As India Inc just started recovering from the Covid stress environment, it got affected with the new virus of layoffs, cost cutting exercises and great resignations.
Till now, at least 12,526 employees have been laid off by 41 startups in India, including unicorns such as Vedantu, Cars24, LEAD, Ola, Meesho, MPL, Innovaccer and Unacademy.
Just recently, crypto platform WazirX laid off 40 percent of its employees and Meta said it will freeze hiring and restructure some teams to cut expenses and readjust priorities.
A study revealed that CFOs will be now focusing on cost cutting exercises and they’ll be working towards limiting the onboarding of new staff members, with more than a third (36 percent) reducing new hires and a similar number delaying new hires (33 percent).
All of these might have heightened the stress levels of employees. They might have thought of things like: Will I get laid off under the current circumstances? Will anything result in salary cuts?
Also, the regular issues related to the workplace might have triggered the mental health of employees, as now they are finally coming back to offices leaving behind their comfort, and families. Like, many employees might not just feel productive immediately, while some of them might also be facing flexibility issues.
A Deloitte report said that poor mental health of employees costs Indian employers $14 billion yearly.
The report further said that 47 percent of professionals who were surveyed considered workplace issues as the biggest factor affecting their mental health.
All of these thoughts result in absenteeism, lower productivity and attrition.
Over the years, these issues have only seen a steady rise globally, accelerated further by the introduction of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, what can be done around this? What are companies doing about it? And what is the role of HR here? ETHRWorld reached out to industry leaders to know their point of view on the current situation and how they are handling it.
Assessment of the current situation
Experts suggest that though things are tough but if employees get proper support and assurance at the workplace, then things might go well.
Srinivas P M, HR Head – Indian Subcontinent, P&G, said, “The new normal has been reimagined to evaluate how the work gets done as well as where the work takes place. The future of work is ‘employee wellbeing’, as companies look at various drivers of engagement and experience.”
Like for P&G, its people are its most valuable asset, and the company truly cares for them and their families. Its non-negotiable priority continues to be the “holistic wellbeing” of its people where the company is taking proactive and holistic measures to fuel their personal and professional growth.
Satyajit Mohanty, VP – HR, Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals, said currently the following factors are emerging in the industry:
- Hiring has increased significantly, which has resulted in increased attrition – also a new trend that is seen is the candidate offer back out rate. This has reached a new high on account of not only employers making counter offers to employees who have submitted resignation but also candidates having multiple offers.
- Not all employees welcome coming back to a physical working environment – Covid has exposed employees to the flexible working approach, and employees prefer hybrid working or flexible working as a key condition.
- As companies are scrambling to make up for the lost ground in business due to Covid, there is also a strong probability of increased delivery expectation from the employees. Work-life-balance is re-emerging as a significant challenge here.
“These factors, combined with the innate sense of insecurity or uncertainty that employees have on account of having seen too much during the Covid era, are likely to impact mental health significantly and therefore efforts must be taken (to ensure their mental wellbeing),” Mohanty added.
Motivating employees and keeping them stress free
Many companies are taking initiatives to ensure their employees’ mental wellbeing in the current scenario. They are organising mental health sessions, forming self-help groups, providing flexible work options etc.
Srinivas mentioned that P&G has introduced initiatives like a bi-annual ‘pause & recharge week’ to help its people rejuvenate, and dedicated ‘no meeting zones’ to help the people get more time for themselves, be it for capability-building or personal needs. Additionally, the company is also inviting experts to support the employees on topics that they are most concerned or stressed about like physical health, nutrition, financial management, parenting, and relationships.
Srinivas said the company is creating a holistic environment where the employees feel comfortable to speak up and share. It has launched the ‘We Care Helpdesk’, which is dedicated to addressing mental wellbeing needs of the employees as and when needed.
“Further, we also include a mental wellbeing check-up, as a part of the annual preventive health check-up available to all the employees. Over 80 percent of the employees have availed of this facility giving impetus to the philosophy of prevention is better than cure that the company follows,” Srinivas added.
P&G is also driving awareness among every manager through the empanelled specialist counsellor, to enable them to identify mental wellbeing indicators within their workgroups, by spotting early signs. Further, leaders are also encouraged to conduct regular check-ins with their team, to understand and help address anything that is on their minds.
Zeeshan Ramlan, Director and HR Head, CoinSwitch, said, “We are taking proactive steps to help the employees maintain a work-life balance. Like, as a part of our wellness benefit policy, we reimburse fees for gym, yoga, fitness apps, personal trainers, and/or diet plans. Our OTT reimbursement plan encourages the employees to subscribe to streaming platforms and relax and rejuvenate with their loved ones. We also introduced mandatory recharge days — one extended week off in months that do not have any calendar holiday.”
Being a pharmaceutical company, even Haleon (erstwhile GSK Consumer Health) is taking initiatives for the same.
Priyank Parakh, HR Director, Haleon, said the company understands the relevance of mental wellbeing and ensures employee engagement with its various initiatives throughout the year.
Haleon has introduced ‘My wellbeing programme’ that offers a blended learning experience made up of 4 x 2-hour live virtual modules.
Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is another initiative of the company designed to help its employees stay healthy in both personal and work spheres. It provides them 24/7 free access to qualified counsellors which helps them in coping with pressure, career success, dealing with loss, managing finances, building resilience, navigating feelings, and creating balance. Mindfulness sessions or series are organised to supercharge energy, balance, and productivity by learning simple mindfulness techniques.
Parakh said the company has also initiated “Wellness Wednesday” where every week, a theme around employee wellness is taken up for discussion. “We also understand that leadership engagement within all departments is critical, and so we organise a special session, called ‘Coffee with MD’, where the MD engages with the employees in a candid avatar. Writing is known to make people feel better. Building on this, the employees can script down their feelings and anxieties in an attempt to feel lighter and happier under our initiative Vent out and feel good,” he added.
Clearly, an issue that is affecting many of the work population right now is the talk of the town. With all these efforts being taken up by companies, it seems as if India Inc will see a positive approach towards the mental wellbeing of the employees and their related issues.
The way companies are tackling their employees’ mental health issues and showing empathy towards them, will surely help elevate the employees’ productivity and morale, and also the companies’ overall performance.