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Stress growing problem for women at work

Half of women say their stress levels have increased since last year, and despite some progress, they are still not receiving adequate mental health support in the workplace, consultancy Deloitte’s annual survey Women at Work shows. Experiences with hybrid work are improving, but some women say they have made adjustments to their work and personal lives following return-to-office policies. Lack of flexible working hours is among the top reasons women have changed jobs over the past year (15%), with the same number also citing poor work/life balance. 

The survey comprises 5 000 women in workplaces across 10 countries and shows that women’s disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities, including a sharp rise in those caring for another adult, is taking a toll on their careers and mental health

  • Nearly half of women are concerned about their personal safety at work or while traveling to or for work. 
  • Many women who experience challenges related to menstrual disorders, fertility, and even more so for menopause, feel unable to seek support or take time off from work.

 “Despite a small number of improvements since last year, our survey tells us that women are facing mounting pressures in the workplace, their personal lives, and in their communities,” says Emma Codd, Global Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, at the consultancy..

 “Globally, women feel their rights are backsliding, they are experiencing increased stress and taking on the majority of household tasks at home. Alongside this they are experiencing non-inclusive behaviours at work, are concerned for their safety and feel unable to disclose when they are experiencing women’s health challenges. This is a situation that must change—and employers must enable this.”

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The survey shows that mental health is a top three concern for women globally (48%), falling behind only their financial security (51%) and rights (50%).

“There are a number of potential factors behind declining mental health levels, but among them is an inability to disconnect from work”, Deloitte says. 

The survey shows a link between working hours and mental health: While half of women who typically just work their contracted hours describe their mental health as good, this declines to 23% for those who regularly work extra hours. Only 37% of women say they feel able to switch off from their work.

“Despite these concerning findings, more than half of women say they aren’t receiving adequate mental health support from employers, and two-thirds of women don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace.” 

“Though this highlights a need for significant improvement, it does show progress from last year’s findings when even more women said they did not receive adequate mental health support from their employer and did not feel comfortable speaking about mental health in the workplace.”

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50% of women who live with a partner and have children say they take the most responsibility for childcare—up from 46% in 2023, with only 12% saying this falls to their partner. 

Further, 57% of women who live with a partner and are involved in care of another adult say they take the greatest responsibility for this—up from 44% in 2023, while only 5% say this responsibility falls to their partner. 

More than two in five women bear the most responsibility for cleaning and other domestic tasks, similar to 2023. 

“The result of this disproportionate allocation of responsibilities makes it more challenging for women professionally—only 27% of women who bear the greatest responsibility at home say they can disconnect from their personal life and focus on their careers.”

One in 10 of women who feel unsafe have been harassed while commuting or traveling for work, 16% deal with customers or clients that have harassed them or behaved in a way that has made them feel uncomfortable. Nearly one in 10 have been harassed by a colleague.

31% of respondents have experienced microaggressions, 4% have experienced sexual harassment, and 8% have experienced other types of harassment at work in the past 12 months. Further, a quarter of women say that people in senior positions within their organizations have made inappropriate actions or comments toward them.

More than 40% report that their employer has recently implemented a mandatory return to office. Of these women, a quarter are required to be on-site full time. 

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Some of these women report that they have made adjustments to their work and personal lives following the introduction of such a policy—and some report an impact to their mental health and their productivity levels: just over a third say they have asked to reduce their hours, 30% say they had to relocate, 26% say their mental health has been negatively impacted, and 20% say their productivity has decreased.

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