How can employers help to prevent burnout amongst women? 

As many as 4.4 million women feel “burned out” in the UK. How can employers help AND help their teams feel motivated?

Burnout, characterised by exhaustion and a feeling of detachment from one’s job, affects us all at different times of our life. But over the last couple of years, the workplace-based phenomenon seems to be felt most acutely by one particular section of the UK’s workforce.

A recent report released by Deloitte on Women@Work made for sobering reading. Over 53% of women surveyed said that they felt more stressed than last year, with 46% feeling “burned out”. In particular, the results were even more acute amongst women who work part-time. They are 10% more likely to suffer from the phenomenon.

Although the option to work flexible hours is increasing, women who partake feel more stressed. They are also less likely to feel positive about their career prospects. Significantly, women who work part-time are less likely to say that they get adequate mental health support from their employer.

According to research conducted on behalf of Parliament, as of 2020, 9.68 million women are currently in the workforce in the UK, of which 5.84 million women work part-time. So, if this report is an accurate reflection of the whole workforce, we can estimate that about 4.4 million women are currently feeling burned out in their job.

That’s a lot of women and a lot of suffering.

So, although flexible working is supposed to help people manage their work/life balance, the impact seems to be that the way this is handled is having a negative impact on women who work part-time.


Which employers are getting it right?

The problem feels really overwhelming when you look at the figures. But, the report identified a group of employers who seemed to be bucking the trend.

They described these companies as Gender Equality Leaders; organisations that took an active role in ensuring that all genders received the support they needed at work. Women working for these employers felt:

  • Confident they would be listened to and not blacklisted when reporting non-inclusive, microaggressive or harassing behaviours. Microaggressions include behaviours such as excluding people from meetings, deliberately talking over others in meetings, taking credit for others’ work and making comments meant to demean.
  • Supported in their efforts to balance work and home life commitments.
  • That their career was progressing in a way that they were happy with.

62% of Women working in the companies identified as GEL in the report rated their mental wellbeing (including stress and anxiety) as good or extremely good. In contrast, only 16% of women working at non-GEL companies could say the same. Only 3% of women at GELs feel burned out, compared with a staggering 81% in non-GEL companies.

The statistics are quite marked. Amongst the women polled, there is a significant correlation between women who feel burned out, and the efforts of their employer to ensure practices that help all genders feel able to speak up when suffering microaggressions and supported in their efforts to balance work and home-life commitments.


How being GEL helps the company too

It is not just the individuals who feel a positive impact of working for a GEL. The companies themselves have a happier, more highly motivated workforce. 89% of women polled who work for these companies rate their motivation as good or extremely good, compared with 31% of women who work in non-GEL companies. The pattern continues when we look at retention; only 9% of women polled in GEL companies are planning on looking for another job within the next 1-2 years, compared with 63% of women in non-GEL companies.

So, employers who care about helping their employees balance their work/life commitments and create an environment where people feel they can speak up if they are being harassed will improve the retention and motivation of staff organically. What are some of the tools that employers can use to help people of all genders feel listened to and supported in the workplace?

We strongly believe that one of the key ways employers can support staff in maintaining a healthy work/life balance is to give them the skills they need to manage stress, switch off from work and rest well at home. We believe that Employee Assistance Programmes can be a great way to do this.


What are Employee Assistance Programmes?

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are digital programmes that are designed to provide resources that inform staff about mental health issues, such as stress, anxiety and burnout. In addition, they aim to equip your team to handle the challenges of the workplace. They aim to make all staff more self-aware and so better able to spot the signs of poor mental health in themselves and take positive action. When required, some EAPs provide access to professional medical support, such as virtual or in-person counselling.

Some great examples of EAPs include MyMindPal, which seeks to build mental fitness and provide exercises that prevent stress, anxiety and burnout and LifeWorks, which provides a comprehensive package of care. LifeWork’s resources come in a variety of formats meaning all learning styles are catered for. It also gives access to virtual or in-person counselling should it be needed.


How could EAPs help women who work part-time?

The great thing about EAPs is that they can be personalised, and accessed remotely at a time that is convenient to the employee. This makes them an equitable tool that every demographic can use. To find out more about how this might be worked out in practice amongst employees of different ages, life stages and different job roles see our previous blog post.

But, in terms of supporting women who work part-time, how do the features of EAPs lend themselves to providing adequate support that could prevent burnout?


1.   Little-and-often

More women tend to drop their working hours to take on caring responsibilities for children. According to the ONS, 3 in 10 mothers with children under the age of 14 reduce their work hours in order to better care for their children. This is compared to 1 in 20 fathers.

In terms of specifically supporting workers who are juggling multiple responsibilities, EAPs are designed to be used little and often, at times that suit the employee. Apps like MyMindPal encourage their users to do five minutes of exercises a day, a target that feels really attainable even to the most overworked people. This little and often approach means people are getting a steady drip-feed of support, rather than being bombarded by huge quantities of information that are hard to digest and apply.


2.   Personalised

Often these digital tools use user data to tailor the exercises and resources contained within to the person accessing the programme. This means that colleagues can receive the training that will really work for them in their individual circumstances. The needs of a part-time worker are different to that of a colleague nearing retirement. Neither is more or less important than the other, and both require bespoke support. EAPs make automatic allowances for these differences.

As the user performs more tasks on the app the algorithm changes the content they access, ensuring that the user gets the information that is most pertinent to them. It moves them along a personalised support pathway, directing those most at risk towards virtual or in-person counselling.


3.   Accessible

As discussed above, women are far more likely to work part-time. Part-time workers often miss out on office-wide mental health training that is delivered in person, as it is difficult to deliver one-off sessions at a time when every colleague is scheduled to be in the office.

All EAPs are accessible via an app on one’s smartphone, meaning even women working in part-time, remote or hybrid jobs can get access to the support they need when they need it. Whether it is during a 3 am night feed with a baby, a 5:30 am wake-up with a toddler or sitting outside in the car waiting for a teenager to emerge from her football training session, these apps can allow women in caring roles to get access to mental health support whilst away from the office. Digital, personalised support can be accessed whenever, wherever.


4.   Preventative

The challenge of balancing caring and working responsibilities is significant and relentless and is frequently noted as one of the major causes of stress in the workplace. EAPs often work to provide the mental fitness required to deal with daily stress by managing negative thoughts and creating a range of helpful thinking styles that boost positive thinking. They also train employees to be more mindful and how to relax naturally. All of this will build the capacity to manage pressure before things become stressful. In turn, this will reduce burnout.


Benefits that help all your team thrive

Rather than a tokenistic, one-size-fits-all, in-person training session on mental health awareness, provide your employees with a bespoke, accessible, equitable tool that helps prevent employee stress and burnout. Companies that help their teams manage their work/life balance, and particularly ensure that they are facilitating support for all genders are more likely to have employees who are motivated at work, who stick around for longer and who ultimately thrive at work.