Why supporting women’s health at work is essential


For working women in contemporary times, the challenges of balancing work and home are more intense than ever. As domestic partnerships and parenthood become more equitable than they used to be, working women still take on a greater share of household and childcare responsibilities. The stress of juggling work, parenthood and other personal commitments can easily cause or exacerbate mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, reproductive issues like irregular cycles, musculoskeletal issues like back pain and neck pain, and other health problems.

Even though the percentage of women in the Indian corporate workforce has increased significantly over the past two decades, there is still a dearth of health care benefits tailored for them in the workplace. Therefore, female employees have to compromise on the quality of their personal and professional lives.

Organizations must continue to improve their support and encourage the health needs of women and here is why it is high time they started doing so.

What health issues do women face and how can organizations help?

Female employees face a variety of gender-specific health issues. Here are some common health issues that women face:

Reproductive health issues: Reproductive health issues are among the most common and pressing concerns for women. Many working women are entering what is traditionally called the “childbearing age”.

In the absence of paid maternity leave in several organizations, working pregnant women have to come to the office even in their last trimester. In the postpartum period, they often sacrifice the privilege of breastfeeding and the physical and emotional bond with their baby. From paid maternity leave, dedicated breastfeeding rooms, on-campus nurseries, and even a proper women’s cell to help address women’s health issues, organizations can do a lot to expand health benefits. Women’s.

Menstrual problems: Menstruation has various effects on the well-being of women. From physical problems to psychological problems, periods can leave a woman exhausted and unable to concentrate at work. Similarly, women approaching or experiencing menopause may experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, anxiety and/or depression, and other health issues. It is natural for work performance to decline in these situations. So, it is high time that organizations offered menstruation-related provisions and a few extra days of paid time off to women, making their organization much fairer. Paternity leave certainly helps a new mother who works and does a lot of good for society by getting involved in childcare.

Cancer: One of the leading causes of death among women is cancer, especially breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Demanding work schedules can lead to a situation where one feels more anxious and smokes more frequently. The percentage of women who smoke or consume alcohol has increased over the past two decades in our society. Smoking is harmful for both men and women. It increases the risk of certain cancers, COPD, exacerbates asthma and increases the risk of heart disease and hypertension.

Companies can organize smoking cessation programs and form support groups to address this issue.

Sedentary jobs:

Sedentary jobs prevent women from engaging in physical activity leading to obesity, infertility, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) specific to women, musculoskeletal problems, diabetes, fatty liver, l increase in bad cholesterol and heart disease.

Employers can ensure the availability of healthy food in the office canteen and encourage employees to exercise. They can make employees’ work schedules more conducive to healthy physical activity from time to time.

The on-site exercise sessions and gym facilities certainly bring a positive vibe and change women’s attitude towards exercise.

How do organizations promote women’s health at work?

Tailor-made health insurance for women: The majority of companies today offer private medical insurance to their employees, but medical benefits may often not meet women’s health needs, such as infertility or menopause. In addition to floating family plans and group health insurance, organizations should consider offering a health insurance plan tailored to the needs of women. An insurance plan covering common health issues specific to women, such as pregnancy, postpartum care, reproductive difficulties, screening and medical care for cancers of the reproductive organs, is what modern women need.

Flexible work culture: A flexible work culture is vital for every employee, regardless of gender. Many of the health emergencies that women face, especially those related to menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and childcare, can often arise out of nowhere. In such situations, if the work culture is flexible, women in an office feel more comfortable knowing that they can sometimes support themselves without feeling guilty.

Healthy menu in the cafeteria: Many women suffer from anemia and other micronutrient deficiencies. A healthy menu in the cafeteria at work greatly helps them to maintain a healthy diet.

Regular health checks: Regular health checks for men and women should be carried out by employers. They could even go further by integrating gender-specific tests like mammograms, pap smears and abdominal ultrasound, as required by these health screenings to ensure the well-being of female employees.

Health Talks/Awareness Sessions/Support Groups: Outreach sessions help women connect with a provider, share their problems, and get help. These can be for women with nutritional deficiencies, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, PCOS, thyroid issues, infertility issues, and nutrition-related issues.

Exercise sessions and on-site gym facilities: A great way to maximize opportunities for an active female workforce, especially those who often lack the time to exercise once they return home.

Psychological support: Women are at increased risk for anxiety and depressive disorders. With increased mental health needs during Covid assistance programs) for mood disorders and everyday issues like sleeping disorders, eating disorders, etc.

The bottom line

Putting women’s health first starts with creating an inclusive and transparent work culture. For example, an organization might have very generous support for fertility benefits. Yet, if employees are reluctant to ask their supervisors to take time off for treatment, these benefits would be underutilized.

Storytelling can be an effective tool for raising awareness about important topics and fostering peer-to-peer empathy among employees. Colleague-led conversations on critical women’s health topics such as menstruation, pregnancy, infertility, pregnancy loss, and menopause can foster acceptance and promote an environment where these issues can be discussed openly .

The economic empowerment of women improves productivity, diversifies the economy and increases income equality, among other positive development outcomes. Despite the advances women have made in the modern era, many of them have fallen behind in health. Hopefully that won’t be the case for long. Organizations can and should choose to actively participate in this change.



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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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