New findings from the Nuffield Health’s 2023 ‘Healthier Nation Index’ reveal that work environments have a higher negative impact on women’s mental health compared to men. Nearly half, or 48%, of women report that work negatively affects their mental health, compared to 40% of men.

Further, the report shows that women are less inclined to discuss their mental health concerns with their employers. Evidence found that only 24% of women called in sick due to poor mental health and disclosed this to their employer, compared to 34% of men. Additionally, 22% of women reported going to work on more than 10 occasions when their mental health was poor, a trend seen in only 16% of men.

In related research, less than half of women reported post-pandemic job satisfaction, motivation, and productivity as “good”. A significant proportion, one in three, have contemplated downshifting or exiting the workforce entirely.

Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead at Nuffield Health, emphasizes the importance of businesses modifying workplace practices to ensure they support women effectively. Gunn elaborates that while there is no singular cause for the higher rates of poor mental health among women at work, societal structures and gender norms could play a substantial role.

Gunn proposes that managers should take critical action to modify company structures to promote equal opportunities and prevent mental health issues and employee burnout. She offers advice on how employers can encourage a connected and transparent work environment that supports women’s physical and emotional well-being:

  1. Recognizing signs of poor emotional health, such as changes in physical appearance, mood shifts, increased irritability, erratic reactions to minor work issues, and a decline in overall work output. This should be complemented by offering Emotional Literacy Training to staff.
  2. Encouraging dialogue about mental health, especially since women tend to be more hesitant to discuss it openly.
  3. Promoting a culture of transparency and equality by offering training, support, and mentoring opportunities and educating employees about unconscious biases. It is also crucial to ensure company-wide awareness of self-promotion opportunities.
  4. Recognizing the importance of flexibility for both professional and personal growth. For instance, providing flexible working hours to accommodate family responsibilities can significantly support women.
  5. Implementing effective maternity and menopause policies and workplace adjustments to protect female employees from discrimination. Additionally, businesses should direct individuals towards the emotional well-being support available to them, such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or cognitive behavioural therapy sessions (CBT).

These initiatives will help create an inclusive workplace while empowering women simultaneously. The role of senior leadership in determining business norms, inspiring managers, and recognizing their efforts is critical in achieving these goals.