Health in the workplace has never received more attention than it does now. Programmes and initiatives geared towards employee wellness are becoming increasingly commonplace and have been met with significant enthusiasm from both sides. Healthier employees are obviously good for a company, and the benefits reaped usually make their way back to the source. However, is health in the workplace as complete as it should be?
Closing the Gap
A report released by global consulting firm Mercer in 2016 showed that only 60-70% of the eligible female population participated in the global workforce.
These women consisted of <5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, <25% of senior management roles, and <20% of board executives. While the percentage of female employees varies across different industries, this disparity in gender is evident enough and is even reflected in corporate healthcare.
The fact that women possess physiological and psychological concerns unique to their gender does get glossed over more than occasionally. In the US, for instance, several working women are forced to conceal their conditions for fear of losing of their jobs, due to their ailment(s) not being recognised under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such lapses do put women at a distinct disadvantage in the workplace, regardless of whatever position they might hold.
It Can Be Debilitating For Women
Chronic conditions that affect reproductive and gynaecological health are often the bane of many women’s lives. One such example is endometriosis, which happens to be the second most common gynaecological condition. Aside from the absence of a cure, the symptoms only worsen with age. Many are hesitant to disclose their conditions due to a systemic lack of understanding, and the results of such a choice were found to be staggering. A 2011 study conducted across 10 countries found that women suffering from endometriosis experienced compromises in work productivity, losing an average of almost 11 hours each week.
The crux of the matter lies in the perceived taboo that surrounds reproductive health and its discussion in the workplace. As a result, most corporate healthcare initiatives fail to take female-specific conditions into account. Combined with the fact that the modern workplace still very much male-centric, this can have a limiting effect on progress.
Contrary to popular belief, making health and wellness at the workplace more inclusive doesn’t consist wholly of big, sweeping changes. Small adjustments to work arrangements, open dialogue among employers, employees, health professionals and policy makers, and a supportive attitude toward self-management can be a potent enough catalyst. Other measures include:
- Education: raise awareness on how gender affects certain health conditions, eg heart attacks.
- Healthcare provisions/concessions: provide time-off for health screenings, eg mammograms, HPV tests, fertility leave, etc.
- HR policies: telecommuting options, private areas for breastfeeding and expressing milk and time allowance for maternal antenatal care.
On a larger scale, we need to implement strategies that manage the mobility, physical, psychological hazards that women face. It’s not just about optimising their productivity levels, but also their health and that of their families.
Striving Towards Health Equality
Last week was Women’s Health Week, and it serves a good reminder of how the various health issues specific to women can be so easily dismissed as a non-issue. Equality in the workplace is an ideal worth striving towards, but it’s only fair that it encompasses all aspects of it, and that includes women’s health.
To find out more about our wellness initiatives, get in touch with the WellteQ team today.