Women make up more than half of the workforce in the U.S. And although we have made significant progress toward creating more equitable workplaces in recent decades, women still face unique health and wellness challenges that can affect their ability and capacity to work.
Women often still take on the bulk of household and caregiving duties and must figure out how to balance work, home, and family life. Without sufficient support, these responsibilities can cause stress and negative physical and mental health outcomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic only magnified the existing health challenges for women. In a nationwide survey assessing the effects of the pandemic on the emotional well-being of the U.S. adults — conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School and UNC School of Medicine in June 2020 — women reported more “pandemic-related changes in sleep, health worry (about one’s own health and the health of others), productivity, mood, and frustration with not being able to do as much what they usually enjoy doing” than men. And women who had children under 18 reported higher rates of clinically significant anxiety symptoms, in comparison with women without minor children and men with children of similar ages.
As healthcare leaders, it is crucial that you support the health and well-being of your female employees. Companies that support women’s health have higher rates of productivity and retention and help improve overall health outcomes.
3 Ways to Support Women’s Health in Your Organization
- Provide comprehensive health benefits.
Evaluate the health insurance and other benefits plans available to your employees, paying particular attention to women’s health services, including pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, hormonal, and gynecological care. What are the deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses for women’s health care on your company’s insurance plan? What are your policies for PTO, parental leave, or subsidized child care? Which mental health services are offered, such as therapy visits or substance-abuse treatment? If you see gaps in the coverage your plans provide, be proactive about addressing them. Be sure that women on your team are participating in conversations about how benefits plans are designed.
- Look for opportunities to build flexibility.
In healthcare, it is difficult to create a completely flexible work environment. Patient care comes first, and you need a staff you can count on to deliver that care. But while you might not be able to offer location flexibility, you could still provide flexibility in terms of staff scheduling. Creative solutions, including flex hours, job sharing, shift working, alternating days off, and float pools, can give employees more control over their schedules — and allow for them to take time off more easily when their child is sick or they need to manage personal or caregiving responsibilities.
- Promote emotional health resources.
Aim to destigmatize taking advantage of mental and emotional health resources in your organization. Build a culture in which it’s OK to not be OK sometimes, and look for ways to support employees’ holistic well-being in the workplace. Offer regular workshops or classes that alleviate stress and promote mindfulness, such as meditation sessions or yoga or tai chi classes, or subsidize resources like meditation apps or external courses.
We believe happier and healthier people are the biggest driver behind a thriving business. This blog post is part of our Heart of the Business initiative and our ongoing commitment to delivering health and wellness content to support healthy employees, and in turn, healthy businesses.
To learn more about Heart of the Business, https://medhq.com/heart-of-the-business/