Pandemic-related stress has affected working women and the results are clear. They are burned out. According to the CDC, two out of every three caregivers are women who provide regular support to family members. Caring for others on top of working and managing a home during the pandemic is causing an increase in undue stress.
A recent CARE International report shows that 27% of women reported an increase in mental health challenges during the pandemic, compared to only 10% of men. This added stress is taking a toll on women’s total and oral health. For employers this creates a chance to address how signs of burnout affect their female workforce’s overall wellness.
Extra work means extra stress
According to a 2020 Stress in America report by the American Psychological Association, 78% of adults say the pandemic is a source of stress in their lives. This affects mental and physical health in different ways. For example, mood swings, increased tension, headaches, sleep issues and high blood pressure are all symptoms of stress.
For women, added stress is often due to extra housework and caregiving duties plus regular working hours. Women with full-time jobs, partners and children are spending 20 extra hours a week on work outside of their regular jobs than their male partners.
More women than men have “essential” jobs like nurses, teachers, childcare workers, and retail cashiers. These essential workers clock longer hours under tougher working conditions, contributing to burnout. Similarly, women working from home often feel they must be “on” or “available” at all hours, creating feelings of anxiety.
Stress affects your smile
High stress levels can also lead to oral health problems. Data from the American Dental Association Healthy Policy Institute’s (HPI) COVID-19 impact poll reports that dentists have seen a rise in stress-related oral health problems since the pandemic began. Increases in teeth grinding, chipped or cracked teeth, jaw problems, cavities and gum disease were all reported.
Pandemic-related lifestyle stressors, like financial hardships and caregiving needs, which unduly affect women, can also impact overall health and well-being. For example, clenching the jaw too tightly during the day or while sleeping is a response to stress and can cause jaw pain and worn-down teeth. Stress can also weaken the immune system, making it easier for mouth infections to develop and take longer to heal.
Stress can also lead to bad oral health habits like smoking and neglecting a normal hygiene routine.
Keep Employees Smiling at Work
When employees feel anxious at work, it’s hard to concentrate on the job at hand. That’s why it’s important to build a workplace culture that sets women (and all employees) up for success by being responsive to their needs. Creating a positive workplace culture can help offset pandemic-related anxiety. Think about these ideas as you adjust for 2021 and beyond:
- Ensure employees have the tools they need to do their job (whether remote or in the office). Finding a quiet place to work at home or toggling between home and the office is hard. Provide the right equipment to make work seamless.
- Help employees set personal and professional goals. This acknowledges and rewards ambition and creates a space for people to move up and into leadership roles.
- Stay transparent and keep employees informed. Now more than ever it’s best practice to communicate openly about workplace protocols for health, safety, and scheduling reasons.
Help employees brush up on benefits
Stress and burnout are on the rise and preventive oral care is down, a costly combination. But this is a problem that employers can address because dental disease is nearly 100% preventable.
Here are a few ways to leverage your company benefits to support women and their health:
- Stress the importance of oral health: Offer a dental plan with a large network so employees can take advantage of their dental benefits from anywhere. And make oral health tips easy to find online through company Intranet sites or newsletters.
- Create a wellness discount: Help employees save on dental expenses by encouraging them to use their benefits. Employees who get regular check-ups and stay on top of their oral health are more likely to stay healthy overall.
- Offer paid time off for dental appointments: Extra time to visit the dentist gives women the chance to care for their smiles without missing work.
- Incorporate mindfulness sessions: Offer a daily or weekly mindfulness class to decrease stress and improve focus and mental agility.
- Offer voluntary benefits: Benefits that help employees protect their finances and family members are a safety net during uncertain times. With voluntary benefits, companies can choose how much they contribute to an employee’s low monthly premium.
- Be flexible: If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that a lot of jobs we thought had to be performed on-site can be done remotely. As we restructure what work looks like post-pandemic, consider if you can continue to offer modified schedules or remote work opportunities to employees.
Good workplace benefits are one way to reduce the stress of the pandemic and its toll on female workers. They have a positive impact on your employees and their families and play an important role in retaining valuable talent.