Marcos Segador Areebola, MD, Gi Group India
Long, erratic work hours and lack of formal mental health policies among corporates are impacting employees amidst an extended work-from-home setup in India, a new study has shown.
In an interaction with Moneycontrol, Marcos Segador Areebola, MD, Gi Group India, said that longer working hours definitely have a long-term impact on employees, and it is important to ensure that the leaders are empathetic and concerned about their employees.
The survey, ‘All In the Mind: The State of Mental Health in Corporate India’, was conducted by global staffing company Gi Group.
It showed that only one-third of the surveyed employers had implemented Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) or other formal structures to help fight mental health issues.
However, it showed that long working hours is not the only factor. Areebola told Moneycontrol that employees believe that leadership and management are the major stressor that impacts mental wellness.
Employers blame working hours; employees leadership
The survey said that 77 percent employers identified long, erratic working hours leading to mental wellness impact on the workforce. On the other hand, a majority of employees (79 percent) said that the lack of the right leadership in management tends to severely impact their mental well-being.
“Indian enterprises are still in the hit-and-trial phase of addressing mental health crisis. While corporates are deploying some brilliant initiatives and extending easy access to counselling at workplaces, there is still a huge base that needs to be covered,” he said.
The survey saw the participation of 368 employers and 1,088 employees from sectors like automobile, BFSI, consumer durables, FMCG, healthcare, IT/ITeS, e-commerce and retail.
Having proper mental health policies
The survey stated that only 14 percent companies have proper policies and mechanisms in place to address mental wellness-related issues while a larger 54 percent displayed an absence of a mechanism in place.
Areebola said that to combat this gap, it is essential for the employers and HR representatives to introduce elements that can contribute to sensitising masses.
"A policy or an initiative that can come in handy is the EAPs. They can help employees and provide them with a safe space for sharing and venting. Not just limited to a safe space, EAPs also contribute to a positive work environment, thus resulting in a more motivated and content workforce," he added.
In India, only 32 percent employers have implemented EAPs. The Gi Group has launched an EAP, Gi Care, in collaboration with an online emotional well-being platform BetterLyf.
This programme helps in extending a more elaborate set of wellness-related surveys and pop-quiz that play a role in addressal and identification of mental stressors while creating awareness about different aspects of mental well-being.
The programme also extends one-on-one counselling sessions for their employees. Areebola said that considering its success among its own staff, they have started suggesting it to clients as well.
Toxic competition among staff
Areebola explained that while healthy competition in the workplace aids individual productivity, it should be ensured that it doesn’t become toxic.
“Aggressive workplace competition adds to performance-related anxiety, which tends to result in constant burnouts leading to frequent employee exits and a higher attrition rate,” he added.
In the survey, 66 percent of employers and 51 percent of employees were cognizant of the fact that toxic/aggressive competition had a deep psychological impact on their mental wellness.
A recent report by McKinsey & Company revealed that 51 percent employees are hoping for a more balanced work-life, post getting back to working from office.
Areebola explained that when the workforce was working remotely in 2020, there were employees constantly complaining about the lack of boundaries which resulted in a skewed work-after work-life balance.
He added that there should be clear efforts from both the employers and the employees to strike a balance.
“Employers should work towards instating policies that make the workforce feel more included and has a clear channel of communication," he said.
For employees, he explained that they should opt for more flexible hybrid virtual-working models, where they have the option of working remotely and from the office. Another crucial tip he gave is that employees must avoid checking work emails, post office hours.
COVID-19-led mental stressors
The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 also significantly added to the underlying anxiety woes of India Inc. Job losses and pay cuts were constant across corporates in 2020. Moneycontrol had also reported how close to 11 million had lost their jobs at the peak of the lockdown.
While job cuts remained one of the main reasons behind the overwhelming anxiety, the Gi Group survey showed that 29 percent employees were gravely affected by the unpredictability of their work schedule which hindered their work-life balance.
"For the employees, a constant strain of pink slips and the need to over-perform and over-deliver contributed to an even more stressful 2020. Additionally, aspects like unsatisfactory video calls, lack of human interface and constant conflict between the office and house-related chores also added to their distress," he added.
While the country is inching towards a lockdown-like situation with the second wave of COVID-19, Areebola explained that companies now have the experience to handle these situations with a more thought-through approach.