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Report Finds UK Women Juggling Return To Office


Nearly half of working women (47%) in the UK say that their stress levels are higher than a year ago, partly due to return-to-office policies and long hours, according to a new Deloitte Global report. ‘Women @ Work: A global outlook’, now in its fourth year, surveyed 5,000 women in different sectors in ten countries, including 500 working women in the UK, to better understand the experiences of women in the workplace.


Key Findings:


  • In the last year, more women took time off work due to poor mental health;

  • Hybrid working experiences are improving but new return-to-office policies are leading to some women to request workplace adjustments;

  • Those with an unequal share of responsibilities at home are more likely to have poor mental health;

  • Significant increase in women working through menopause related pain.


Adjustments needed to manage return-to-office policies

This year’s report found that hybrid work experiences have improved in the past months. Fewer women feel excluded from workplace meetings or decisions in hybrid work environments compared to last year (a 35% compared to 43% in 2023).


However, flexibility remains a challenge and some women have needed to make adjustments to their work and personal lives following return-to-office policies. New data for this year found that more women in the UK (50%), compared to the overall figure globally (47%), have been asked by their employer to return on-site either full-time or on certain days. Of these women, 32% are required to be on-site full-time.


Among the women in the UK asked to return to the office full-time, a quarter (27%) said that it has negatively impacted their mental health and a similar proportion (24%) say it has made them less productive.


Furthermore, 44% have asked to reduce their hours, 35% think less of their employer as a result, and 30% have needed to move house to be nearer the office.


Jackie Henry, managing partner for people and purpose at Deloitte UK, said:

“There are concerning findings in this year’s research that reveal increased stress for women, with factors both in and outside of their workplaces."

“Flexibility and work-life balance are critical for good mental health and productivity. Despite the importance of flexibility, it’s concerning to see that fewer women than last year feel supported by their employers to balance their work responsibilities with their commitments outside work.”


Mental health challenges and stigma increase

More than a third of women (39%) surveyed said they have taken time off work in the past year for mental health reasons, a slight increase of 4 percentage points since 2023 and higher compared to the overall figure globally (33%). However, two-thirds (65%) of women do not feel comfortable discussing mental health at work or disclosing mental health as the reason for taking time off.


This is felt more acutely by women from ethnic minority backgrounds; over half (56%) needed to take time off but only 20% felt comfortable sharing mental health as the reason for their absence to their employer.


New for this year, the report found that the most common reason they did not disclose was because they were concerned that doing so would impact their chance of career progression (28%).


Widening disproportion of women taking on all caring responsibilities

The report highlights that women who live with a partner still bear the most responsibility for childcare and care of other adults. This year, nearly half of women (44%) who live with a partner and have children at home bear the most responsibility for childcare, this is down slightly from 47% last year.


Nearly 51% of women who are involved in care of another adult say they take the greatest responsibility for this, compared to 53% last year.


Even more women working through menopause symptoms

A quarter (25%) of women say they have experienced challenges related to menstruation, menopause, or fertility in the workplace. About 40% of women who experience high levels of pain due to menstruation or menopause say they work through it without taking time off work. In the past year there has been a significant increase in the number of women working through menopause related pain (47%, compared to 40% in 2023).


This year’s report looks into effects of fertility related challenges on women's work lives for the first time. More women who had taken time off work for fertility related issues found their employer was supportive (29%), compared to those who did not receive the support they needed (18%).

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