Covid-19 has deeply affected the well-being of employees. Approximately one-third of employees responding to recent surveys conducted by McKinsey’s Center for Social Veneto through Healthcare have reported anxiety about firing since the onset of the pandemic, 28 percent reported burnout, and 21 percent and 20 percent reported stress over childcare and the health of loved ones.
Though employed female respondents are equally likely as their male counterparts to believe that returning to work will have a negative impact on their mental health, they are 12 percentage points more likely to be concerned that they will have less flexibility to take breaks and set their own schedules once they return. While most companies are aware that Covid-19 has impacted their employees’ mental health, there is a wide disparity between how employers and employees view workplace mental health solutions.
In an annual study on the workforce of women by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, the most recent Women in the Workplace report shows that during the Covid 19 pandemic three groups had identified difficulties that led to their consideration of downsizing or abandoning their career: mothers, women of senior levels and Black women. Increasing demands on mental health notably increased levels of worry, stress, and sorrow were among the most significant obstacles.
Mothers are twice as likely as dads to be concerned that their caring obligations would negatively impact their work performance. Women in senior positions, who have traditionally reported feeling the need to work harder than males, are now burning out at a greater rate – 39% against 28% of men. And, in addition to getting less support from managers and witnessing both micro aggressions and acute discrimination at work, Black women are struggling with the toll of systemic and widely publicized violence against the Black community in the United States, as well as the pandemic’s significant negative impact on Black Americans.
Employers must place people and their mental health at the forefront of their business strategy. To be sure, that is easier said than done, and it will need time, inventiveness, and a long-term commitment. But the most important thing is to get started. We propose five steps that business leaders may do to improve women’s mental health in the workplace.
Prioritize mental wellness
In a study of US companies, only 31% said boosting access to mental health resources was a top concern. While improving one’s mental health is a personal journey, it is impacted by structural variables such as the support offered by coworkers, supervisors, teams, and institutions.
As a result, it is incumbent on corporate leaders to raise mental health awareness and action. Women are 25% more likely than males to report feeling uneasy discussing sensitive problems or work-life challenges with coworkers.
And Black women, in particular, have historically experienced heightened hurdles in the job; half of all Black women describe being “only” because of their gender and colour. Our study also reveals that Black women are more likely than other races and ethnicities to feel uncomfortable discussing their sadness and loss with coworkers, and they are less likely to claim they can bring their entire selves to work. Furthermore, Black women are 1.7 times more likely to report they lack strong allies on their team. Employers must try to create a culture that encourages nonjudgmental discourse.
Organizations may assist employees to feel more comfortable seeking treatment by having top management communicate openly about their commitment to addressing employee mental health and backing up that discussion with meaningful action. And, like with any business or talent development objective, accountability is essential. Companies that designate a senior leader to be accountable for employee well-being are more likely to have pleased workers. Employers might also urge colleagues to undertake a mental health self-assessment once a year, similar to yearly physicals or performance reviews – a moment for each person to pause and examine their mental well-being, with specific tools to support the process.
Reassess workplace guidelines
Covid-19 has made it much more difficult for employees to distinguish between work and home, and many employees feel like they are “always on.” This is especially true for mothers who work. According to another recent study, one in every two respondents with children at home believe that returning to work will have a detrimental influence on their mental health.
A sustainable work pace is critical to assisting working parents in avoiding burnout and re-entering the workforce. Companies should search for methods to reestablish work-life boundaries and clarify which workplace flexibilities will be accessible in the future.
Even when workplace flexibility is offered, some employees are concerned that adopting it would be stigmatized. Organizations may assist employees to feel more comfortable seeking treatment by having top management communicate openly about their commitment to addressing employee mental health and backing up that discussion with meaningful action. Better still, leaders may set boundaries and practise self-care in their own lives, sending a message to staff that it is OK to prioritize support and sustainability.
Improve mental health assistance
Women leaders are considerably more likely than males at the same level to feel burned out, and one in every eight new moms suffers from postpartum depression, according to the CDC. Furthermore, an overwhelming 67 percent of employees who self-report a mental health issue say it is difficult to get help.
Employers have a clear chance to intervene at this time. Employers do not have to be mental health professionals to give alternatives to their employees. They may collaborate with specialists, many of whom provide digital service delivery, while also developing internal skills to address workplace well-being.
Employers may ensure that accessible mental health treatments meet the company’s requirements for physical health offerings by collaborating with partners, particularly in terms of cost and availability to high-quality, culturally competent, and gender-informed treatment providers.
Employers who strengthen virtual and digital supports, re-establish flexibility standards, and provide gender-specific programs may experience greater gains in employee mental health.
Inform employees about what is available
Even when mental health resources are provided, many employees are unaware of their existence. Approximately three-quarters of big businesses and half of the small employers provide at least one mental health resource in addition to their health care coverage. However, half of the employers believe that a lack of understanding contributes to poor use of employee assistance programs (EAP).
The first approach is to expand the array of accessible mental health resources and benefits; businesses must also take efforts to ensure stakeholders know how to access such benefits. Only a quarter of employers used the platforms of their C-level executives to spread the message.
Messages from female leaders, particularly those who relate their personal experiences, are crucial for female workers who may fear they would be perceived as weak or unprofessional if they request assistance.
Evaluate progress and outcomes periodically
It is almost difficult to drive accountability without regularly measuring employee well-being. Companies should consider developing target outcomes for the use of mental health resources (e.g., EAP and digital tools), employee experience and satisfaction with the resources provided, and the impact benefits have on the health of their workforce, particularly those experiencing higher levels of stress, such as working mothers.
Employers can use measurement methods such as aggregated claims data analysis, employee surveys, focus groups, lived experience panels, and comprehensive workplace mental health assessment tools to determine whether benefits and programs are fulfilling employee needs.
Above everything, take action. The distinction between work and personal life is blurring. Employers must be smart, fair, and proactive to have a good influence on women’s mental wellbeing at work. This commitment will necessitate procedural, policy, and system innovation and transformation. Mental wellness in the workplace will not be reached overnight, but employers’ collective acceptance of worker mental health as a fundamental business goal is the beginning point required to build a better working culture — and a more inclusive economy — for all.