Home in on health

Home in on health

Achieving work-life balance is the biggest worry for Indians, the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey found in April.

In January 2007, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), Bangalore, led a study on “stress, anxiety and depression in IT/IT-enabled services professionals" in the city: 36% had scores above 4, which are earmarked “probable psychiatric cases"; 10% scored above 10, indicating severe distress; edginess and bad temper were common in about 19%. The study noted most of these were indicative of stress. Dev Kumar Kesar, physician, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, says: “High levels of tension at work typically make people irritable. Soon, this leads to anxiety syndrome and also depression."

Long commutes and less time with family were among the main causes of stress, says the Nimhans report. “A person spending more than two-and-a-half hours on the road trying to get to work often exhibits anger management issues," says A. Jagadish, psychiatrist, Abhaya Hospital, Bangalore, co-author of the report. “Road rage does affect the temperament of those who manoeuvre through traffic jams to reach work on time or meet clients," agrees Marcel Parker, chairman, Ikya Human Capital Solutions, from Mumbai.

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That is exactly why Debasisha Padhi, advisory technical services professional, integrated technology delivery—global delivery, of IBM India, decided to work from home in Bangalore a year ago. “Commuting took so much time that I hardly had time for my family," he says. At IBM India, Padhi workplace, nearly 10% of the workforce works from home. “We find there is no drop in productivity or career growth," says Bangalore-based Kalpana Veeraraghavan of IBM Global Work Life Fund.

“Emerging technologies are making location irrelevant, which makes remote working feasible," says Subash A.K. Rao, director, human resources, Cisco India, Bangalore, where all employees can opt to work from home.

More progressive employers are adding flexi-timers to their rosters. For others, increased sensitivity means employees may informally arrive at similar arrangements.

VP, strategic accounts, Cisco Systems (India) Pvt. Ltd

Location: Bangalore

Family: Married; daughter Moulya is six years old

Last month, when a series of bomb blasts shook downtown Bangalore, Rajesh Shetty was among the first few parents to fetch their children from school, avoiding much of the chaos that ensued. This, despite it being mid-afternoon on a weekday, when most fathers are immersed in the frenetic world of work.

But Shetty follows a somewhat atypical routine. He works out of his home for an average of three days a week. A career choice he made four years ago when he says he realized that due to incessant travel he was missing out on his child’s early years.

“I am much more available to my family now and that gives me a greater sense of well-being, and has improved my productivity at work," says Shetty, who still clocks an average of 10-12 hours of work every day—but with a difference. He gets enough time in between that is synchronized with his family’s schedule.

VP and national sales manager, group relationship accounts, Kotak Mahindra Bank

Location: Bangalore

Family: Married; daughter Stuti is six years old

As with education, so with the banking and financial services sector; there are no formal policies to mandate flexible working hours or an off-site venue. However, that does not preclude informal arrangements, as more employers are clearly veering around to the school of thought that to maximize potential, an employee needs to balance work and life.

“A good track record on the job allows a person the leeway to work out a flexible schedule with the boss," says Chitra Singh, vice-president and national sales manager, Kotak Mahindra Bank. Singh, who is raising a six-year-old daughter, has been able to make use of such arrangements right through her career.

“It is the quality of output that matters at work and not the quantity of hours," she says. Singh maintains that such options help give employees a greater sense of assurance, and actually increase productivity.

Learning strategy adviser, enterprise learning division, NIIT Ltd

Location: New Delhi

Family: Married; son Ayaan is 15 months old

In the education sector, companies do not offer formal mandates allowing flexi-time or work-from-home options. However, in consultation with their managers, employees can avail of such benefits on a need basis. And that certainly makes a difference to quality of life, agrees Pooja Singh Mehta, who is also the mother of a 15-month-old. Mehta, based in New Delhi, uses flexi-time to cope with an unwell child or when domestic issues such as absence of support staff make it necessary for her to be at home.

“It helps that my job does not require everyday interaction with a team at the workplace, so I can go out meet clients and get back home," says Mehta. She feels employers do not care where the work is done from, as long as targets are being met—particularly when it comes to long-term employees such as Mehta, who has been on the job for more than a decade.

Write to us atbusinessoflife@livemint.com




Synergy means two plus two equals more than four, a concept that might not hold up in math but makes perfect sense when looking at food combinations to boost your nutritional health. In her book ‘Food Synergy’ (Rodale, 2008), Elaine Magee provides hundreds of food combinations based on the latest nutritional research. For example, vitamin E and lycopene (in tomatoes) work together to reduce LDL, the bad cholesterol. You can use this book as a reference for nutrient sources, as a cookbook, or for guidance on eating to prevent or treat diseases. It includes a 1,500-calorie meal plan for those who want to lose weight. I found Magee’s writing style inspirational. (Chris Roosenbloom / NYT)

©2008 The New York Times


A study published in ‘The Journal of the American Medical Association’ has found that eating nuts and foods with small seeds may lower the risk of developing intestinal complications.

About a third of Americans above 60 develop diverticulosis, which causes intense pain in the abdomen and leads to the rupture of small pouches in the colon, called diverticuli. Scientists analysed data on more than 47,000 men aged 40-75. Those who ate the most nuts twice a week or more had a 20% lower risk of developing diverticulitis, while those who ate popcorn at least twice a week had a 28% lower risk. Authors say the benefits may come from nutrients and fibre. (Anahad O’Connor /NYT)

©2008/The New York Times


Flu shots given to pregnant women a month or more before delivery will prevent most cases of influenza during the first six months of their babies’ lives, researchers said.

“Immunize the mother and you protect the infant," said Mark Steinhoff, a paediatrician with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. In the test of 340 pregnant women in Bangladesh, the shots cut the risk of flu by 63% and the risk of respiratory illness overall by 29%. The injections also lowered the likelihood of fever and respiratory illness in mothers by 36%. (Reuters)