Productivity Amidst a Pandemic

by Lauren Roche

I’m tired.

I am so very tired; but I have to keep going, because that’s what is expected of me as a U.S. citizen and as a woman. I can be sad, I can be tired, I can be physically faltering, but I can not be unproductive.

If this time during the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me anything, it is that this country has a particularly unhealthy expectation of people to work themselves to the point of exhaustion; deadly virus or not. Women already feel enough pressure to do the most to their capabilities, so how does a pandemic impact that pre-existing pressure?

I reached out to a few women that I am closest to, and picked their brains on their feelings about how they felt in terms of being productive during this pandemic. A close friend of mine touched upon the fact that despite the virus, she feels more pressure than ever to be productive: “I feel as if I’m expected to do more than I was before since there is this assumption that we have so much time.” she said. This has been something I’ve heard a lot from people; that even though we are all undergoing a fairly traumatic and unprecedented time, school workloads are getting heavier for students who are still navigating how to learn online.

Women often feel like we have to be working 10x harder, and if we aren’t being productive at all points throughout the day we have failed. Add on top this new addition of pressure amidst the pandemic, and the assumption that since we’re mostly inside that we can do more work? Game over. Many of us are breaking under this pressure. My friend noted upon the fact that women “constantly have to prove that we measure up and deserve the positions that we are in.” Our continual productivity, even amidst a pandemic, is not necessarily by choice, but rather by principle; even if it’s a faulty one.

She shared yet another important lived experience that always needs to be acknowledged. This is that not only are women expected to work harder and be more productive, but Black and POC folks are held at a higher standard of performance, as these populations are perceived as less capable due to racism and prejudices. The pandemic just goes to show the ways in which white cisgender straight men are favored in society’s infrastructure.

There needs to be a certain level of acceptance when it comes to being “lazy.” In fact, we need to explore the root of what it means to be “lazy.” I’m tired. If you are tired, that is your body’s way of telling you need to rest. That is not your body’s way of telling you to finish that schedule or to grade that paper or to edit your friend’s work. You are not lazy for giving yourself a break. Although you have to tend to your responsibilities, there’s no harm in taking a break. This society has ingrained in us that we do not deserve breaks. That those who want to achieve success and make it big have never taken a break.

This year has been unsettling, and most of us are beyond stressed out. Many of us are not given the privilege to simply take off from working our jobs of employment. However, it is crucial for your wellbeing to rest when you need to. Find rest daily, and see what it does for you physically and mentally. I work retail; so I’m on my feet 8-hours a day. My knees are tired, my feet are sore, and getting up from sitting is painful. I find that when I take a day off in between, however, it is a night-and-day difference.

This moment has taught us about sacrifice, patience, and resilience. However, it’s also taught us in a few ways how important it is to take care of ourselves and our health. This especially stands for all women and every underserved people.

You can follow Lauren for more her work and updates on Instagram at @lauren.a.roche

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