Article provided by Carol Mote, founder of People Advisory International
Whilst women’s vital role in the workplace has long been recognised, arguably what appears to have been less valued is their overall wellbeing.
There are close to four million working women in Britain aged between 45 and 55. In fact women over 50 represent the fastest-growing section of the workforce. Yet according to BUPA almost half of them feel they couldn’t tell their workplace that they have to take a day off because of a female specific challenge such as the impacts of the menopause. In fact, BUPAs research recorded that 1 in 4 women have left jobs as a result of feeling unwell due to the menopause.
This is just one example out of many where women’s wellbeing at work has been glossed over, embedded in a generic approach to workplace wellbeing.
As the pandemic took hold we started to see major shifts in the structure of the labour market as women in particular left the workforce in droves to accommodate new priorities from caring for children, becoming at-home teaching assistants to looking after older or vulnerable relatives.
Certainly the pandemic itself had a negative impact on workforce health. Factors such as anxiety, fear of losing one’s job and high workload dented employee morale across industries, resulting in burnout. According to Gartner, 85% of employees said they experienced higher levels of burnout while 40% reported adverse impacts on work-life balance. In their 2021 report on Women in the Workplace, management consultancy, McKinsey cited that a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women have made important gains in representation, and especially in senior leadership. However the pandemic continued to take a toll, with women significantly more burned out—and increasingly more so than men.
Women are however ready to come back to work and for organisations this is an ideal opportunity to transform the workplace – be it hybrid or otherwise.
Certainly gender diversity has a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. According to McKinsey‘s 2019 analysis companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile—up from 21 percent in 2017 and 15 percent in 2014.
The drastic change in routine over the past two years has given many a breathing space to re-evaluate priorities. According to a report by the MetLife those women who are returning to work are overwhelmingly looking for increased flexibility (78%) and career progression opportunities (73%) in their current or future employer.
Wellbeing appears top of the agenda followed by an emphasis on tailored benefits and up-skilling programmes through to outstanding diversity, equity and inclusion programmes.
Women are understandably looking for a new corporate contract that reflects an inclusive, trusted employment relationship where equality and equity are both valued and practically respected as a norm.
This includes pro-actively setting out strategies that ensure wellbeing is both recognised and supported as pivotal to employees. The concept of wellbeing can be interpreted widely so it is important for companies to be authentic, offering multiple options for individuals to design a bespoke framework that meets their specific needs. Incorporating a selection based wellbeing framework that extends to core areas such as purpose led office guidelines and working hours, ensures an organisation can plan and engage appropriate support mechanisms with confidence thereby building employment stability.
From an employee perspective this is excellent news, and a timely reminder for women to evaluate where in their workplace they sit between a scale of Toxic to Trusted. For many women, it is time for a pragmatic reality check to reassess, post two years of intense disruption, how their role aligns with their sense of self-worth, defining what their new ambitions, goals and objectives are to achieve their desired work-life balance in the post COVID world of work. In addition to ‘new ways of working’ this is likely to include ‘new ways of thinking’.
We are now living in an era where wellbeing goes beyond the immediacy of physical and mental health, encompassing environmental suitability. Today’s workforce is being called upon to be flexible, creative, and innovative and be able to react swiftly to multiple pressures, changing internal and external business environments. This can be a real challenge if corporate cultures lack integrity, prioritise cost-cutting measures and pay lip service to the potential need for fundamental change in the working environment.
It is high time female specific wellbeing frameworks are re-configured and designed to enable strengths and enhance equity, fully liberating a woman’s ability to excel in the working environment.
Carol Mote harnesses over 25 years in the corporate sector to deploy a cutting-edge approach to helping individuals and teams build resilience and thrive. Her unique style has positively impacted organisations around the world going through transformational change.
Mote, who has an excellent track record in creating outstanding HR solutions, is founder of People Advisory International, an innovative consultancy that focuses on unlocking people related challenges, while enhancing individual talent and wellbeing. Mote is currently developing a range of products and resources, the first of which is Morning Boost, a daily micro talk for individuals to engage with, enhancing confidence and energising the day ahead.