HINT: it’s not actually about work at all.
During and after the pandemic, millions of women quit or downshifted their jobs - at twice the rate of men– and they aren't in any rush to return to "normal." The Great Resignation means gender balance in the workforce is now the lowest it has been in more than 30 years. A ‘perfect storm’ of greater responsibilities at home and increasingly blurred boundaries between the work and life has been blamed. This article looks at how life and work got so out of balance, and how companies can better support and win employees back with a new wave of family-friendly benefits that are becoming an increasingly critical component of talent strategies.
What This Article Covers:
The scale of the problem
Why diversity equals better workplaces
How work and life got so out of balance
What people are looking for in careers
What’s missing from family-friendly benefit strategies
Why ELANZA fills the gap in family benefits
Whether you’re a HR or benefits manager trying to meet these new demands or you’re looking for a playbook on how to help your company help you, let’s dive into the solution.
The Scale Of The Problem
Burnout has reached alarmingly high levels, according to the results from a Deloitte survey of 5,000 women in the workplace across 10 countries - particularly affecting working women across all life stages.
The report makes it clear that the pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on women, stating that many women have made career and life decisions ‘driven by their experiences during the pandemic’.
Their findings suggest that many have sought more flexible working patterns; but for others it has meant leaving their employer or the workforce entirely.
In what’s been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation,’ employers have to step up their game and adapt to the needs of all people balancing work and life in order to foster a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace, and attract and retain the best talent.
Why This Matters
The positive effects of gender diversity in the workplace have been shown time and time again.
According to McKinsey, companies that have more gender diversity are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability, and companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits.
In addition, alleviating some of the financial, emotional and psychological burden on working women and mothers through supportive family-friendly benefits creates happier, more productive, and fulfilled employees who know they’re valued.
How Work And Life Got So Out Of Balance
Understanding the trends that led us here is essential to figuring out the best solution. Here five reasons burnout and balance are big issues for women in the modern workplace:
Boundaries And Identities Got Blurred
Setting boundaries to separate work and personal life are important to only increase efficiency at work, but it also reduce stress in our personal lives.
While some people have found it easier to achieve a healthy work-life balance while working from home, others found it blurred the line between work life and personal life in damaging ways.
Poor work-life boundaries can have far-reaching consequences, affecting everything from motivation and satisfaction to mental and physical health - as continual context-switching can cause an enormous amount of fatigue and stress.
In Addition To Unpaid Labor At Home, Women Do Invisible Work At Work
Research from the Harvard Business Review found that women get 44% more requests than men to volunteer for “non promotable” tasks that are unlikely to get them a promotion.
These include things like planning office parties, filling in for someone out of the office, or taking on routine work that doesn’t require skill or produce much impact.
So, not only are women more stressed because they’re likely doing more of the invisible work at home but they’re also doing it at work.
And, because that work isn’t deemed important enough to merit a promotion, they are still bogged down with more work for less pay.
Stress And Burnout Is Higher For Women Across Every Life Stage - Especially LGBTQIA+ Individuals And Parents
Research shows that the burnout gap between women and men has almost doubled since last year.
A 2022 Inc survey found that female employees are more than twice as likely as men to say that their work cultures are very unsustainable. And nearly a quarter of women without children (24 percent), who tend to be younger and earlier in their careers, felt this way--more than any other group who responded to the survey.
“I’m feeling long-term burnout. I’m someone who always prided myself on being in control and having strong, emotional resiliency. And I am not doing great. My manager checked in on me, and I know he’s trying to empathize, but he said something like, ‘Oh, so-and-so keeps calling me to make sure you’re OK. We know you’re a flight risk.’
“We’re all aware of the social context we’re operating in, especially women working in corporate America. For me, I think, am I going to be another one that falls from all this? I’m fighting so hard, but it feels like the odds are against me, and it hurts.”
We find that incredibly powerful as an encapsulation of the battle that many women have waged internally over the course of the pandemic.
Parents’ experiences of the pandemic in particular were marked by higher anxiety and lower productivity, with a World Economic Forum survey finding that 61% women with kids said they felt stress due to family pressure.
Additionally for growing numbers of people, the family they want is harder to create. The CDC states that 1 in 8 Americans will struggle with infertility, which is linked to stress, depression and anxiety.
What People Are Looking For From Their Next Career Move
The most common reason women given for staying with a current employer is a job that fits well with other areas of life.
This was followed by a desire for personally meaningful work that connects to their values, purpose, and work-life balance.
Family Now Comes First
A positive result of the pandemic was that, as societies, we have remembered to reprioritize relationships with family, friends, and partners. And now we can never go back.
Balance Is Key
As the co-author of a book on egg freezing , Catherine Hendy spoke to a lot of professional women that were trying to figure out where family and career fit in:
“Though everyone’s life plans and careers are unique, they often have one thing clearly in common: the struggle to “have it all” and desire for more support finding balance across different domains: life, relationships, career.”
Research from Deloitte Global indicates that employers that give women the culture and support to enable them to succeed have a more productive and motivated workforce and are likely to report greater retention.
We know that women actively stay at jobs because they feel supported in family and balance. Appropriate benefits can therefore help attract and retain the best talent and help companies correct the notorious gender imbalance.
By offering a fertility benefit that supports all paths to parenthood, companies can demonstrate to their employees that their company isn’t just going through the motions of DEI — you’re making concrete changes that impact employees.
There is also appetite from employees for more choice.
As Glassdoor’s Sarah Goddard said in 2018 “It's a job seeker's market right now...when you boil it down to what employees are really looking for, it is benefits that tie in with their lifestyle and then a strong company culture — one that really values employees."
Not all perks are created equal in the eyes of the employee. In other words, hold the free coffee and theater tickets.
If it’s top female talent you’re after: think truly inclusive, fit for purpose, family-friendly perks.
In what’s been called the benefits “arms race” to attract the best talent in recent years, many Fortune 100 companies such as Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, plus Netflix, Uber, banks and big law firms do now offer family-friendly benefits and parental leave along with a slew of other employee perks, like ‘unlimited’ vacation, flexible working, subsidized meals and stock options.
A survey by Willis Towers Watson found that 65% of employers in the US expect to offer family-friendly benefits by the end of this year, with the majority saying one reason was to help recruit and retain top talent, and support their inclusion and diversity goals and objectives.
What Are Family-Friendly Benefits?
These are benefits that support employees across all life stages in balancing and integrating work and family responsibilities. They can include parental leave and adoption benefits as well as childcare benefits. Family-friendly benefits can help employers support a more inclusive and diverse workplace critical to attracting and retaining talent today and tomorrow. While nearly 6 in 10 employers (59%) say that family-friendly benefits have been important to their talent strategy over the past three years to a great or very great extent, this number is expected to grow to 77% in the next three years.
Family friendly benefits are an important factor for American women without children in their late twenties, thirties and forties choosing to apply or remain at a company.
Offering fertility treatment coverage and generous parental leave sends an important message that family life are equally important, promotes inclusivity, signals strong company values and helps build a more committed, engaged and diverse workforce.
The problem is that many solutions are stop gaps or ‘pink washing’ that don’t deliver on what women actually need, and we can identify 3 main gaps in existing family benefits: inclusivity, personalization and accessibility.
ELANZA: The Missing Piece In Family-Friendly Benefits
In addition to providing coverage, the breadth and depth of that coverage and whether it is truly fit for purpose is critical.
ELANZA Wellness is a platform for supporting emotional wellbeing around family, balance and the future. It makes it easy for all employees to meet 1:1 with a Board Certified coach for life-changing conversations that can help them find clarity, make more confident decisions and find ways to unlock balance in a way that’s right for them individually.
“Perks like a company paying for IVF are great, but they’re not the whole picture,” says Brittany Hawkins, ELANZA Wellness co-founder and CEO.
“Decisions and details around family and career are hugely personal and involve really understanding your values, goals and where you want to go in the future.
Coaching holds space for people to effectively manage stress of the early-mid and mid-life years, when we know stress levels and burnout risk are at their highest.”
ELANZA Wellness for employers provides a way for employers to offer a truly inclusive, highly tailored and easily accessible family benefit that has a dramatic impact across the workforce.
“Employers are evolving their health care programs to reflect that family-friendly benefits are becoming more important to many employees, including same-sex couples,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., North American co-leader, health management practice at Willis Towers Watson.
With many companies focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, family benefits that support employees of all gender identities, LGBTQ+ employees, and single intending parents are vital.
Benefits should make sure to cater to the needs of all women: single and partnered, straight and LGBTQIA+ women trying to postpone motherhood, those actively trying to become mothers and those balancing their career with motherhood.
The first step to creating an inclusive fertility and family benefit is to understand what has traditionally been included — and excluded — in health insurance coverage.
Most traditional insurance companies will only cover people with a medical diagnosis of infertility, which someone receives if they have been unable to get pregnant after six to twelve months of trying.
Too often LGBTQ+ couples, single intending parents, and anyone else pursuing parenthood outside of heterosexual, cisgender coupling are left out of considerations around fertility and family benefits.
According to Family Equality, 63% of same-sex couples said they are interested in starting families but wouldn’t be covered by traditional employer health insurance in most cases.
Offering an inclusive fertility benefit that covers all types of family-forming extends options to the entire workforce, rather than just those experiencing medical infertility.
“I want to move jobs to advance my career, but I can’t afford to risk losing maternity leave,” said Kate. “Effectively, I’m stuck here for at least another three years. I can feel myself switching off.”
Being able to support people through the complex decision-making processes that can overwhelm them and cause them to disengage at times of great choices, changes and challenges in their personal lives is essential.
Coaching is a process that helps people discover what is holding them back and find ways to better manage their situation to enable them to be more productive, less stressed and move forward more positively.
Even if a company is not able to fully fund family benefits such as employees’ clinical fertility treatment, it is still important to provide support around life and work balance and family stressors.
With ELANZA, smaller companies can offer a utilization-based benefit that scales flexibly as the company grows.
Regardless of company size and resources, commitment to diversity and inclusion matters - and this new benefit helps achieve that.