Working women suffer burnout and harassment, study reveals

Widespread burnout and lack of flexible work continues to hinder progress in supporting working women.

The latest Deloitte report, “Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook” released this week, reveals that 50 percent of women globally say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago, and almost half feel burned out.

The burnout is a major factor driving women away from their employers.

According to Deloitte, nearly 40 percent 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 percent plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years.

A total of 5,000 women across 10 countries, including 500 women in South Africa, were surveyed.

“Of South Africa’s respondents, 95 percent are in full time employment. Of this pool, 38 percent are in hybrid work, 32 percent are fully remote while 30 percent are fully in-person at their workplace,” Deloitte says.

Forty percent of South African women feel burnt out, compared to 46 percent of the global average. In addition, 51 percent of South African women say their stress levels are higher than a year ago, compared to 53 percent of their global peers.

“Forty-three percent of South African women report their mental health as being poor or extremely poor, compared with 49 percent globally.”

Deoloitte says levels of burnout are highest among women of ages 18 to 25, with 56 percent of South African women and 61 percent of their global peers feeling burnout.

The survey also highlights findings about the “new normal” of work, as almost 60 percent of women working in hybrid models report that they have already felt excluded.

“The survey findings paint a worrying picture as they show that in spite of the efforts of the past two years of the pandemic to help look after women’s mental health and wellbeing, including flexible work arrangements and options to reduce hours, women still struggle and feel excluded,” says Justine Mazzocco, managing partner for people and purpose at Deloitte Africa.

“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’s global inclusion leader.

Mazzocco notes that 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.

According to the survey, 40 percent of South African women expect to leave their current roles in the next two years, compared with 52 percent globally, with 31 percent citing burnout, compared to 38 percent globally, followed by poor pay and lack of advancement opportunities.

Deloitte notes that LGBT+ women are more than 10 percent more likely to say they have been patronised or undermined by managers because of their gender, and seven percent more likely to cite being addressed in an unprofessional or disrespectful way than non-LGBT+ women.

However, more employers are getting it right as women and gender equality leaders reap benefits. “As organisations 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,” the survey reads.

Mazzocco concludes that companies need to address burnout, make mental wellbeing a priority, and approach hybrid working with inclusive and flexible policies that actually work for women. “There is a unique opportunity to build upon the progress already made to ensure women of all backgrounds can thrive in an equitable and inclusive workplace,” Mazzocco says.