Women are being disproportionately affected by a rise in mental health problems caused by increasing workloads as people do their jobs from home amid the pandemic.
The length of the working day has increased steadily, resulting in a 49% rise in mental distress reported by employees when compared with 2017-19. Women are bearing the brunt of problems as they juggle work and childcare, according to a report by the 4 Day Week campaign and thinktanks Compass and Autonomy.
The report, Burnout Britain, comes a day before World Mental Health Day and shows that women are 43% more likely to have increased their hours beyond a standard working week than men, and for those with children, this was even more clearly associated with mental health problems: 86% of women who are carrying out a standard working week alongside childcare, which is more than or equivalent to the UK average, experienced problems in April this year.
Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at the mental health charity Mind, said it encouraged employers to support staff wellbeing by offering flexible working, which might mean starting later or job sharing some roles.
“As we try and manage our lives around Covid-19, employers could take forward more measures such as working from home or different hours to suit people’s lives,” Mamo said.
The report warns that “as well as an impending recession and mass unemployment, we are heading into an unprecedented mental health crisis”.
It calls for a four-day working week for the public sector and the formation of a working time commission by the UK government to explore the best policymaking opportunities for using shorter working time to share work more equally across the economy.
Joe Ryle, a campaigner with the 4 Day Week campaign, said: “It’s extremely concerning that overall the shift to working remotely has resulted in workers doing more hours and not less.
“This country desperately needs a four-day working week to rebalance the economy, boost mental health and give people more time to spend doing the things they love.”
Lisa Cameron MP, SNP spokesperson for mental health, said: “This report shows us that it’s very important as a society to strive for a work-life balance that makes economic sense for business and employees too.
“The four-day working week has emerged in recent months as a potential avenue for flexible working across the economy, which is why the Scottish government has set up a commission to explore the possibility further in Scotland.”