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On the Edge. Preventing Burn Out

by Catherine Asta Labbett

On the 20th Anniversary of  National Stress Awareness Day, I’m shouting loud about the hidden workforce of women who are on the edge. These are Fiercely Brave women who have quit the 9-5 to do work that works, women who are spinning side hustles AND the 9-5.

Women who are on the edge of burn out.

A whole generation of them, and I’m not convinced that their health and mental well being is on anyone’s radar. These are the women who don’t take sick days, because there is no sick pay when you work for yourself. These are the women who will put off making that appointment to see their GP because they ‘don’t have time’.

The term ‘hidden workforce’ came from my time working as an NHS Strategist. Before I quit the 9-5, I worked on developing the 15 year workforce strategy for the NHS, to plan where and how the £5 billion a year should be spent. We figured that there was a huge hidden workforce out there, including patients themselves, who invested in and promoted self care, and that perhaps educating that ‘hidden workforce’ on self care, could be a preventative workforce solution.

There is a huge hidden workforce of women out there right now and its growing by the day.

These are women working from their kitchen tables, cafes, cars and for some, co-working spaces . We’ve been surveying our community over the past month and 80% of the women we surveyed said that felt stressed. Over a third said that ‘feeling isolated and lonely’ makes them feel stressed, whilst ‘Fear of Failure’ was cited by almost two thirds of women.

Most shocking was that 1 in 4 of the women we surveyed said they’d experienced chest pains in the last 12 months, with over two thirds saying they didn’t have time to exercise or eat a balanced diet.

At our first GTGLIVE18 at the weekend in Manchester, I had the honour of interviewing on stage Carole Spiers. She is the woman who founded National Stress Awareness Day 20 years ago.

And a lot has changed in 20 years.

Social media has become a 24/7 world. Female entrepreneurship has grown exponentially. Life has become busier. Workplace stress policies and charters don’t apply to this hidden workforce of women. There is no occupational health department. Or well-being strategy. Nor is there a line manager looking out for you.

It’s just you.

Because you are your business and your brand, and unless you have self discipline and control in abundance, you’re going to find yourself on the edge.

The policy driver, strategist, psychotherapist and human being in me says that we have to do something. We have to support and champion this evolving hidden workforce of women. Because we are a ticking health time bomb.

I want to start a conversation with the Policy Makers, the movers AND the shakers and get our health and well-being firmly on the agenda. Kitchen tables, cafes and co-working spaces are work spaces too. A starting point would be some guidance in how to recognise stress, how to prevent it and how to tackle loneliness and isolation. Re-education on the importance of exercise, sleep and a balanced diet. A reminder to go for that smear test, to have a health MOT, to listen to your body and to be kind to yourself. A toolkit to build resilience and prevent burnout.

Because we are worth it.

Who can help us get our collective voice heard?

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