Employers: working women are stressed and looking for wellness support

A recent Cigna survey reveals that working women feel more stressed than men and want gender-specific wellness programmes. How can employers make health more than just a box-ticking exercise?

Woman at desk with head in her hands, illustrating an article about welllness
The gender pay reporting deadline for employers has highlighted that many companies are still lagging behind in remunerating their female employees. It is clear that women want leadership roles, but are still not getting the support they need in many areas. The 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Well & Beyond shows that working women are significantly more stressed than men. The new research has revealed that pressures in the workplace and at home are leading to working women feeling more stressed than men (79% women vs 66% men), with 10% of women finding their stress ‘unmanageable’. Heavy workloads (17%), personal health (13%) and financial concerns (13%) are the top stress triggers for working women in the UK – and 78% of women are not getting enough sleep (vs 65% of men).A staggering 88% of working women (compared to 85% of working men) around the world are feeling stressed and 13% per cent (11% of men) are suffering from unmanageable stress. This leads to the supposition that women in international roles with added overseas business travel and time zones to contend with, as well as juggling work and family needs, could especially benefit from extra well-being benefits.
Infographic from the study 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey – Well & Beyond

Gender-targeted workplace wellness

61% of working women feel that workplace wellness programmes need to better address the specific need of gender. Speaking at a lively event in London at the end of March, revealing survey’s findings for 2019, Phil Austin, chief executive officer at Cigna Europe said, “It’s evident from our research that women are finding it difficult in today’s society to balance work and life, resulting in higher levels of stress compared to men, so we’re calling on employers to take action.“We believe that sustained and evidence-based improvements to wellness programmes will create a less-stressed working environment, within which women will be happier and more productive.” The pressures women face at work and home is part of a wider social issue present in today's society and it's significantly affecting their wellness. Only 27% are eating a balanced diet (vs 38% of men) and 28% are exercising on a regular basis (vs 36% of men). Men are sleeping more, have more regular exercise and eat more healthily.

Supportive company culture

Of all the demographics surveyed, the sandwich generation (defined as those between 35-49) was the group suffering most and in danger of impacting productivity as the core talent group relied upon to manage operations and drive growth.There is an issue, in particular, for women who feel they are being judged for wanting to give 100% in the workplace and other areas of life to family, children and ageing relatives. Guest contributor Samantha Smith explained that company culture that promotes sensitivity to family support, flexible hours and the ability to work from home, all take the pressure off stretched employees. Simple solutions can often be found by working with an empathetic manager. Online mindfulness sessions – even for just 10 minutes up to one hour – can really help the employee to gain perspective in a busy day and leave them refreshed and able to focus.The report finds that women want customised wellness programmes to feel secure in their workplace and to manage and respond to their stress triggers. Flexibility was universally desired by female respondents, whether single, married or working mothers. Women are looking for flexibility across working hours, as well as special paid leave and a shorter working week. In addition, a room at work for relaxing and taking a break, and employer-sponsored physical activities would all be appreciated, the survey concludes.

The global expatriate picture

The Cigna 360° Well-Being Survey found that people working overseas worry more about their own and their families’ health and wellness than those who reside in their home country. More than three-quarters (76%) reported they cannot adequately take care of their children’s various needs and well-being, while worries about their dependents’ education are intensified by the lack of a family support network.Less than half (42%) felt their employer offered adequate “duty of care” to them, with 40% not in receipt of any medical benefits from their company. All globally mobile individuals (100%) subsequently worried about illness, with cancer and the fear of accidents the main triggers, followed by mental illness, including depression.“Whilst working overseas has its benefits, the reality of life in a new country can be an emotional upheaval,” said Mr Austin. “Working practices are different, not to mention the cultural, lifestyle and language changes, which can make coping with life’s challenges more difficult.“Our findings show deep insecurity about family health and well-being, coupled with social isolation and increasing loneliness, which is exacerbated by the loss of a support network. It’s imperative that employers pay attention to the needs of their globally mobile employees and, as a health partner, we remain committed as ever in delivering solutions to tackle this.”

Telehealth for overseas employees

Telehealth appointments can also make a huge difference in terms of saving time for employees and offering psychological support to prevent stress symptoms from getting out of hand. Telehealth has also revolutionised healthcare for overseas employees by offering reassurance on business travel trips or international assignments.Cigna Wellbeing® offers three main, integrated features for the user:
  • "Access to Care" – with 24/7 video and telephone access to doctors, nurses and specialists giving advice on various issues from acute to more complex, chronic conditions
  • "Manage Care" – personalised health coaching, providing the ability for members to track their biometrics and set goals, such as daily sleep, height/weight, blood sugar, blood-pressure readings, cholesterol and any other general health notes
  • "Change Lifestyle Behaviour" – following completion of a Health Risk Assessment, the member will be given a tailored, evidence-based wellness coaching programme and track success and assessment via a focus graph.

Time for employers to act on well-being

Health and well-being have been on the agenda for some time, but for some organisations, it has become a box-ticking exercise. With added pressures in the workplace, it’s time for employers to re-engage in workplace wellness.Mental health is a significant factor and there is now far more awareness, but there are greater incidences of stress than ever before for both men and women. Stress in the workplace is exacerbated by stress in life. Work is increasing and longer hours seem to be the norm for many, especially in the UK. The blurring of boundaries over the end of the working day is exacerbated by picking up emails and checking social media on phones and other devices.Heart health awareness is also being neglected, the report shows, and many people lead a very sedentary lifestyle. Even two minutes of brisk walking after an hour sitting at a desk can make a difference. 

How a healthy dose of running changed lives

A highlight of the Cigna event was the inspiring and poignant story of Ben Smith, the man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days to raise money for charities Stonewall and Kidscape. Running for fitness, health and happiness worked for Mr Smith and changed the lives of many along the way.Read his book 401 and discover the joy that can be unleashed if people are encouraged to find out who they are and what they want to do in life. Imagine the effect in your workplace, school or community if everyone felt included. Ben's book is published by Bloomsbury Sport.
Ben Smith, who ran 401 marathons in 401 days, speaking at a Cigna event
The man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever.
For more information, download the 2019 Cigna 360 Well-Being Survey.  Cigna is a global health service company dedicated to improving the health, well-being and peace of mind for those it serves. Cigna maintains sales capability in more than 30 countries and jurisdictions, and has more than 160 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna, visit www.cigna.com.Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

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