The state of burnout for women in the workplace
Working women face alarmingly high levels of burnout despite shifting work arrangements, rise in hybrid working.
- The “Great Resignation” set to continue as more than half of women surveyed plan to leave their employer within the next two years
- A majority of respondents continue to experience harassment or non-inclusive behaviors at work, but few of these behaviors are reported to employers
- Almost 60% of women who work in hybrid environments feel they have been excluded from important meetings
- Women who work at “Gender Equality Leaders” (5% of the sample) report far higher levels of engagement, trust, and career satisfaction.
Widespread burnout and lack of flexible work continues to hinder progress in supporting working women, according to the latest Deloitte report, “Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook”. The research reveals that 53% of women say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago, and almost half feel burned out. This burnout is a top factor driving women away from their employers: nearly 40% of women actively looking for a new employer cited it as the main reason. More than half of those surveyed want to leave their employer in the next two years, and only 10% plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years.
Representing the views of 5,000 women across 10 countries, the research shows worrying long-term impacts as rates of stress and experiences of harassment or microaggressions remain high. The survey also illuminates troubling findings about the “new normal” of work, as almost 60% of women working in hybrid models (arrangements that include any combination of remote and in-office work) report they have already felt excluded.
“Despite the fact that many employers have implemented new ways of working designed to improve flexibility, our research shows that the new arrangements run the risk of excluding the very people who could most benefit from them, with the majority of the women we polled having experienced exclusion when working in a hybrid environment,” says Emma Codd, Deloitte Global Inclusion Leader. “The number of women reporting increased stress and burnout is of significant concern, and employers are struggling to address it as seen by the fact that burnout is the top driver for those women currently looking for new employment. The findings of this research show the importance of actions beyond policy—those that truly address and embed wellbeing, flexibility, and a respectful and inclusive ‘everyday culture’.”
“As more organisations in Southeast Asia commit to a new way of working, some are fast developing policies and procedures to support both remote and on-site employees. It has become apparent that the modern workplace will be hybrid. A hybrid workplace reduces the opportunity for face to face interaction, which may result in the worsening of existing biases and creates barriers to success,” says Seah Gek Choo, Deloitte Southeast Asia Talent Leader. “The importance of organisations taking proactive measures to prevent and resolve issues faced by women employees, so as to enable them to achieve their full potential at work, cannot be overstated. Remote work policies and practices should be reviewed to identify implicit bias and potential abuse scenarios. It is crucial to understand the kind of support each employee needs to be their best, and offering this support can involve something as simple as eliminating the requirement for video on conference calls, to organisation-wide work flexibility programs that empower workers to choose how best to deliver their role, build meaningful connections, proactively manage their well-being, and balance their professional and personal priorities.”
Stress, burnout, and limited advancement opportunities are driving women away from their employers.
Fifty-three percent of women say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago, and almost half feel burned out. Moreover, almost half of the women surveyed rated their mental health as poor/very poor. One-third have taken time off work because of mental-health challenges, yet only 43% feel comfortable talking about mental-health concerns in the workplace.
The number of women looking for a new role at the time of polling increased since last year’s survey, with 10% saying they were actively looking. Forty percent of that group cited burnout as the top reason driving them away. For those who had already left an employer since the start of the pandemic, a lack of opportunities to advance was the most cited reason (22%). When it comes to future plans, the outlook is bleak for employers: more than half of women plan to leave their employer within two years. This is more pronounced for those in middle-management and non-managerial roles, with fewer than one-quarter of women in those roles planning to stay with their employer for more than two years. Only 10% of women surveyed plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years.
Workplace problems persist as flexibility remains limited and hybrid work presents additional challenges
While many organizations over the past year have pivoted workplace strategies to incorporate flexible and hybrid work models, many women report they have yet to feel the benefits of these new ways of working. Only 33% of women say their employers offer flexible-working policies, and when asked about policies their organization had introduced during the pandemic, only 22% cited flexibility around where and when they work. Moreover, 94% of respondents believe that requesting flexible working will affect their likelihood of promotion.
Beyond flexibility, the implementation of hybrid work has presented additional challenges. Almost 60% of women who work in hybrid environments feel they have been excluded from important meetings, and 45% say they do not have enough exposure to leaders, a critical component of sponsorship and career progression. Worryingly, hybrid work appears to not be delivering the predictability that women with caregiving responsibilities may need, with only 26% saying their employer has set clear expectations when it comes to how and where they are expected to work.
This year’s survey also found that women who work in a hybrid environment are significantly more likely to report experiencing microaggressions than those who work exclusively on-site or exclusively remote. More broadly, the percentage of women that have experienced non-inclusive behaviors over the past year at work has increased, up from 52% in 2021 to 59% in 2022. Exactly half of women say they have experienced microaggressions, while 14% have experienced harassment. When it comes to reporting these non-inclusive behaviors, there continues to be fear of career reprisals as 93% believe reporting non-inclusive behaviors will negatively impact their careers. Only 23% of microaggressions were reported to employers, compared to 66% of harassment behaviors that were reported.
Intersectionality matters as women from diverse backgrounds face heightened challenges
While non-inclusive behaviors impact the majority of respondents, women in ethnic minority groups in their countries, LGBT+ women, and those in lower management or non-managerial roles are more likely to experience these behaviors. Many feel less optimistic about their career prospects compared with 12 months ago.
Women in ethnic minority groups are more likely to feel burned out than their counterparts in the ethnic majority of their country. They are also significantly more likely to report experiencing exclusion from informal interactions (15% vs. 10%) and feeling patronized (9% vs. 2%).
LGBT+ women are more than 10% more likely to say they have been patronized or undermined by managers because of their gender, and 7% more likely to cite being addressed in an unprofessional or disrespectful way than non-LGBT+ women.
Levels of burnout vary across professional levels as well. Sixty-one percent of women in middle-management roles and younger women (aged 18 to 25) report that they feel burned out, demonstrating that high burnout levels are more largely experienced by women in these cohorts. These women were also more likely to say they were planning to leave their employer within two years.
More employers are getting it right as women and gender equality leaders reap benefits
As organizations look to rebuild resilient workforces, many can learn from a group of employers that have already doubled down on building inclusive cultures and supporting women’s careers. Deloitte’s research identified a group of “gender equality leaders,” organizations that, according to the women surveyed, have created genuinely inclusive cultures that support their careers, work/life balance, and foster inclusion.
Women who work for gender equality leaders report far higher levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction. Of the women who work for them, 87% say they receive adequate mental health support from their employer, and the same percentage feel comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace. They also report far more positive experiences with hybrid working. Remarkably, only 3% feel burned out.
While it is evident women benefit from working for gender equality leaders, there are also clear business benefits: None of the women who work for gender equality leaders are currently looking for a new job, and only 9% plan to leave in the next 1-2 years. And 90% rate their motivation at work as good or extremely good.