functioning in this environment for the next 90-120days? Don’t you dare skip this suggestion, it’s the most critical - take time to identify your non-negotiable needs
2. Set clear hours of work and be strict with yourself and your employer about what is and isn’t ok. With work now being invited into your safe space at home with video calls don’t contaminate your homelife by letting work interrupt family and personal time consistently. If you don’t set clear boundaries, on what is and isn’t ok – others will treat you as they want to. That's not to say you can't be flexible but the key is to focus on the outcome required not hours worked and set realistic and sustainable work schedules. Burnout is being irresponsible with your self leadership.
3. Put agreements in place with your husband/partner – share the load with the home-schooling children, cooking and cleaning. We are no longer in the 1950’s so stop trying to do it all. If this virus has exposed anything, it is that primary carers that work full time work, do a heck of a lot. If we are going to readdress gender equality and the balance of senior female execs in corporate roles, start now – your future self and women of future generations will thank you for it.
4. Put boundaries in place with your children about what the expectations of them are – if old enough get them supporting the family with homes chores too. Engage them in a 'family care comes first' mindset, and show them they have a significant role to play too – invite them to show their leadership at this time and empower them to find creative solutions to entertain themselves – you don’t need to be a martyr, nor are you a bad mum if you set clear boundaries restricting their screen time. With young children boundaries are equally important - usually, however, these need to be set with your employer and partner first so that you can give your children the necessary care at this time.
5. Keep work laptops and papers in separate rooms to where you rest and recharge if possible, or always clear up and pack your laptop away after each day – it’s really important you define boundaries to ensure you have adequate time to switch off and re-charge and separate when you are at work from when you are at home. Don't contaminate your energy and space by keeping work visible in areas and/or during times you are supposed to be present at home and recharging.
6. Don’t skip any of these options because the female leader of the future won’t be one that puts herself last – she put herself first because she knows that strong and powerful leadership is needed to sustain herself, and her family to live a happier and healthier life. Many of you will argue for your limitations on why what I've suggested isn't possible - there is your first opportunity - try arguing for your possibilities and see what you are capable of.
I believe in you, question is do you?
If you want to see how strong your self leadership is and where you need to focus, check out the unstoppable human scorecard and see what would help you to be unstoppable. https://unstoppablehuman.scoreapp.com/