World Health Day provides a great opportunity to reflect on women's health in the workplace and ways employers can offer support


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Women’s health is key to work performance and well-being

Women’s health is key to work performance and well-being

There are very few things that are more important than access to decent health care. That’s why World Health Day takes place every year on April 7 with the number one goal of achieving universal health coverage. The campaign works hard towards ensuring that everyone, wherever they are in the world, can access the care they need, when they need it.

Although progress is being made across countries in all regions of the world, there are still millions of people who struggle to access the health care they require. Millions more also face choosing between health care and other daily necessities such as food, clothing and even putting a roof over their heads.

In recognition of the important World Health Day campaign, Where Women Work looks at the role of both mental and physical health for women in the workplace.

Supporting good mental health is a key factor in any workplace

Over recent years, the ‘wellness trend’ has gathered considerable traction, with women worldwide looking to live their lives healthily and positively in various ways. However, maintaining good mental health is about more than mindfulness and superfoods – it is influenced by how women feel about all areas of their life, including at work.

Maintaining good working relationships, feeling valued and working in a positive environment all make a difference to women’s mental health and to the overall workplace. In fact, many studies have shown that companies investing in wellbeing improve their employee productivity and performance.

For professional women, their mental health is influenced by day-to-day experiences with colleagues and managers, how purposeful they feel and the actual work they do. Maintaining good mental health is an ongoing process and challenges are inevitable but working for a supportive employer can certainly help.

Businesses promoting mental health initiatives are often seen as being more likely to be creative and successful organizations – and women working in these organizations often feel part of the inclusive work culture.

Ending the stigma surrounding women’s physical health issues

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To this end, of course, physical health is just as important as mental health – and sometimes women might feel unable to express physical issues to their employers, especially when it comes to gynaecological conditions.

In fact, a Work Foundation report calls for an end to workplace taboos surrounding female-specific conditions. One example of these conditions is endometriosis, a chronic condition that affects some women of reproductive age. Among the various symptoms are heavy bleeding, chronic pelvis pain and fatigue.

Without support from their employers, women with endometriosis and other gynaecological conditions might not reach their full potential at work and they may also start to see a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.

Sadly, some women with gynaecological conditions feel unable to talk to their employers and access support – especially if they report to a male manager – as they fear there is still a lack of understanding when it comes to female-specific health needs.

Working women need to feel empowered to get support – and selecting an employer who demonstrates that they have good health-related policies in place and positive dialogue can certainly help.

Karen Steadman, Health, Wellbeing and Work Lead at the Work Foundation, says: “Women’s reproductive and gynaecological health is replete with whispered conversations and euphemisms. It’s time we changed this.

“These conditions should not be dismissed as ‘women’s issues’ and as they affect so much of the UK’s working age population, they are important for the economy as a whole.”

Choose an employer who is keen to nurture women’s health

In order to help sustain good mental and physical health, it is important for women to try to choose an employer that is supportive of their needs. But how do you spot an employer who has this ethos? Well, there are many ways in which companies can demonstrate they promote good employee health.

For example, it might be worth asking a potential employer whether they recognize women’s reproductive health in workplace policy; and whether they provide confidential support for female workers. Some employers even go a step further by raising awareness about how gender impacts certain health conditions, offering healthcare provisions and concessions for women, and implementing a flexible working policy.

Workplaces offering women’s leadership programs can also really help employees’ mental wellbeing. These programs are productive as they not only help the leader but also the wider team – a motivational leader transfers their positive attitude to others.

Finding an employer that offers seemingly simple but important facilities such as good break-out areas and staff fitness activities can also be helpful when it comes to maintaining a positive mind-set.

Consider working for an employer in the medical sector

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Working for an employer in the medical arena might also be worth considering – as companies providing healthcare products and services may very well be more in tune with their own employees’ health needs.

One example of a progressive employer is Medtronic, an international medical technology company that collaborates with others to take on healthcare's greatest challenges.

Medtronic works hard to ensure colleagues feel supported at work and also offers tips on how women can seeks advice outside of the workplace – as this this article points out, highlighting the important relationship between women and their General Practitioner.

Working in a different field, another employer to consider is MetLife. They design employee benefit plans, including health services, that make businesses more attractive to potential employees. MetLife focuses heavily on employees’ physical and mental health, even publishing self-care tips for a better work-home balance.

MetLife also shared some thoughts from economist and researcher, Dr. Andrew Oswald, a Professor with the University of Warwick in England.

Dr. Oswald places high importance on strong mental health, saying: “What can be more important than happiness? It’s as though happiness creates its own kind of extra energy.”

According to MetLife, unhappy, disengaged, distracted workers cost U.S. businesses up to $550 billion annually in lost productivity and turnover.

“Employers today need to pay more attention to the emotional and financial well-being of their employees than in the past,” adds Dr. Oswald. “The world is increasingly about services and person-to-person interaction."

Another example of a progressive company is BD, a global medical technology company that is advancing the world of health by improving medical discovery, diagnostics and the delivery of care.

BD is making a real difference in the health care arena – leading the way in patient and health worker safety and the technologies that enable medical research. The company provides new solutions that help advance medical research and genomics, enhance the diagnosis of diseases, improve medication management, promote infection prevention, equip surgical and interventional procedures and assist with the management of diabetes.

In addition to offering exciting work that makes a difference worldwide, BD is confident it has created a work environment where all its people can be their true self – and nothing proves its support for women’s health more than the fact it is a leading supporter of National Women’s Health Week in the U.S.

Focus on self-care as well as seeking support from work

Remember though – no one can expect their employer to be the sole guardian of their health. Any woman looking to enjoy good health alongside their career also needs to work on maintaining their own wellbeing.

Some ideas for how women can maintain their mental health and wellbeing at work on a daily basis include:

  • set a plan of attack for each day – having a plan can relieve stress
  • find yourself an inspiring environment to work in with like-minded people
  • take active meetings – why not brainstorm while walking through the park instead of round the desk?
  • don’t try to complete everything at once – focus on your main aims each day
  • allow others to contribute – don’t feel the burden is on you to do it all!
  • keep an 8-8-8 approach each day – 8 hours to work, 8 hours to sleep and 8 hours for you

When it comes to physical health, the main thing to remember is to not sit in silence. If you have a chronic condition, speak to your employer about what support might help you to manage it – you might find there are helpful company procedures in place which you weren’t aware of. Also, visit your GP regularly to talk about what you are experiencing and figure out an action plan.

Join an employer who is committed to supporting women’s health

Physical and mental health are important, so consider your next career move to a prime employer for women and continue your career journey with an employer who truly cares about the wellbeing of women.
 

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