After surveying 81 companies, a recent study by Alka Chadha, Ali Mehdi and Garima Malik of the New Delhi-based research group, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (Icrier), says that if corrective action is not taken quickly, the losses from occupational stress-induced diseases could total a staggering $200 billion (approx. Rs7,800 trillion) in the next 10 years.
The Icrier study especially points to India’s outsourcing industry, where maximum incidents of work-related stress are being reported (www.livemint.com/stress.htm).
Get a massage
Hyderabad–based SumTotal Systems, a global provider for learning and talent management systems, organises a number of free de-stressing programmes, including yoga, gym and spa sessions. For instance, a masseur comes to the office every alternate Wednesday to give a neck and shoulder massage to all those registered for the service. Says Gayatri Devi, a manager at SumTotal, “I take a deep breath and settle down into a different world!”
Others have salon services. The youthful Mumbai-based Web technologies start-up, Directi, has a tie-up with a nearby salon and its employees get two free salon services a month, that include massages, hair treatments and skin therapies.
Call a concierge
California-based business consulting firm Infogain Corp., which provides product engineering and IT solutions, has an enclosed area, called “the hut”, on the terrace of its offices in Noida, near New Delhi, where its 650 employees can do aerobics, yoga or listen to music thrice a week. Infogain has also tied up with a concierge service, which takes care of all bill payments, movie ticket bookings, travel plans, gift deliveries, and so on, for the employees at a nominal fee. For instance, the employees are charged Rs10 to have a bank draft made or Rs50 for the payment of LIC premium. Says Pankaj Shankar, global head—HR and RMG: “The concierge services really help our employees manage their personal life and work.” New joinee Deepti Arora endorses this: Tied down with a critical project, she just couldn’t find the time to pay her LIC premium, but the concierge service came up trumps.
Play a game
Some companies no longer frown on employees who want to play games in the office. UK-based outsourcing and technology firm Xansa, which has offices in Noida, near New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, has online games on its intranet.
The games are designed to enhance some skills and increase concentration. Xansa’s Vikram Karayi, senior vice-president—HR, says the firm’s stress management initiatives include meditation, counselling, yoga, meditation, pranic healing and reiki.
Dance it off
Dance is becoming an increasingly popular way to de-stress at several workplaces. Bhavin Turakhia, CEO, Directi Group says: “Most of our initiatives are devised through a bottom-up process.” Directi has a Salsa instructor coming in regularly. Namrata Arya, senior channel development specialist, says nearly 150 employees are part of a trekking group and they manage to go every alternate weekend for treks in and around Mumbai. The best part is that a lot of people get their friends and families along. The Salsa group has 70-80 members for the weekday sessions as well as for the weekend ones. “It’s great fun,” she says.
Vent a grievance
With 10% of all workplace stress attributed to personality differences and conflicts, an increasing number of employers are trying to address this in different ways. For instance, Capgemini, a global outsourcing firm which has offices in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore, reviews and addresses concerns raised by employees on issues that include relationships, favouritism, and even health and safety. Both SumTotal’s Lekha Sishta (vice-president, global HR and talent management) and Infogain’s Shankar point out that conflict resolution is a major HR initative. Says Shankar: “Every new joinee at Infogain is assigned to a senior manager who acts like a mentor for the person for a period of six months. This is to ensure that there is a proper integration on a personal level. Also, this mentor is never from the same stream the joinee is attached to.”
Commute in comfort
Located as they are in the distant suburbs, some IT firms offer air-conditioned buses to ferry their employees to and from work. But Infogain goes one better: all its employees, including the support staff, commutes to the Noida office in AC cabs. “This has resulted in lower physical stress (and) less fatigue,” says Shankar.
But are these initiatives making a difference? Xansa’s Karayi thinks so. “On an average, these programmes are attended by 400-500 regular participants. We have had a remarkable improvement in countering problems such as absenteeism, lack of motivation levels, low productivity and exhaustion.”
Sumita Watsya, vice-president, travel, Xansa, says she has seen a tangible improvement in the quality of life since these initiatives came into effect. But Santhosh Babu, organizational development consultant, is a voice of dissent. “Why should managing individual stress become an organizational dilemma?” he questions bluntly. “There is no rocket science involved in de-stressing and people can do yoga, etc., on their own,” he says. Instead, he feels companies should be actually getting to the root of what is causing stress. “Is it the work flow? Is it role allocation? Is it the physical architecture? Basically, diagnose the problem and come up with a workable solution.”
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