Workplace Stress and the Need for Me Time

By Sukanya Sharma

Stress is everywhere you look these days -– a fairly generic term, it’s something most people can relate to, given the fatigue, exhaustion, and extreme levels of multi-tasking while trying to maintain some sort of balance.

“The corporate world thrives on the theory of survival of the fittest – physically, mentally and emotionally. But this balance becomes overwhelming after some time”, Navneet Sharma, senior vice president for a leading lighting company, tells The Health Collective.

Surya Namaskar
By Camino (269703) [GFDL CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

Recent noted facts in India:

– In 2016, Optum – a health guidance company – surveyed 2 lakh employees working in 30 large firms across in India and found out that almost half (46%) were dealing with some form of stress

– According to NewsBytes, 2,500 employees across 150 organisations reached out to with suicidal tendencies*, with 70% of this outreach observed in the past 5 years

(*Please reach out for professional help if you or anyone you know demonstrated suicidal tendencies. You will find some contact numbers and helplines on our Contact Page)

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Another study by Chestnut Global Partners India also revealed productivity loss. As The Financial Express reports: “A recent study ‘Workplace Stress: Impact and Outcomes: An India Study 2016’ showed that the total organisational productivity loss per year (because of absenteeism due to stress) adds up to approximately R49.6 crore in the the IT/ITeS sector (for an organisation with an average employee base of 10,000). That figure was R105.48 crore for the finance/banking sector…”

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How do we analyse the generational data? It looks like Indian millennials spend an average of 52 hours at work per week, compared to their peers in Japan, which spends on average 46 hours a week, according to a Manpower Group study. And we know the drill – we’re usually incessantly checking or sending or replying to emails round the clock, no matter how late the hour, it’s something bosses here in India tend to expect at the bare minimum. It takes a toll!

“Coming from a sales and marketing background, even though I have a team of experts, I still have to personally maintain a healthy relationship with our dealers and distributors all over India. If you ask my work timings, I don’t have any! Communication is so open these days that anyone can contact me at any time, which means even on a Sunday,” says Sharma.

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Meera Alva, a psychotherapist based in Bangalore points out how our work has become our identity, which can be challenging. Increasingly, our professional identity takes over the personal.

Dr Bhavana Gautam concurs. She tells The Health Collective that this need to be “perfect”, “better than anyone else” is so pre-occupying that we don’t realise its unhealthy nature until it’s too late.

As dialogue on mental health opens up, some companies have chosen to outsource health and wellness programs to various trained agencies. The World Health Organisation describes workplace health programs as some of the most significant programs that keep employees free from physical and mental work stress. An efficient workplace health program not only benefits the employee but the organisation too.

In India, some companies are working in yoga to help keep employees fit and fine. ‘Our office trips always have “yoga time” included in our itinerary. Regardless of where we are going, be it in India or abroad, our chairman instructs us (to) kick off the day with yoga and meditation,’ says Sharma.

Dr. Gautam tells The Health Collective that it is critical for any employer to invest time and energy to ensure employees are not just physically, but mentally fit as well, not least because of the workloads they’re handling. “Emotional Quotient is just as important as Intelligence Quotient,” she reminds us