Two-thirds of women are still uncomfortable discussing mental health at work

Deloitte’s Women @ Work study also found that while burnout is declining, one-half of women are more stressed than they were a year ago.
article cover

Nuthawut Somsuk/Getty Images

· 4 min read

Working women are stressed, uncomfortable sharing their mental health struggles, and dealing with microaggressions. But what else is new, amirite?

These were among the findings of Deloitte’s fourth annual Women @ Work survey of more than 5,000 women across 10 countries. Let’s get into it.

Physical and mental pain. While 23% of women reported experiencing burnout, a 5% decline since last year, one-half of all respondents said they’re more stressed than they were a year ago. Some 60% of those in the ethnic minority said their stress is higher than a year ago, versus 49% of the majority. And one-third said that they had to take time off in the last year due to mental health challenges, with differences based on whether the person is in the ethnic minority (46%) or majority (32%).

While employers and public entities are trying to reduce the stigma around mental health, two-thirds of women said they’re uncomfortable discussing their mental health at work, up slightly from 2023.

Many women are also working through physical pain. Four in 10 women who experience menopause pain are working it, nearly double the 2023 rate.

“Organizations should work to normalize the conversation on women’s health, addressing the stigma that remains associated with it and making sure women can access the workplace support they need,” the report recommended.

Rigid work environments. While a majority of women said they plan to stay with their current company for at least the next year, those looking for a new job say it’s due to poor work-life balance and lack of flexibility.

More than 40% of respondents said their employer recently implemented an RTO policy that required 30% to relocate to keep their jobs. Additionally, one-quarter of women said their company’s mandatory RTO policies have negatively impacted their mental health, and 20% of respondents who are in the office full-time said their productivity has decreased.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.

However, some aspects of hybrid work appear to be getting better. Of those women who have a hybrid schedule, 30% reported feeling excluded from meetings or informal interactions, a 19% decline from 2022. Regardless, almost all (95%) women with access to flexibility are afraid that using it would negatively impact their likelihood of promotion.

“Employers should find ways to enable women to succeed at work alongside their commitments outside work,” the report recommended. “This also includes flexible working options that work for both the business and its people, alongside enabling leaders and managers to not only understand these options and policies but to encourage and enable their utilization—without fear of stigma.”

Safety and microaggressions remain concerns. Nearly one-half (47%) of women said they’re concerned about their personal safety while commuting or traveling for work, with one in 10 of those saying they’ve experienced harassment while traveling or have been sexually harassed by a colleague.

Yet Deloitte found that more than one-third women still don’t report sexual harassment when they experience it, and 43% face microaggressions or harassment at work. The experience varies for women from underrepresented groups. Some 40% of women in the ethnic minority in their country have experienced microaggressions, versus 30% of women in the majority. And 54% of LGBTQ+-identifying women have experienced microaggressions or harassment, including sexual harassment. The report also found that productivity and loyalty decreases among women who have experienced harassment.

“The impact of microaggressions really comes from the accumulation, so that pattern over time that then creates a deleterious impact on an employee’s experience, their physical health, and their psychological well-being,” Laura Morgan Roberts, associate professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, told USA Today.

As women continue to face various challenges in and outside the workplace, HR leaders may want to implement some of the report’s recommendations.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.