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How caring responsibilities impact wellness in the workplace

Women’s professional lives and mental health are still being impacted by caring responsibilities, says Jen Dalitz, CEO of Women in Banking and Finance.

How caring responsibilities impact wellness in the workplace
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Caring responsibilities can negatively impact the career prospects of women who take them on. Women are often under more pressure than their male colleagues due to the unique challenges posed by caring responsibilities, which women take on at a higher rate than men.

“Certainly, one of the big indicators around the retention of women is a wellness issue,” Ms Dalitz told The Wellness Daily Show.

“Particularly when you have situations of women leaving the workforce to have children and needing to re-enter.”

Ms Dalitz cited Annabel Crab’s recent Quarterly Essay “Men at Work”, in which Ms Crab noted that Australia hasn’t yet managed to transfer caring responsibilities in the community over to men, leaving women to balance high-flying professional lives with the demands of raising a family.

That often means that women experience burnout and work stress at higher rates than their male colleagues, but often feel unable to voice their frustration due to concerns they might be perceived negatively compared to their male colleagues.

“The frustration kicks in when you’re perhaps occupied with caring responsibilities,” Ms Dalitz said.

“You see your peers surpass you and move into roles which might’ve been on your radar, mightve been within your aspirations and suddenly youre not really considered as serious about your career, or perhaps not even considered for those roles if you are not working in a traditional full-time capacity.”

And that can have a variety of physical and mental health impacts.

“The most consistent piece of feedback I would receive from women in our network is, ‘How do I carve out time for me?’” Ms Dalitz said.

“It’s a real challenge.”

Ms Dalitz said that one of the best indicators of mental wellness is physical wellness, and that women should take the time to get away from the desk and exercise whenever possible. Women should also seek the help of other women to help deal with the stress of balancing work and caring responsibilities.

“One of the things that women do well from a wellness point of view is seek the support of one another,” Ms Dalitz said.

“And there is research that shows that something they do better than men in terms of talking about their challenges with their friends, with their colleagues… so that is one thing I think that women do quite well, and you know, using your networks to be your support structure can be a really good solution too.”

And there is some good news. While change is slow, it is happening. Banks and other financial institutions are beginning to implement more flexible hours and in-house childcare facilities that take some of the burden off mothers. More organisations are also offering on-site gums or subsidised exercise programs that can also be beneficial to women balancing caring responsibilities by creating more opportunities for some recuperative downtime.

“So the good news I suppose is that I’m increasingly hearing many examples where women who are pregnant are being promoted into the next job,” Ms Dalitz told Wellness Daily.

“Women who are on parental leave are being offered a promotion and asked to take as long as they need to come back to that promotion.”

“Certainly, within our firms we are seeing some good signs that the leaders are starting to understand that they need to look beyond the traditional paradigm of what potential looks like, what talent looks like.”

To listen to Jen Dalitz's full conversation with Wellness Daily senior writer Jerome Doraisamy on The Wellness Daily Show, click below: