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Working women suffer burnout and harassment, Deloitte study shows

  • 40% of South African women feel burnt out, while 51% feel their stress levels are higher than a year ago
  • The “Great Resignation” set to continue as more than half of women surveyed plan to leave their employer within the next two years
  • 94% of respondents believe that requesting flexible working arrangements will affect their chances of promotion
  • Almost 60% of women who work in hybrid environments feel they have been excluded from important meetings
  • Women who work at “Gender Equality Leaders” (5% of the sample) report far higher levels of engagement, trust, and career satisfaction

Johannesburg, South Africa—Widespread burnout and lack of flexible work continues to hinder progress in supporting working women, according to the latest Deloitte report, “Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook” released this week.

The research reveals that 53% of women globally say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago, and almost half feel burned out. This burnout is a top factor driving women away from their employers: nearly 40% of women actively looking for a new employer cited it as the main reason. More than half of those surveyed want to leave their employer in the next two years, and only 10% plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years.

The survey represents the views of 5,000 women across 10 countries, including 500 women in South Africa. Of South Africa’s respondents, 95% are in full time employment. Of this pool, 38% are in hybrid work, 32% are fully remote while 30% are fully in-person at their workplace.

Forty percent of South African women feel burnt out, compared to 46% of the global average. Fifty-one percent of South African women say their stress levels are higher than a year ago, compared to 53% of their global peers.

Forty-three percent of South African women report their mental health as being poor or extremely poor, compared with 49% globally.

Levels of burnout are highest among women of ages 18 to 25, with 56% of South African women and 61% of their global peers feeling burnout.

The survey also illuminates troubling findings about the “new normal” of work, as almost 60% of women working in hybrid models, arrangements that include any combination of remote and in-office work, report they have already felt excluded.

“The survey findings paint a worrying picture as they show that in spite of the efforts of the past two years of the pandemic to help look after women’s mental health and well-being, including flexible work arrangements and options to reduce hours, women still struggle and feel excluded,” says Justine Mazzocco, the Managing Partner for People and Purpose at Deloitte Africa.

“Despite the fact that many employers have implemented new ways of working designed to improve flexibility, our research shows that the new arrangements run the risk of excluding the very people who could most benefit from them, with the majority of the women we polled having experienced exclusion when working in a hybrid environment,” says Emma Codd, Deloitte Global Inclusion Leader.

Mazzocco notes that the number of women reporting increased stress and burnout is of significant concern, and employers are struggling to address it as seen by the fact that burnout is the top driver for those women currently looking for new employment.

Forty percent of South African women expect to leave their current roles in the next two years, compared with 52% globally with 31% citing burnout, compared to 38% globally, followed by poor pay (26% v 27%) and lack of advancement opportunities (17% v 13%).

Workplace problems persist as flexibility remains limited and hybrid work presents additional challenges

While many organisations over the past year have pivoted workplace strategies to incorporate flexible and hybrid work models, fewer South African women (26%) than their global peers (33%) say their employers offer flexible-working policies. Ninety-four percent of respondents in both South Africa and globally believe that requesting flexible working will affect their likelihood of promotion.

South African women who have reduced their working hours during the pandemic report the highest level of burnout (61%) compared to those who did not or are in part time work. They also report higher stress levels than a year ago (70%), are least comfortable discussing their mental health issues with their employers (25%) and at 57%, are the least optimistic about their career prospects.

Beyond flexibility, the implementation of hybrid work has presented additional challenges. Fifty-four percent of South African women compared to 58% globally who work in hybrid environments feel they have been excluded from important meetings while 37% of SA women compared to 45% of global respondents say they do not have enough exposure to leaders, a critical component of sponsorship and career progression.

Worryingly, hybrid work appears to not be delivering the predictability that women with caregiving responsibilities may need, with only 24% in South Africa and 36% globally saying their employer has set clear expectations when it comes to how and where they are expected to work.  

This year’s survey also found that women who work in a hybrid environment are significantly more likely to report experiencing microaggressions than those who work exclusively on-site or exclusively remote, with 57% of South African women and 66% globally reporting microaggression.

When it comes to reporting these non-inclusive behaviours, there continues to be fear of career reprisals as 93% believe reporting non-inclusive behaviours will negatively impact their careers.

LGBT+ women are more than 10% more likely to say they have been patronised or undermined by managers because of their gender, and 7% more likely to cite being addressed in an unprofessional or disrespectful way than non-LGBT+ women.

More employers are getting it right as women and gender equality leaders reap benefits

As organisations look to rebuild resilient workforces, many can learn from a group of employers that have already doubled down on building inclusive cultures and supporting women’s careers.

Deloitte’s research identified a group of “gender equality leaders,” organisations that, according to the women surveyed, have created genuinely inclusive cultures that support their careers, work/life balance, and foster inclusion.

Women who work for gender equality leaders report far higher levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction. Of the women who work for them, 87% say they receive adequate mental health support from their employer, and the same percentage feel comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace. They also report far more positive experiences with hybrid working. Remarkably, only 3% feel burned out.

Only 5% of both South African and global respondents work for Gender Equality Leaders, with 28% of South African respondents working for laggards in gender equality.
“Building and maintaining a truly inclusive culture should be at the forefront of every corporate agenda,” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Deputy CEO and Chief People and Purpose Officer.

Mazzocco concludes that companies need to address burnout, make mental well-being a priority, and approach hybrid working with inclusive and flexible policies that actually work for women. “There is a unique opportunity to build upon the progress already made to ensure women of all backgrounds can thrive in an equitable and inclusive workplace,” says Mazzocco.

For more information and to view the full results of Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook, visit: