Women’s Health in the Workplace

By Cother Hajat, Kristie Willenborg

Workplaces provide opportunities to incorporate healthy lifestyles into everyday activities. According to a 2016 Mercer report, “When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive”, workplace health programs can be a key factor in a company’s long-term ability to engage and retain female talent in its workforce and improve gender diversity. Poor health, unhealthy behaviors, and stressors can lead to reduced productivity or individuals leaving the workforce. Women suffer from different health issues, interact with the healthcare system differently, and are more often caregivers compared with their male counterparts.

Insights from Vitality data in US workplace health settings concluded that women engage differently with lifestyle interventions than men. In a study of approximately 65,000 members in Vitality’s workplace health program, it was found that women recorded poorer health behaviors but better health measures compared with men. Women showed less overall physical activity, more sedentary hours, and higher levels of stress, but were less likely to have the risk factors of high body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure and glucose levels compared with men. Weight gain during pregnancy was a specific concern.

In addition, women with higher mean incomes and higher levels of education (college and postgraduate degrees) had better health behaviors and health status compared with individuals with lower incomes and a high school degree or less. There were also regional differences, with women in the Northeast showing better health behaviors and health measures compared with those in the Midwest, South, or West.

Workplace health programs can impact female workforce health, retention of talent, and gender diversity. The evidence-base for monitoring the health of the workforce has been distilled into a core set of metrics by a Vitality-led working group and previous resources have been identified by other bodies such as the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC). The area of workplace health should now aim to develop specific recommendations on how to develop the health and well-being of its female workforce, including gender-specific programs, time off for screening, and prevention activities such as ante-natal visits during pregnancy and the use of incentives to reward healthy behaviors.

How does your workplace promote female health? Are there policies and protocols in place to advance women’s health in the workplace? Tweet at us @VitalityUSA.

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