Report shows impact of back-to-office policies on women

Women at work are more stressed than last year, in part because of return-to-office policies and 44% of those asked to work full time in the office have asked to reduce their hours, according to a new report.

Office workers

 

Nearly half of working women (47%) in the UK say that their stress levels are higher than a year ago, partly due to return-to-office policies and long hours, according to a new Deloitte Global report.

The annual ‘Women @ Work: A global outlook’ report surveyed 5,000 women in different sectors in ten countries, including 500 working women in the UK and found that hybrid work experiences have improved in the past months. Fewer women feel excluded from workplace meetings or decisions in hybrid work environments compared to last year (35% compared to 43% in 2023).

However, flexibility remains a challenge and some women have needed to make adjustments to their work and personal lives following return-to-office policies. New data for this year found that more women in the UK (50%), compared to the overall figure globally (47%), have been asked by their employer to return on-site either full time or on certain days. Of these women, 32% are required to be on-site full time.

Among the women in the UK asked to return to the office full time, a quarter (27%) said that it has negatively impacted their mental health and a similar proportion (24%) say it has made them less productive.

Furthermore, 44% have asked to reduce their hours, 35% think less of their employer as a result and 30% have needed to move house to be nearer the office.

More than a third of women (39%) surveyed said they have taken time off work in the past year for mental health reasons, a slight increase since 2023 and higher compared to the overall figure globally (33%). However, two-thirds (65%) of women do not feel comfortable discussing mental health at work or disclosing mental health as the reason for taking time off.

This is felt more acutely by women from ethnic minority backgrounds; over half (56%) needed to take time off but only 20% felt comfortable sharing mental health as the reason for their absence to their employer.

The report found that the most common reason they did not disclose was because they were concerned that doing so would impact their chance of career progression (28%).

The report highlights that women who live with a partner still bear the most responsibility for childcare and care of other adults. This year, nearly half of women (44%) who live with a partner and have children at home bear the most responsibility for childcare.

Nearly 51% of women who are involved in care of another adult say they take the greatest responsibility for this.

A quarter (25%) of women say they have experienced challenges related to menstruation, menopause or fertility in the workplace. About 40% of women who experience high levels of pain due to menstruation or menopause say they work through it without taking time off work. In the past year there has been a significant increase in the number of women working through menopause-related pain (47%, compared to 40% in 2023).

 



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