The coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted companies and employees. However, some groups of employees appear to have worse experiences than others. A report by WerkLabs, the insights division of The Mom Project, reveals that the pandemic is impacting working women particularly hard. And as a result, these women are more likely to express dissatisfaction with their employers — and a desire to leave.
Experiences of women vs. men
“From our COVID-19 work study, women report being 46% more likely than men to leave their employer within one year’s time,” says Dr. Pamela Cohen, a social scientist, and the president of WerkLabs. They were also two times more likely than men to say they will leave their employer within five years’ time.
“Women consistently, across a range of measures that include support from leadership, flexibility, and socio-emotional characteristics among others, indicate that their experiences in the workplace are more negative than men.”
In fact, women score lower than men on every single driver of employee experience. “In total, women rate their overall experience 35% more negatively than their male counterparts.”
Cohen lists these three points specifically:
- Women rate their interactions with organizational leadership as 33% more negative than men.
- Women rate socio-emotional well-being measures approximately 20% lower than men, including social connectedness and support from the organization in achieving work/life integration.
- Women are more likely than men to report lack of clarity around what is expected of them at work during the present situation, including their overall responsibilities, priorities, and goals. They rate their anticipated productivity across the next year as 29% below what men tend to report.
Experiences of parents vs. non-parents
There’s also a difference between non-parents, parents of one child, and parents of two or more children. Parents of one child report than they are 10% more likely than both non-parents and parents of two or more children to leave their employer in one year’s time. Parents of one child feel 8% less supported than both non-parents and parents of two or more children. (Note: in the study, parents of one child were more likely to be newer parents with a child between the ages of 0-2 years.)
In the survey, 72% of respondents report negative interactions with their direct manager. One respondent referred to their manager as “having gone completely overboard and genuinely not caring for employees and workload.” The respondent said the company claims to be flexible, but said, “If you are looking after a child due to no childcare, it is impossible to be working two full-time jobs at 100% capacity for an extended period of time.”
Regarding emotional support, 75% of respondents reported negative experiences. One employee reported having lost the desire to work and admitted they would rather be spending time with their family. The individual said they had really bad mental health one week and told their boss. However, the boss did not provide any assistance or relief from their workload.
Gaining time from not having to commute was the most mentioned factor in schedule manageability. One respondent commuted nearly three hours a day and said working from home would improve their mental and physical health.
A WerkLabs general action matrix outlining what’s most important to the surveyed employees reveals that the greatest opportunities for maximizing ROI to improve employee experience are organizational leadership, holistic support, and flexibility.
“More than ever, employers need to find ways to support women, parents, and all employees, offering flexibility in order to lead by example in prioritizing work-life integration,” Cohen says.
“We recommend strengthening leadership on the ground-level, which means greater transparency, communication, and action.” Cohen also recommends embracing and implementing flexibility. Another suggestion is to offer holistic support. “For example, set up buddy systems to help people stay in touch with each other during the week,” she says. This can serve dual functions. First, it improves the socio-emotional well-being of employees. “However, it can also drive improvements in organizational leadership and manager perceptions,” Cohen explains.
Flexibility shouldn’t just be stated — it should be demonstrated. “Leadership can set examples that employees are not expected to be online 24/7, encourage people to take time off to care for themselves and their families, and help with other aspects of flexibility to accommodate work/life integration,” she says.