Pandemic postscript: Working women face alarmingly high levels of burnout despite shifting work arrangements has been saved
Pandemic postscript: Working women face alarmingly high levels of burnout despite shifting work arrangements
9 MAY 2022: Two years on from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and many women are failing to see the full benefits of flexible working arrangements with “everyday” workplace experiences having a detrimental impact on their engagement. A worrying longer-term impact is also emerging with almost half of Australian women feeling burned out and more than half saying their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago. 45% say their mental health is extremely poor or poor and 32% have taken time off work due to mental health challenges.
These are some of the findings of Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook which surveyed 5,000 women in 10 countries to find out how women around the world rate their overall satisfaction, optimism, and motivation in the workplace amid the ongoing pandemic.
Now in its second year, this survey was conducted between November 2021 and February 2022 and serves as a comparative analysis of women’s attitudes since the beginning of the pandemic.
The report aims to understand better how women’s experiences in the workplace impact their engagement and career progression. It also provides an opportunity to learn from those who are leading the way in creating a better more equitable future that works for everyone.
The survey found that the “Great Resignation” is set to continue with 47% of women planning to leave their employer within the next two years, down from 58% last year but still concerningly high. 45% of women describe their work/life balance as poor or very poor and 35% say they have trouble switching off from work. Around a third of women rated job satisfaction and motivation at work as poor or very poor.
Hybrid working arrangements haven’t yet delivered the benefits for women that might have been expected. 50% of women who work in hybrid environments feel they have been excluded from important meetings and 44% say they do not have enough exposure to leaders.
While many organisations have pivoted workplace strategies to incorporate flexible and hybrid work models, many women report they have yet to feel the benefits of these new ways of working. 36% of women say their employer offers flexible working policies but 90% don’t believe their workload will be adjusted accordingly if they take advantage of the policies. 94% believe taking advantage of flexible policies will affect their chances of promotion.
Women in Australia also experienced higher levels of non-inclusive behaviour in 2022 than in 2021, but few of these behaviours are reported to employers. The top three reasons given for not reporting these behaviours: they didn’t feel the behaviour was serious enough to report, they didn’t think the complaint would be taken seriously, and they were concerned the behaviour would get worse. Women in ethnic minority groups in Australia are more likely to experience non-inclusive behaviours with 25% reporting someone else taking credit for their work compared to 9% in the broader cohort.
So what can businesses do differently to mitigate the rising levels of stress, burnout and harassment women are reporting in the survey?
The survey identified women who work at “Gender Equality Leaders” (5% of the sample) who report far higher levels of engagement, trust, and career satisfaction. According to the women surveyed, their organisations have created genuinely inclusive cultures that support their careers, work/life balance, and foster inclusion. While it is evident that women benefit from working for gender equality leaders, there are also clear business benefits with the survey finding none of the women who work for gender equality leaders are currently looking for a new job.
Deloitte Australia Chief Strategy Officer Clare Harding said: “The simple answer is to foster a genuinely inclusive culture that truly supports the work/life balance of women, and this takes strong leadership.
“At Deloitte we continue to explore ways to expand our ongoing commitment to advance gender equity and the diversity agenda more broadly.
“The findings of this research show the importance of actions beyond policy. Organisations and leaders must embed wellbeing, flexibility, respect and inclusivity in everything they do. These practices are good for our people and good for business.”
Deloitte Australia Gender Equity Leader Natalie James said: “Workers have been able to access more flexibility than ever, but we are still learning how to make hybrid work work.
“Women clearly want to leverage these options to support their wellbeing and responsibilities, but our survey shows women’s wellbeing has taken a hit in this latest phase of the pandemic with some Australian women experiencing some very concerning exclusionary behaviours while working ‘hybrid’.
“Employers have the opportunity to make flexibility and inclusivity a real strength in attracting and retaining female talent, but it’s critical that we understand the challenges and engage with our people on how to address them in an open and authentic way."