Did you put your keys in the fridge again?

Workers of every gender, especially parents and caregivers, have a hard time juggling work and home responsibilities (COVID-19 pandemic life only added more strain 😱). But there are generations of societal pressures and expectations that make work-life balance a unique challenge for people who identify as women. Here’s how you can find more harmony in your life.

Employees of all genders and backgrounds deserve to feel respected and valued. Period. But there are several hardships in the workplace that are specific to folks who identify as female. Here are just a few of the obstacles.

  • Sexism. Women still face absurd and frustrating challenges due to cultural attitudes and stigmas. This sexism can lead to poor-perceived health, mental health concerns, and the all-too-real glass ceiling.
  • Lack of affordable care. Many folks aren’t able to go back to work after having kids due to a lack of support or financial hardship. And that doesn’t just impact their current earnings. An extended work absence can impact future earnings and opportunities.
  • Sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement was sparked by the collective experience of generations of women. It brought a spotlight to the issue, but thousands of employees face sexual harassment and abuse at work.
  • Unequal standards. An old 1998 phone survey showed that some women feel the need to overcompensate at work simply because of their gender. This research focused on the construction industry, but it can happen to anyone.

There are lots of proactive ways you can improve your work-life balance. Here are five top tips to help you take control of your life and your well-being.

1. Prioritize “me time”

Between keeping up with work, family, and friends, “me time” might be the last thing on your mind. But self-care is NOT selfish. In fact, it should be number one on your to-do list.

Research shows self-care can greatly improve your mood. One study found that med students who engaged in self-care had a higher quality of life and less stress than those who didn’t. A small research review also found that self-care can even prevent and treat anxiety and depression. We love to hear it.

Keep in mind, self-care looks different for everyone and it can take time to figure out what works for you. Here are some great ways to get started.

P.S. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) also suggests you stay connected with the peeps in your life who can give you emotional support and practical help.

2. Try to find a job you love

While any job can be hella stressful, it can make your day-to-day a lot more enjoyable if you like what you do. Not feeling the love? There are lots of ways to branch out and find your passion. Here’s how to make it happen.

  • Switch teams. You may love your company but dislike your job. If that’s the case, see what other roles the business has to offer.
  • Take online classes. It’s never too late to learn. If you’ve always been curious about a subject, do it! There are loads of free or affordable courses you can do from the comfort of your own home. You can also see if your current company offers training programs.
  • Share your resume. You never know what opportunities are waiting just around the corner. Post your resume to LinkedIn or check out online job search websites.

3. Set boundaries

Working from home sounds great in theory. But IRL, it can be stressful AF. Here are some tips to make it more manageable.

  • Do not disturb. If you live with fam or roomies, ask them to respect your space while you’re working.
  • Quittin’ time means quittin’ time. If your shift normally stops at 5 p.m. then stop working at 5 p.m. Don’t go overboard just because your computer is still right in front of you. Those emails can wait till the morning.
  • Go into home mode. When you’re done with work, jump into home mode. Take a walk, change your clothes, or do a fun activity with the fam.
  • Create a work space. Lots of folks don’t have the space for a home office. But it’s still important to have a space that’s just designated for work.
  • Keep your tech separate. If you use the same phone number or devices for work and regular life, log out of your work accounts as soon as the business day is done.

4. Take a time out

If you have sick, personal, or vacation days… use them! If you don’t have any paid-time-off (PTO), you might feel tempted to power through a sickness or mental health slump — don’t. Taking a day off once in a while can work wonders on your mental and physical health. It can also reduce the risk of burnout, which can make you more productive.

PSA: Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for getting some R&R. Remember, you’re not a robot. You 👏 deserve 👏 time 👏 off 👏.

5. Ask for help

It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or stuck sometimes. Just keep in mind, it’s totally OK to ask for help. Reach out to teammates and see if they can assist. Ask your roomies or fam to help out with chores. Vent to a friend. And remember, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Positive change shouldn’t land all on an employee’s shoulders. Some of the obstacles that affect workers are just above and beyond what individuals can control. Employers have a responsibility to make their staff feel secure and respected. Here are some ways companies can increase work-life balance for women.

Offering paid family leave

Every year, countless employees aren’t able to return to the workforce due to their role as a parent or caregiver. This means companies are missing out on amazing, talented assets. A small 2012 study showed that work-family enrichment can help folks balance their work-life relationship. So, there’s a better chance employees will rejoin the team if they’re offered paid maternity, paternity, or family leave.

Encourage flexible schedules

Focusing on productivity over set schedules can provide the flexibility folks need to strike a healthy work-life balance. This may not work for peeps in the customer service industry, but lots of jobs can be done at any time of day. Allowing employees pick the hours that work best for them and their families could be a game changer.

Many peeps could also benefit from the opportunity to work from home. This added freedom could help them focus on their actual tasks rather than the stress of commuting.

Offer comprehensive benefits

Chances are, meaningful loyalty doesn’t come from throwing a monthly pizza party. However, offering perks that carry into an employee’s personal life can make a big impact. This can include:

  • a solid health care plan
  • benefits for family members
  • mental health counseling and support
  • free fitness classes and gym memberships
  • free in-house accounting during tax season
  • individual retirement accounts (IRA) or 401(k) plans
  • up-to-date technology with easily accessible tech support
  • company cars, gas allowance, or public transportation stipends

There’s no one-size-fits-all way to improve work-life quality for women. But there are lots of ways you can work toward a better balance that benefits your unique situation. Just remember to take care of your needs first. You deserve it.