Research published in April by health insurer Vitality as part of a new report on hybrid working, reveals that women’s health and well-being is suffering more than their male counterparts in a hybrid working world.
A survey of 2,005 UK office workers found that more than one-third of women (35%) reported increased stress levels compared with 24% for men, with more women reporting a decline in mental health (28% vs 18%) and physical fitness (31% vs 17%).
This may be why more women (71%) than men (53%) are calling for even greater flexibility in how and where they work as a way to improve their health and well-being in the future. Of those surveyed, more than two-fifths (46%) of women say they would be willing to quit their job if their employer didn’t prioritise their health and well-being as part of a hybrid working approach, indicating that they are holding their employer to higher account.
In fact, all employees are clear that they want bosses to play a more active role in supporting their health and well-being. Most men and women (82%) believe their employers now have a greater responsibility to offer health and well-being support post-pandemic – with nearly three in ten (29%) wanting to relinquish some of their own responsibility for their physical and mental health to their employer.
When looking at which environment supports them best, both men (44%) and women (47%) agree that hybrid working is best for their mental well-being. Hybrid working also came out on top for both women (38%) and men (39%) when it comes to productivity.
As employees remained divided on which environment is best for accommodating all their workplace needs, it may explain why Vitality's C-suite survey in partnership with CBI Economics found that one-third (32%) of business leaders believe that introducing health and well-being support for a hybrid workforce is ‘complicated’.
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“Our report shows that both employers and employees are in agreement on the many benefits of hybrid working for supporting health and wellbeing," said Dr Katie Tryon, director of health strategy and behaviour change expert at Vitality. "In practice, it’s clear that a ‘one size fits all approach’ in this new working world just doesn’t work for many women. We know the work-life juggle for women is still a key challenge post-pandemic, having a real impact on their mental health, sleep patterns, energy levels and happiness." This could be for many reasons, from women often taking on a greater proportion of the caring responsibilities to feeling greater pressure to prove themselves at work or facing the effects of female-specific health issues such as the menopause.
“Ensuring women have the flexibility to work in a way that best suits them as individuals and supports their own health and wellbeing is key, and it’s great that we’re seeing this shift with hybrid working," said Tryon.
However, building healthy hybrid workplaces means businesses need to evolve from tick-box polices to personalised programmes using their own data and technology.
"By building a clear picture of what your employees need and incentivising positive behaviours, we have the potential to unlock powerful benefits for employees, for businesses and for society," concluded Tyron.