The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a myriad of events for Americans, especially women. Data shows that one in four people in the country quit their jobs last year for the sake of their mental health. Increased workloads at work and at home have led many women to a breaking point. They are now leaving the workforce in record numbers than their male counterparts, prioritizing their well-being over that of their employer. Despite vaccinations and economic re-openings, there are still 3.2 million fewer workers in the labor market today than compared in early 2020, before the global pandemic hit.
Researchers found that 55% of workers experienced significant stress last year, and 33% showed symptoms of depression. Fewer than half of women want to stay in their current jobs, and 51% did not have much hope when it came to their career prospects before the pandemic. Lack of motivation, feeling of anger, and anxiety were other factors that made work-life tough for others. It has long been proven that stress from work ranks as having the second-worst impact on a person’s mental health, only second to stress due to financial problems. Work-life balance, coupled with facing non-inclusive behaviors at work, have been the top reasons for women leaving their current employers. In all, women feel overworked and under-appreciated.
The pre-pandemic era was different. Gender disparities kept women back in the workplace, although they earned 81 cents for every dollar that men earned worldwide. Working through a health crisis, the pandemic has perhaps served to increase this gender gap, and this has impacted women’s mental well-being, careers, and ambitions. A global survey shows that around 80% of women had increased workloads during the pandemic, while 66% reported having added familial responsibilities. Add to that, the pandemic has also created bigger challenges for the LGBTQA+ community and women of color who projected lower levels of mental health and dismal work-life balance.
Next comes the flexibility of working from home, an option that was made as real as possible due to the pandemic, and that has prompted many to leave their jobs for remote opportunities. The banes of a 9-5 job – dealing with rush hour traffic, crowded parking lots, abrasive coworkers, and late nights which were causing women to burn out — were all gone with the work from home model. Being at home made a lot of people realize that a hectic workday is not realistic and prioritize their own life and mental health. More professional women are taking medical leaves to cope with stress, exhaustion, and burnout, enabling them to make a healthy decisions quicker.
It is still possible for employers to pay attention to the issues at hand and work toward reversing these discouraging trends to enable sustained and meaningful progress on gender equality in the workplace. This is the time when employers need to understand what women need. To start with, make the work culture truly inclusive to aid a better work-life balance by going beyond general policies, demonstrating a visible and measurable leadership commitment, and providing meaningful growth opportunities. Starting mental health employee resource groups can also help create a forum for like-minded people to identify with each other in the workplace and share stories that can help.
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