Hybrid work seems to have hurt women employees in more ways than one. They not only feel left out of important office meetings, but also feel stressed out having to juggle responsibilities at home and the workplace.
More than half (56%) of women say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago, and almost half feel burned out, reveals the latest Deloitte report, “Women@ Work 2022: A Global Outlook” released today. This burnout is a top factor driving women away from their employers: nearly 40% of women actively looking for a new employer cited it as the main reason.
The survey also illuminates troubling findings about the “new normal” of work, as almost 61% of women working in hybrid models (arrangements that include any combination of remote and in-office work) report they have already felt excluded.
Representing the views of 5,000 women across 10 countries, including 500 in India, the research shows worrying long-term impacts as rates of stress and experiences of harassment or microaggressions remain high.
Stress, burnout and limited advancement opportunities
Almost half of the women surveyed rated their mental health as poor/very poor. One-third have taken time off work because of mental-health challenges, yet only 41% feel comfortable talking about mental-health concerns in the workplace.
The number of women looking for a new role at the time of polling increased since last year’s survey, with 9% saying they were actively looking. Thirty-seven percent of that group cited burnout as the top reason driving them away. Amongst those who have already left their employers, nearly a quarter cited burnout as the reason.
When it comes to future plans, the outlook is bleak for employers: more than half of women plan to leave their employer within two years. Only 9% of women surveyed plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years.
Mohinish Sinha, partner and diversity, equity, and inclusion leader, Deloitte India says while the hybrid model has been touted as a best-of-both-worlds scenario, giving people the comfort of working from home and the connectedness of working from the office, women professionals seem to be facing the disadvantages of both instead, with year-on-year increases in caregiving responsibilities and stress levels, as well as a higher likelihood of experiencing microaggressions during hybrid working.
“It’s time for all organisations to walk the talk when it comes to support structures and growth mechanisms for women professionals if they are to prevent loss of diversity of thought, crucial for balanced decision making,” he adds.
Workplace problems persist
While many organisations over the past year 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.
Only 33% of women say their employers offer flexible-working policies, and when asked about policies their organisation had introduced during the pandemic, only 23% cited flexibility around where and when they work.
Moreover, 94% of respondents believe that requesting flexible working will affect their likelihood of promotion.
Beyond flexibility, the implementation of hybrid work has presented additional challenges. Sixty-one percent of women who work in hybrid environments feel they have been excluded from important meetings, and 47% say they do not have enough exposure to leaders, a critical component of sponsorship and career progression.
Worryingly, hybrid work appears to not be delivering the predictability that women with caregiving responsibilities may need, with only 35% saying their employer has set clear expectations when it comes to how and where they are expected to work.
This year’s survey also found that women who work in a hybrid environment are significantly more likely to report experiencing microaggressions than those who work exclusively on-site or exclusively remote.
The percentage of women in India that have experienced non-inclusive behaviours (harassment and microaggressions) over the past year at work has decreased a bit from 63% in 2021 but remains high at 57% in 2022.
The top three microaggressions faced by women in India included being interrupted and/or talked over in meetings, not being invited to traditionally male-dominated activities, and being excluded from informal interactions or conversations. Only 24% of non-inclusive behaviours were reported to employers.
While non-inclusive behaviours impact the majority of respondents across all surveyed geographies, women in ethnic minority groups in their countries, LGBT+ women, and those in lower management or non-managerial roles are more likely to experience these behaviours. Many feel less optimistic about their career prospects compared with 12 months ago.
Women in ethnic minority groups are more likely to feel burned out than their counterparts in the ethnic majority of their country. They are also significantly more likely to report experiencing exclusion from informal interactions (15% vs. 10%) and feeling patronised (9% versus 2%).
LGBT+ women are more than 10% more likely to say they have been patronised or undermined by managers because of their gender, and 7% more likely to cite being addressed in an unprofessional or disrespectful way than non-LGBT+ women.
Levels of burnout vary across professional levels as well. Sixty-one percent of women in middle-management roles and younger women (aged 18 to 25) report that they feel burned out, demonstrating that high burnout levels are more largely experienced by women in these cohorts. These women were also more likely to say they were planning to leave their employer within two years.
Women and gender equality leaders reap benefits
Deloitte’s research identified a group of “gender equality leaders,” organisations that, according to the women surveyed, have created genuinely inclusive cultures that support their careers, work/life balance, and foster inclusion. The research also identified a group of “lagging” organisations, where women have a less inclusive, low-trust culture.
The report says women who work for gender equality leaders report far higher levels of well-being and job satisfaction. Of the women who work for them (5% of respondents), 87% say they receive adequate mental health support from their employer, and the same percentage feel comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace. They also report far more positive experiences with hybrid working. Remarkably, only 3% feel burned out.
While it is evident women benefit from working for gender equality leaders, there are also clear business benefits: loyalty, productivity, motivation, and job satisfaction numbers are all at 90% or above, compared with 51%, 49%, 31%, and 31% respectively for the same parameters amongst lagging organisations.
“Building and maintaining a truly inclusive culture should be at the forefront of every corporate agenda,” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Deputy CEO and Chief People and Purpose Officer. “This means organisations need to address burnout, make mental wellbeing a priority, and approach hybrid working with inclusive and flexible policies that actually work for women. There is a unique opportunity to build upon the progress already made to ensure women of all backgrounds can thrive in an equitable and inclusive workplace.”