48 percent of women said work had a negative impact on their mental health, compared to 40 percent of men. Women are also less confident in openly discussing their mental wellbeing with their employer.
34 percent of men called in sick due to poor mental health and were happy to disclose this information with their employer. This contrasts with only 24 percent of women.
And, on top of this, Nuffield Health discovered 22 percent of women went into work more than 10 times when their mental health was bad compared to just 16 percent of men.
Other studies show less than half of women rated their current job satisfaction, motivation, and productivity as “good” post-pandemic. One in three women have considered downshifting or leaving the workforce altogether.
Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead at Nuffield Health commented: “To prevent losing female talent, organisations must consider their workplaces’ practices to ensure they are supportive for females and fit for purpose.
“There’s no single reason why more women are struggling with poor mental health at work than men, but the way societal structures and gender norms interact could have a substantial impact on emotional wellbeing.
“Managers need to fundamentally rethink company structures to promote fairness and equal opportunities and prevent poor mental health and burnout for all employees”.
Lisa offers advice on how employers can play their part in creating a connected and transparent workplace, which empowers women and their workplaces to support their physical and emotional wellbeing:
Notice the signs of poor emotional well-being
To prevent losing talent – regardless of gender – managers must recognise the signs of poor emotional wellbeing and feel confident approaching individuals and offering support.
Signs that an employee may be dealing with poor mental health could include alterations in their physical appearance and shifts in mood or emotions. Some may demonstrate increased irritability or become easily upset. Some might show erratic reactions to minor work issues, like having to reschedule an internal meeting.
Absenteeism can increase and you may notice someone’s overall work output declines, or they have difficulties problem-solving or concentrating.
On top of noticing more obvious signs, employers may consider offering Emotional Literacy Training to staff, equipping them with the skills needed to recognise signs of distress in others and themselves and the confidence to approach them. This way they can nurture a workforce capable of recognising and tackling signs of poor mental health in both them and others.
Time to talk
As we already know, female employees are often more reluctant to speak openly about their mental health at work, despite nearly half saying it negatively impacts their wellbeing.
Female employees, often report higher stress levels in male-dominated occupations. This is usually because they feel they must work harder to prove an equal level of competence with their male peers. They may also fear the career consequences of struggling with work stress, like being overlooked for promotions.
It’s good for managers to try and understand why individuals come to work despite experiencing reduced mental wellbeing. The more we know about the actions of our teams, the more support we can put in place to help them and reduce behaviours like presenteeism.
Aim to spend time with employees each week, practising ‘active listening’ – a skill that requires a genuine understanding and reflection of what’s being said and providing a considered response, especially for those experiencing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Create a culture of transparency and equality
A gender study stated while many professional women were aware of the importance of visibility to be considered for promotions, they intentionally chose invisibility.
Reasons included not feeling authentic enough, bad experiences of previous self-promotion attempts and a belief that remaining out of the limelight generally allows for a better personal/work balance.
Women are also 24 percent less likely to be offered advice from a senior leader than men, suggesting unconscious bias still exists in many workplace cultures and this lack of support contributes to holding women back in their careers.
These existing inequalities further exacerbate the mental health gap between genders. Because women are less likely to be promoted than men, they are less likely to hold positions of authority. Women in roles with less decision-making power are more vulnerable to poor mental health than men, as they are less able to control the demands of work.
Leaders need to be aware of equality imbalances and how to remove these barriers and biases, which prevent women from being recognised and promoted.
Provide training, support and mentoring opportunities and educate employees, at all levels, about unconscious biases. Ensure there is company-wide awareness of self-promotion opportunities. Transparency around salaries, can be helpful.
Acknowledge flexibility is key for both professional and personal growth
Many women are the ‘unofficial keepers’ of where the entire family needs to be and when. and breadwinning mothers are three times more likely than breadwinning fathers to be keepers of their children’s schedules.
This mental load can be exhausting in a way that is very different to the demands of more practical tasks. Whilst it depletes time and energy reserves, it is rarely acknowledged, more usually being completely taken for granted.
Your reputation as an inclusive employer won’t go far without offering flexibility, which can be offered to varying degrees to help women feel supported both professionally and in their personal lives.
Encourage individuals to adopt flexible working patterns that suit them – for example, working adjusted hours to accommodate the morning school run. At some companies, employees can take advantage of fully built-out “flex time” policies; other perks include part-time hours, shared parental leave and telecommuting roles.
Female employees, in particular, may worry about the need to be ‘always-on’, so, team leaders should reiterate that employees shouldn’t feel pressured to reply to emails out of hours and encourage them to switch devices off after work.
The right support for women
Responsible businesses should introduce maternity and menopause policies and workplace adjustments to protect their female employees from feeling discrimination. Not only this but once a policy is introduced organisations need to follow through on it. There’s no point in having a policy if no one knows it exists or where to go when they need support.
Employers should also signpost individuals towards the emotional wellbeing support available to them. This may include Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioural therapy sessions (CBT), which give individuals direct access to a specialist who can help them understand and break unhelpful thinking patterns, reframe unhelpful thoughts and cope in new and uncertain situations.
Some of the confidential support they receive may help employees to address the factors which are related to poor emotional wellbeing.
Managers are in the best position to recognise, prevent and address poor emotional wellbeing, but senior leadership has an important role to play as well. By determining business norms, inspiring managers – regardless of gender – and recognising their efforts.
These actions will help organisations achieve an elusive win-win: creating a more inclusive workplace, and empowering women at the same time.