Nine in 10 women experience mental ill-health from poor work-life balance, study shows

The lines are ‘increasingly blurred’, say experts, who urge employers to take action

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More than nine in 10 (93 per cent) women say they have experienced mental health issues as a result of poor work-life balance, a survey by Bloom UK has found.

The report, which surveyed 704 women in the marketing and communications industry, asked women how they view work-life balance and how it has affected their personal lives.

More than two fifths (43 per cent) of respondents said they have experienced symptoms of stress, anxiety or burnout brought on by poor work-life balance, while more than half (54 per cent) said they frequently felt overwhelmed by their workload.

Additionally, more than four out of five women (83 per cent) said that poor work-life balance has also caused them physical health issues.

Elizabeth Anyaegbuna, president at Bloom, said: “We know that for many women the lines between work and life are increasingly blurred. The demands of careers intertwine in complex responsibilities and identities outside the workplace.”

Dan Cockram, wellbeing, health and protection director at Partners&, told People Management that hybrid working can, in some cases, create additional stress for those struggling with personal responsibilities. “In some cases, the benefits of working from home and hybrid working are outweighed by the impact these working arrangements can have on work-life balance and people’s mental and physical wellbeing. Working multiple jobs, raising a family as a single parent or balancing caring responsibilities with work pressures can ultimately take their toll,” he explained.

“Helping your people to create boundaries and avoid presenteeism can help ensure there is a cut off – much like driving home from the office would often signal the end of the working day and the start of personal time.”

Women with disabilities were twice as likely to find that lack of work-balance impacts their mental health in an extreme way compared to those without a disability.

Additionally, employees with diverse backgrounds were particularly affected by poor work-life balance, with 41 per cent of women of colour believing their work does not allow for healthy integration of their personal and professional life – 10 per cent more than white women.

To combat this issue, 65 per cent of respondents said employers should offer women of colour mentorship, coaching or sponsorship programmes, while half (52 per cent) would like to see cultural sensitivity and diversity and inclusion training made mandatory in their workplace. 

The research found that South Asian women – compared to women from other ethnic minority groups who were surveyed – feel more overwhelmed by their workload and believe they do not have a healthy work-life balance. 

Dannielle Haig, a business psychologist, told People Management: “The exacerbated challenges faced by women [with] diverse backgrounds, including ethnic minorities and queer women, point to ingrained biases and structural inequalities.”

She said employers must “urgently address these issues” by offering flexible working practices, creating an inclusive workplace culture and “recognising the unique needs of diverse employees”.

“Tailored interventions and genuine commitment to employee wellbeing are essential in creating environments where all individuals can thrive without sacrificing their health or personal lives,” she said.

Steve Herbert, an HR adviser, added: “An individual from an underrepresented grouping in any workplace or sector might feel that they need to work even harder than their colleagues to be accepted by their peers and to help break the unofficial glass ceiling that sometimes exists in such situations.  

“Employers and line managers should therefore recognise this increased risk and do what they can to ensure that all employees feel that they are accepted by their colleagues and that any unfair workload expectations are both addressed and avoided.”

For CIPD advice on how work-life balance can support wellbeing, click here