Blur Between Work and Personal Life a Top Contributor to Mental Stress

A survey finds women are more likely to be struggling mentally with work challenges than men, and the mental health benefits employers are offering are not as helpful as they might hope.

Half of employees surveyed by The Conference Board said pressure related to their workload was negatively impacting their mental health either quite a bit or a great deal.

This was followed by blurred boundaries between work and personal life, selected by 44% of respondents. These two challenges were cited by significantly more employees than worries about contracting COVID-19 (34%) or exposing loved ones to COVID-19 (37%).

“We have long predicted that the pandemic would bring a tsunami of mental health issues; 19 months later, the toll on workers is unrelenting—and, in some cases, continuing to worsen,” says Rebecca Ray, executive vice president of human capital at The Conference Board. “Women in particular face a disproportionate amount of pressure due to the combined demands of work and home life. If business leaders hope to cultivate a second-to-none workforce, especially in this tight labor market, improving the employee experience by providing flexibility must play a key role in their business strategy.”

The survey found women are disproportionately suffering from work-related pressures—at more than 1.5 times the rate of their male counterparts.

More than three-quarters (77%) of survey respondents list concerns such as stress and burnout as one of their biggest well-being challenges at work; that’s compared to a little over half (55%) reporting mental well-being concerns six months ago.

Despite the pandemic, concerns over mental health are nearly double those of physical health (77% vs. 40%). Substantially more women (82%) than men (68%) report mental health as their biggest concern.

A survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and independent research firm Greenwald Research also found 49% of employees feel mental health wellness programs are more important now than before the pandemic. Only about three in 10 employees report they are offered mental health-related programs such as resources to improve mental health, expanded benefits or access to a mental health coach. However, approximately six in 10 respondents who are not currently offered these benefits are interested in them.

Most respondents to the survey by The Conference Board (75%) feel their supervisor genuinely cares about their well-being. However, significantly fewer (55%) think their supervisor would change their workload to address their mental health concerns.

In addition, The Conference Board finds that organizational well-being initiatives are not viewed as being as helpful as employers might hope. Half of respondents (54%) feel that their organization’s initiatives to support their well-being were either not helpful (18%) or slightly helpful at best (36%).

“The pandemic blurred the line between work and home life, due in part to continuous connectivity and an increased sense of urgency due to the economic crisis,” says Amy Lui Abel, vice president, human capital research at The Conference Board. “These findings reveal the notable impact this lack of boundaries has had and speaks to the need for leaders to both re-evaluate the efficacy of programs to support worker well-being and to better communicate about the availability of these resources.”

A podcast about the survey results is available at