Survey finds millennial women in the workplace struggle with stress, loneliness and isolation

Working women caring for children experience loneliness, isolation and stress at far greater rates than others and are looking to their employers to help them better manage these issues, according to the results of a new survey from WebMD Health Services.

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The survey, A Gender and Generational Divide:  How Workplace Well-being Programs are Failing Women and Millennials released on February 11, found that more than half (56%) of all working women feel lonely and isolated sometimes or always as compared with 44% of men, and caregivers report even higher levels.

Women also reported experiencing stress at higher rates, with 67% indicating stress levels that are somewhat to very high, as compared to 57% of men.  Stress was highest for millennial caregivers (76% versus 63% of non-caregiver millennials). 

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While workplace stress management programmes are used about equally, nearly 40% of women express a desire for them, compared with one-third of men. The most popular stress reduction programmes for women include the ability to work from home, stress management, meditation sessions or classes, and a pet-friendly workplace; men are more likely to want recreational events.

“Employees experience well-being in distinctly different ways depending on who they are, and what is happening in their lives.”

— Christine Muldoon, Vice President, Strategy, WebMD Health Services 

“Our survey highlights the generational, gender and life-stage differences that can have a significant impact on the success of a workplace well-being strategy,” said Christine Muldoon, Vice President, Strategy, WebMD Health Services.  “Employees experience well-being in distinctly different ways depending on who they are, and what is happening in their lives – which we know can have a huge impact on how they show up at work.”

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The survey, which sampled 2,000 adults working full time in the U.S. for large organizations with 5,000 or more full-time employees, compared aspects of well-being including physical, emotional, financial, social, vocational and environmental health by gender and generation.

Comparative analysis was done for millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, Generation X, 1965-1980, and baby boomers, 1946-1964.

Millennials Prioritize Emotional, Financial Well-Being

Regarding generational differences, the survey revealed that issues of isolation, loneliness and stress were particularly acute for millennials, driven by their personal, not their work lives.  More than 70% of all millennials reported high or very high levels of stress, as compared with 63% of GenXrs and half of baby boomers, made worse if the millennial is caring for children.  Younger workers also reported less financial well-being than older colleagues and are twice as likely to be dissatisfied with their vocational wellness.   

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These findings support larger studies and research showing that millennials are stressed,  anxious, and often feel disconnected from other people in their lives, despite constant connection through tech and social media.  

Millennials are the most eager to take advantage of workplace benefits to reduce stress.  

In the WebMD Health Services survey, more than half of millennials reported experiencing significantly more of every workplace stress symptom except insomnia, than their older colleagues, including anxiety, fatigue, and irritability.  Nearly 30% of millennials reported frequent headaches, depression and forgetfulness. 

Millennials are the most eager to take advantage of workplace benefits to reduce stress.  More than half said they wished their employer allowed naps and provided free snacks/beverages; partial work from home (44%), fitness amenities (40%), and offered a pet-friendly workplace (40%) stress management programs (38%) meditation groups or classes (37%), and on-site health clinics (35%).

“Workplace well-being programmes have to be ‘people-first’…if they are going to make a difference to employees and produce meaningful results”

— Christine Muldoon, Vice President, Strategy, WebMD Health Services 

While millennials are more likely to communicate their desire for well-being programmes, the majority of workers across generations (87%), said that they would be at least somewhat likely to participate in employer well-being activities. 

“The results underscore that workplace well-being programmes have to be ‘people-first’ and deliver solutions that are relevant to the individual if they are going to make a difference to employees and produce meaningful results,” Muldoon added. “Further, when programs deliver clinically-driven solutions focused on behaviour change, each employee can be met where they are on their own health journey.”