Pandemic leads to higher productivity, but also more stress among women


In the workplace, do women have the same opportunities as men? And how did men and women feel about working from home during the pandemic? On the day after International Women’s Day, Boom! – an online platform for women in supply chain – provided the answers during a Webinar Wednesday. The conclusion is that the battle for equal opportunities is far from over: “Women are clearly left with more burnout symptoms following the pandemic.”

By Marcel te Lindert

Boom! is a global online community for women in supply chain. The platform has members in 42 countries, working at different levels in the supply chain. “They are all women who want to learn from each other and find inspiration. We don’t only talk about the work itself, but also about what we can do to promote diversity in the supply chain – and besides gender diversity, that also means diversity in skin colour, religion, age and disability,” said Beth Morgan, founder and CEO of Boom!

One of its activities is research into topics such as women’s development opportunities and the degree of gender equality. The latest study also focused on the impact of the pandemic on the lives of professionals – both women and men. “Now that we’re approaching the end of the pandemic, the question is whether we want to go back into the office, or would we prefer to keep working from home? During the pandemic, 65% of our respondents worked from home. 56% say that they would prefer a hybrid form in the future: partly from home and partly from the office. Only 15% would prefer to return to the office completely,” Morgan stated.

More flexibility

Melanie Salter, who as Director of Supply Chain Research was responsible for the study, explained that she thinks workplace preferences have changed for good. “I’ve read that in other studies and I hear it from HR agencies: it’s never going to go back to how it was before. People – and especially women – want more flexibility in terms of where and when they work.” Morgan added: “The main disadvantage of returning to the office is the time wasted during the commute. And now that fuel prices are skyrocketing, there’s yet another argument for continuing to work from home.”

Other benefits include productivity, with four out of ten of the professionals surveyed indicating that they get more done at home than at the office. Additionally, the fact that they no longer have to commute to the office every morning saves valuable time. There are also some disadvantages to working from home, however. “51% say that their workload has increased, and 47% indicate a negative impact on their mental health and well-being,” explained Salter. “So while many people can indeed achieve better performance at home, there are repercussions. The topic of mental well-being needs to be discussed.”

Striking differences

Notably, there are striking differences between men and women when it comes to working from home. A whopping 88% of women say they work more hours at home than in the office, compared to only 58% of men. Meanwhile, 59% of women work flexible hours, compared to 51% of men. Morgan suggested that home-schooling may be a possible cause: “That usually ends up being the woman’s responsibility – not in every family, of course, but in general it does.”

All things considered, the pandemic and working from home have caused a lot of stress. The overwhelming majority of respondents report some signs of burnout, with only 19% claiming to have no symptoms. “That is worrying. The pandemic is taking its toll,” commented Salter. “But here, too, we see differences between men and women. The gender breakdown reveals that 20% more men than women have no burnout symptoms, so women are clearly left with more symptoms.”

Equal opportunities

Boom! also asked the professionals whether their company offers equal opportunities to men and women. Once again, this revealed significant discrepancies between the genders. While 79% of the men think that women have an equal chance of promotion, 49% of the women definitely do not agree. And while 67% of men think women receive equal pay, 41% of women know better. “These figures show that we still have a long way to go. The battle for greater equality in the workplace is far from over,” said Salter.

Morgan emphasized that there are big differences worldwide. “Even a country like Iceland, which ranks top in this context, still hasn’t completely closed the gap. Companies play an important role in this. Consider the example of Diageo, which has decided to allow both men and women worldwide to take parental leave on full pay. That level of equality is new for workers in India. By making such a decision, Diageo is encouraging other companies to do the same – and encouraging governments to introduce appropriate legislation to support them.”


The pursuit of more equality is made difficult by the fact that some things aren’t visible and measurable. Morgan likened it to an iceberg: “We can largely measure whether there is equal pay and equal opportunity. We can enable everyone to see that, such as by setting quotas. But what we can’t see are things related to leadership and culture. Do the leaders do what they say? Do they lead by example?”

When the women were asked what they needed in order to be successful, 58% answered access to the leadership programme, 54% want more visibility into career progression opportunities, and 53% want more support in the form of training, mentoring or coaching. “Women want to feel like they matter and that their employer is investing in them. They want to know what their next step within the company could be and what they need to do to take that step. If their employer doesn’t support them in that, sooner or later they will look for one who does.”