The sudden change and isolation during the COVID pandemic pushed us into an uncomfortable and uncertain reality, one that led us to reconsider our choices and routines. The workplace changed, too, in ways that offer new opportunities for those seeking an improved work-life balance in the post-pandemic world. Individuals with Turner Syndrome (TS) may have unique challenges in the workplace due to their medical and social issues. The Turner Syndrome Foundation (TSF) is here to help! See below to learn more about creating a work-life balance that fits you.
How the Workplace Is Changing
Society is accustomed to slow change, with adjustments to how we live and work occurring at a steady but often hardly noticed pace. In March 2020, however, we were yanked from our comfort zones and shoved into a new reality. In a Pew Research survey of approximately 6,000 adults in the U.S., only 23% reported working from home prior to the pandemic.
By October 2020, 71% of those able to telework were doing so. These figures demonstrate only a small slice of the changes around how we work. They do not include those workers who were furloughed or lost employment due to the pandemic. Nor do they capture the stress of those “essential” employees who faced an ever-changing understanding of the coronavirus, PPE shortages, and the rules for staying safe.
Two-and-a-half years later, we have begun to emerge and recognize that we will not simply file back into the professional environment we left in early 2020. Pew Research reports that 64% of those
working from home at the beginning of the pandemic did so because their offsite offices were not available. In early 2022, 61% of adults working from home were doing so as a choice.
Understanding Work-Life Balance
COVID not only gave us time to clean out our closets and try out banana bread recipes, but also time to evaluate what matters to us. For some of us, that meant a reconsideration of the role work had in our lives. COVID, and the workplace changes that accompanied it, caused many to reconsider the choices they made professionally and to more closely examine their work-life balance.
What Is It?
What is work-life balance, and how do we know if we have it? Whenever we experience a push-pull between competing obligations, such as loved ones, faith activities, and career, we struggle to adjust our priorities and time so we feel comfortable with the division. Often, though, we do not find a division of our time, energy, or even passion that enables us to feel whole, or as though we are even adequate in our roles.
While work-life balance is not a new topic, COVID lent an urgency to the discussion. When faced with the pandemic, personal fulfillment and quality time with loved ones were no longer things to worry about later.
Change Can Be Good!
The changes that COVID brought to the workplace–most notably, increased remote work opportunities–provided a number of workers with a new opportunity to find work-life balance.
While employees were initially forced from their offices to home, Pew reports that 78% of those working from home now would like to continue to do so.
For some, working from home affords the opportunity to quickly take care of tasks typically left for weekends, such as laundry. It also allows for a creative distribution of hours, perhaps by working a few hours in the morning and then working more after dinner or social activities.
Regardless, the arrangement gives employees a greater sense of control over how they complete their work. Pew reports that 64% of those working from home during the pandemic who had not done so prior felt they were better able to balance work and personal responsibilities.
Do You Have Balance?
What Does It Look Like for You?
Work-life balance does not look the same for everyone, though. While the Pew survey revealed that 44% of respondents said telework facilitated meeting deadlines, 10% of respondents felt accomplishing work tasks was more difficult. Sixty percent further noted that in working remotely, they felt “less connected to their coworkers.”
When determining what work-life balance means to each of us, it is important to first identify our personal values, and to understand that those values may change over time. In our 20s, career and establishing our independence may be what we value most highly. Our work activities may take precedence over all else, with no sense of guilt or regret. In our 40s, time with family or interpersonal connection may take precedence. Previously
accepted or even enjoyed work obligations may begin to feel burdensome or intrusive.
When our values do not align with our actions, it can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, regretful, or even lower our self-esteem. But we do not necessarily need to make major life changes to resolve this conflict. Recognizing that our work obligations interfere with activities we value more highly enables us to consciously make decisions that promote better balance.
It is difficult to not get distracted by what is considered socially normal or expected, or to not convince ourselves that we should be satisfied with what we have. Do not simply dismiss your feelings as “silly” or consider yourself ungrateful for not fully appreciating your present situation.
This is where a careful assessment of personal values comes into play. Take the time to review what you value and how your current situation reflects those values. You are worth taking the time to assess how you live and work and how it affects your mental wellbeing.
Finally, be aware of the concept of internalized capitalism. Do you find yourself pushing harder and faster, perhaps believing that if you do not, you are failing? There are many ways to think about the idea of internalized capitalism, but in terms of work-life balance, we know that the social pressure on each of us to produce, advance, and achieve is great, even if we do not always know what the goal is. Recognizing this social pressure and creating our own goals can help us resist these inclinations.
TS & the Changing Workforce
Recognize & Verbalize Your Needs
Those with TS experience varied medical, cognitive, physical, and psychological challenges that impact their function at school, work, and in their community, as discussed in a recent blog post. Poor self-esteem or lack of confidence may lead some to tolerate less-than-desirable work environments or personally defeating work-life balance out of fear of seeking a better situation.
How could your employer help you succeed at work? What is your “dream job”? What unique strengths do you bring to a role? In a healthy workplace, employers and employees work together for mutual benefit. Consider how you have overcome past challenges in the workplace, or what an ideal work environment would look like for you. In the post-pandemic environment, workers are asking for solutions to improve their performance and work-life balance, and employers are listening.
Take Advantage of Workplace Flexibilities
Compressed work weeks or flexible hours may facilitate attending medical appointments without the need to use leave or interference in productivity. This sort of flexible scheduling also allows for regular breaks to address fatigue.
Telework presents a number of possible advantages, such as increased independence in how daily work is structured. For those with difficulty reading social cues, telework may reduce anxiety around navigating office environments. Telework further presents options to address hearing impairment. Virtual environments are more consistent in audio features, versus navigating conference room acoustics or mandatory masking in some workplaces.
Workplace changes since the beginning of the pandemic have introduced flexibility to many work environments, and low unemployment rates have given workers leverage to request options that facilitate success on their terms. Individuals with TS
are already accustomed to overcoming challenges that require problem-solving and determination. In this time of mass resignation and burnout, qualities developed by facing those challenges–such as passion, innovation, and a commitment to hard work–are assets to a workplace.
Is Work the Problem?
Sometimes, when we’re feeling out of sorts, it may be difficult to identify what, precisely, is leading to that feeling. For those in a helping profession, such as social work, teaching, or healthcare, the Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) is a simple, free online tool that measures burnout. It can help us determine if our work is a significant source of stress and fatigue. In addition to the questionnaire, the site offers a link to several self-care resources.
Seeing that the work we do contributes to high burnout levels may be the nudge needed to coax us to explore new options, or convince us to accept the risk of pursuing passions we had set aside as impractical or scary.
Where To Find Support
TSF offers a number of resources to support personal and professional growth in the TS community:
- Star Sisters is a unique opportunity to be part of a private, online community to share stories and experiences, learn, and give and receive encouragement..
- TSF’s WE Learn webinar series offers information on a variety of TS relevant topics, including this one about Workplace Rights.
- The Living with TS page on TSF’s website offers several resources, including for self-advocacy.
- The future of work after COVID-19, McKinsey & Company
- Support for Employees, Centers for Disease Control
- High Levels of Education and Employment Among Women with Turner Syndrome, National Library of Medicine
- Employment, Turner Syndrome Support Society (TSSS), UK
- Socioeconomic status in patients with Turner syndrome, ScienceDirect
- How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today, Business News Daily
- Work-Life Balance, Mental Health America
- Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL)
- Work-Life Balance Is a Cycle, Not an Achievement, Harvard Business Review
- Healthy Lifestyle – adult health, Mayo Clinic
- What is ‘quiet quitting,’ and how it may be a misnomer for setting boundaries at work, NPR
- 5 Everyday Examples of Cognitive Dissonance, Healthline
- If you keep putting work before health and happiness, you may be suffering from internalized capitalism, USA Today
Written by Karen Green, TSF volunteer blog writer, and edited by Susan Herman, TSF Blog Coordinator. Designed by Jasmine Persaud, TSF volunteer blog designer.
© Turner Syndrome Foundation, 2022