Women face a variety of unique challenges in the workplace. Despite being more well-educated, earning more degrees than men since the 1980s, women are less likely to be found in leadership roles, making up just 2.6 percent of Fortune 500 company CEOs. Plus, the gender wage gap puts women making just 82 cents of every dollar earned by men.
In defiance of the odds, women grew to represent the majority of the U.S. workforce last year for the first time in a decade. For the employers who rely on this female workforce, they must create healthy environments to support women who face even more challenges during the pandemic. The incredible stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in 25 percent of women considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce entirely. Women are more likely than men to perform unpaid labor, like childcare, and the pandemic has only widened that gap, with women now spending 15 more hours per week performing unpaid labor in comparison to men.
Tryon Medical Partners sees the toll the pandemic has taken on women through conversations they’ve had with patients and experienced personally – 54 percent of the physician-owners are women. Here are four steps they’ve identified for companies to develop healthy workplaces for female employees.
1. Create a Flexible Work Environment
Women are often in the position of caregiver, says Dr. Marianne Carim, an internal medicine specialist at Tryon Uptown. This includes not only caring for children but also spouses, aging parents and other loved ones, making multi-tasking and juggling many responsibilities at once a must. But it also means needing flexibility at work.
That flexible environment applies to both the actual workspace, like having accommodations for breastfeeding, as well as an overall culture of flexibility. Dr. Carim suggests constructing a culture of balance for employees that allows them to run errands during lunch, be able to take time away for appointments or attend a child’s school event.
2. Support Self-Care
An environment of burnout, stress and anxiety benefits neither the employee nor the employer. The healthiest work environments prioritize self-care.
“You can’t take care of others if you don’t care of yourself,” says Dr. Carim. “My role as a physician is to listen to my patients and help guide them but at the end of the day, it can be hard to absorb it all. I have to prioritize a healthy lifestyle with things like exercise, prayer, meditation and eating well.”
Employers should promote employee assistance programs, create their own programs for wellness, mindfulness and healthy eating, and assure high employee engagement in health plans like Tryon Direct, Tryon’s solution to direct primary care.
3. Promote Women in Leadership
For potential employees looking for the best work environment and current employees that companies hope to retain, there is much to learn by simply observing. In a job interview, candidates can ask questions about work culture but seeing who is in leadership sends a powerful message.
Beyond having women represented in executive leadership, organizations should encourage leadership at all levels, creating opportunities for women to grow through mentorship.
4. Establish Morale-Building Opportunities
“A small gesture of kindness and tenderness can go a long way for people, even more so now than before the pandemic,” says Dr. Carim.
Beyond her role working with patients, Dr. Carim serves as the medical director at Tryon Uptown. Through initiatives like a morale committee, she focuses on creating a nurturing, family environment for her staff that lets them know they’re all in it together. Small pick-me-ups like celebrating holidays and keeping track of birthdays mean a lot to her team. Leaders should also take the time to ask team members how they prefer to be celebrated and tailor milestones or special days to their preferences. It’s all about showing genuine care and supplying encouragement.
In the pandemic, teambuilding and celebrations may look different, but Dr. Carim and her staff have pivoted quickly. As an independent practice, Tryon has been nimble throughout the pandemic, from immediately launching COVID-19 testing sites to finding new ways to appreciate team members, all without the red tape.
Tryon believes that stronger relationships mean better health for patients and team members. Follow these four tips to create a healthy work environment for your company and, if your staff’s engagement and satisfaction in their health plan could use improvement, learn more about Tryon Direct.