Skip to content

New research shows that 48 percent of women believe work has a negative impact on their mental health, compared to 40 percent of men.

Nuffield Health’s Healthier Nation Index 2023, which surveyed 8,000 British adults, found that workplaces negatively impact the mental health of women more than men.

The stress of work negatively impacts the mental health of 48 percent of women, but only 40 percent of men. The study also found that women are also less likely to discuss their mental health openly with their employers.

The percentage of men who called in sick due to poor mental health was 34 percent, compared to only 24 percent of women.

In addition, Nuffield Health found that 22 percent of women went to work more than 10 times when their mental health was bad, compared to 16 percent of men.

One in three women have considered leaving the workforce entirely post-pandemic due to low job satisfaction, motivation, and productivity.

Commenting on the research, Mental Health Prevention Lead at Nuffield Health Lisa Gunn said: “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’s recommendations for employers on empowering women and supporting their emotional and physical wellbeing include:

Be aware of signs of poor emotional well-being.

Managing talent – regardless of gender – requires managers to recognise the signs of poor emotional wellbeing and offer support to individuals.

An employee with poor mental health may display alterations in their physical appearance, a change in mood, or a change in their emotions. Others may become easily upset or become irritable. The reactions some employees have to minor work issues, such as rescheduling internal meetings, can be erratic.  

Increasing absenteeism can lead to decreased productivity, or someone may have difficulty solving problems or concentrating.  

In addition to noticing more obvious signs, employers should consider providing staff with Emotional Literacy Training, enabling them to recognise signs of distress in others and themselves and to approach them with confidence. In this way, they can develop a workforce capable of recognising and treating signs of mental illness in themselves as well as others.

Time to talk

Nearly half of female employees say their mental health negatively impacts their wellbeing at work, yet they are often reluctant to speak openly about it.

In male-dominated occupations, female employees are more likely to report higher levels of stress. Additionally, if they struggle with work stress, they may worry they will be overlooked for promotions. This is usually due to the feeling that they must prove that they are just as competent as their male counterparts.

As managers, it is important to try to understand why people come to work with reduced mental wellbeing. The more we understand what motivates our teams, the more we can support them.

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.

Spend time each week practicing ‘active listening’, which requires understanding and reflecting on what’s being said and providing a considered response, especially for employees experiencing stress and anxiety.

Create a culture of transparency and equality

According to a study on female professionals, many women intentionally chose to be invisible in order to be considered for promotions despite knowing the importance of visibility.

Among the reasons were not feeling authentic enough, bad experiences with previous self-promotion attempts, and a belief that staying out of the spotlight generally allows for a better work-life balance.

In addition, women are 24 percent less likely to receive advice from senior leaders than men, suggesting unconscious bias still exists in many workplace cultures and contributes to women’s career underachievement.

Women are less likely to hold positions of authority because of these existing inequalities, which further exacerbate the mental health gap between genders. Since women in roles with less decision-making power are less able to control the demands of work, they are more likely to suffer from poor mental health.

In order to recognise and promote women, leaders need to be aware of inequality imbalances and how to remove these barriers and biases.

It is important to educate and train employees about unconscious bias and to promote self-promotion opportunities, as well as ensuring that salaries are transparent.

Acknowledge flexibility is key for both professional and personal growth

Approximately three times more breadwinning mothers keep their children’s schedules than breadwinning fathers, and many women are the ‘unofficial keepers’ of the family’s schedule. In spite of the fact that it depletes time and energy reserves, this mental load is seldom acknowledged. In fact, it is often taken for granted. 

The reputation of being an inclusive employer won’t last long without offering flexibility, which can be offered in varying degrees to help women feel supported in both professional and personal situations.

Work adjusted hours to accommodate morning school runs, for example, encourage individuals to adopt flexible working patterns that suit them. It is possible to work part-time hours, share parental leave, or telecommute at some companies because they have fully developed ‘flex time’ policies.

Team leaders should assure employees that they shouldn’t feel pressured to reply to emails out of hours and encourage them to switch off their devices after work, especially if they are female.

The right support for women

Taking steps to protect their female employees from discrimination should include implementing maternity and menopause policies and workplace adjustments. In addition, organizations must follow through on their policies once they are implemented. There is no point in having a policy if no one knows it exists or where to turn when they need assistance.

Individuals should also be referred to emotional wellbeing support available to them by employers. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioural therapy sessions (CBT) provide individuals with direct access to a specialist who can help them break down unhelpful thinking patterns, reframe unhelpful thoughts, and cope with new and uncertain circumstances.

Confidential support may help employees address factors associated with poor emotional wellbeing.

While managers are the best positioned to recognise, prevent, and address poor emotional wellbeing, senior management also plays an important role by setting business norms, inspiring managers, and recognising their achievements.

Organisations will achieve a win-win by empowering women at the same time as creating an inclusive workplace.


You Might Also Like:

Women’s issues, women-owned fashion and beauty brands, health & wellness.

Straight to your inbox