Economic inactivity, long term sickness, mental health, sickness absence; these are all phrases that will be familiar to watchers or readers of the national news throughout 2023. It's clear that employee well-being affects our national productivity and that organisations wishing to motivate a healthy, happy and productive workforce must devote time and energy to support employees with their mental health. In fact, research by Oxford University found that happy employees were 13% more productive. You can find out more about our research on the impact of mental health on organisations here.

Many companies take a generic approach to well-being, offering employee assistance programs or changing office setups. At Randstad, our goal is to be the world's most equitable talent organisation and to achieve that, we know that one-size-fits-all solutions aren't enough. Recognising that different employee groups have unique needs is vital for managing well-being and optimising productivity across the board. In this blog, we highlight the differences in well-being across genders that our 2023 mental health and well-being research uncovered. 

Our research discovered that women were 30% more likely than men to say their mental health has worsened over the last 12 months. How does that impact organisations and what can they do to mitigate mental health related challenges for women in their workplace? 

Time off due to mental health: 

Our research found that women were 26% more likely than men to have taken time off work due to mental health conditions over the last 12 months, with almost one in three revealing that they have done so. The ONS data on sickness absence paints an even starker picture. Mental health as a reason given for sickness, as a percentage of occurrences, was 51% higher for women than men in 2022. 

Importantly for organisations to consider, our research found that women were 45% more likely than men to select “work related challenges” as a factor that has negatively impacted their mental health. When we delve deeper into our data, we observe that this trend intensifies with age – older women are increasingly likely to report work-related challenges negatively impact their mental health. This aligns with data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has been widely cited in recent news stories, indicating that as women get older, they are more prone to leaving the workforce or opting for part-time employment.

bar chart on work related challenges impacting mental health by gender
bar chart on work related challenges impacting mental health by gender

Are workplaces doing enough to support women's well-being? 

We asked respondents three questions related to support at work and in their industry:

  • Do you feel that your organisation does enough to support diversity and inclusion?
  • In your organisation, do you think staff feel comfortable asking for help without risk of reprisal or stigma?
  • Do you feel that there are sufficient outlets to discuss the situation around health and well-being in your industry?

Across all three, men were more likely to think they had access to sufficient support structures at work. Organisations looking to address gender inequalities in workplace well-being must analyse their workforce to understand what support structures women in their organisation feel they need access to, then implement robust communication systems, feedback pathways and opportunities to connect and discuss well-being with peers. 

working environments that work for women:

When it comes to the office vs home debate, many leading female voices have pointed out that the strongest advocates for returning to the office are predominantly male. In response, we conducted an analysis between men and women working in full-time office, hybrid, and remote settings to assess how their work environment influences their overall well-being.

Our survey identified that the highest levels of fulfilment at work were reported by women working from home, while men found the most fulfilment in hybrid work arrangements. 

The research also found women working full-time in the office were the most likely to have taken leave due to mental health and stress related reasons. They were also more inclined to express intentions of leaving their profession due to stress related factors.

Our data echoes the McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2022 research which found that choice is critical. Women employees who can choose to work in the arrangement they prefer—whether remote or on-site—are less burned out, happier in their jobs, and much less likely to consider leaving their companies. 

When companies cite the reason for bringing people back to the office is to improve colleague relationships, are they actually making things worse for a significant proportion of their workers?

Female office based respondents were also the most likely to say their relationships with colleagues has worsened over the last 12 months, in strong contrast to male office based respondents who were the most likely to say have they got better. Are office environments working for women?  And is the call to bring back people to the office taking into account the impact on different segments of the workforce? 

The McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2022 research found that women’s preferences for remote or hybrid work are about more than flexibility. When women work remotely at least some of the time, they experience fewer microaggressions and higher levels of psychological safety.

Finally, when asked how optimistic they feel about the next 12 months, women who work from home or in a hybrid environment were most likely to feel optimistic. 

Companies who are examining their working environment and gender equality initiatives must make sure that there are diverse voices in the decision-making room, listening to people from throughout their organisation. It's important to recognise that offering flexible work arrangements should not serve as a surface-level solution to conceal aggressive and biased behaviours that stifle contributions and voices during meetings. True progress comes from addressing these issues at their roots.

If you would like to find out more about how your organisation can support getting the most out of all employees in the workplace, please get in touch