Mental Health, Flexibility for Parents, and Leadership Opportunities for Women Will Shape the Future of Work, New Qualtrics and theBoardlist Study Finds

Almost half (45%) of working parents feel discriminated against for focusing on their families during the global pandemic, according to a new study by Qualtrics, the world’s No. 1 Experience Management (XM) provider and creator of the XM category, and theBoardlist, a premium talent marketplace that connects companies with diverse leaders for board and executive opportunities. Parents said they received criticism inside their company, were passed over for promotion, and asked to cut back on hours worked as a result of taking care of family responsibilities. Higher-level employees including managers, directors, and vice presidents who focused on family responsibilities were 40% more likely than individual contributors to feel discriminated against.

With hybrid work models becoming more popular, providing flexibility for employees will be key for companies in the new world of work. The Qualtrics and theBoardlist study found that a quarter of employees say their mental health has declined in the past year, but most say working from home would improve their mental health moving forward. That said, even with more flexible options available, 42% of employees say they still feel pressure to work in-person even if their employer is offering a hybrid or remote option.

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The past 18 months brought on challenges the workforce has never seen, with women stepping away from successful careers at high rates and many burnt-out employees walking away from their jobs. Leaders who take time to focus on creating a better experience for employees will have an increased advantage in attracting and re-attracting top talent in a competitive labor market.

“The past year has been tough on many levels. Our research shows that as a result, employees have changing expectations including in their jobs and priorities,” said Julia Anas, Chief People Officer, Qualtrics. “Whatever challenges companies may face as they begin to forge ahead with new work experiences, regularly connecting with employees, being open to input, understanding their needs, and acting on that feedback will be the key differentiator to creating a better environment for employees to thrive and succeed.”

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Key takeaways from the study include:

  • Gen Z and women were most likely to face declining mental health during the pandemic: More than a quarter of employees (27%) said their mental health declined during the pandemic, and women (33%), Gen Z (18%), and people who are separated or divorced (34%) were most likely to say their mental health declined.
  • Companies are looking to add more women leaders as flexibility demands rise: A majority of employees (52%) say having women in leadership improves flexibility and work from home options. More than half of employees (53%) say their company is proactive about increasing the number of women in leadership roles at their company. And nearly two-thirds (61%) believe women are strongly represented in leadership positions.
  • Feeling pressure to work from the office: Even with hybrid work models, 42% of employees say they feel pressured to work in-person at the office, even if their employer is offering a hybrid or remote option. And 45% of employees think those who work in-person from an office have a career advantage for promotions and raises compared to remote employees. They cited visibility to leadership as the top advantage.

“This study offered clear insights into the impact Covid had on working parents and women; however, these findings are not surprising. What became very clear in 2020 is that women still bear the brunt of domestic and childcare duties. And, women have historically been overlooked for promotions, raises, and benefits because of the perception that they are not as committed to their workplace. These two factors continue to have repercussions on a woman’s access to leadership opportunities,” said Megan Wang, COO, theBoardlist. “However, the good news is that more people are recognizing the need for flexibility in the workplace, and it is encouraging to see 58% of employees believe that their company would benefit from having more women in leadership roles. It would be great to see that number higher; however, I bet if we had surveyed this a decade ago, it would have been significantly lower. Progress is being made, even if slowly.”

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