State of our workforce
The health of India’s workforce is in serious jeopardy. Work life balance is skewed with people working 14 to 15 hour shifts in India’s booming software and BPO industry. While outsourcing has led to prosperity, we also have an increasingly ill task force.
1. 43 year old COO of a top ranked BPO collapsed on his way home. Was diagnosed with a rare TB of the brain!
2. 27 year old woman working in an IT company kept getting weaker and weaker till one day she could not get out of bed – diagnosed with a rare infection of the spine.
34 year old man in a top bank had a heart attack while driving back home from work. His boss called him up next day to ask “So will you be back next week?”
24/ 7 BPO Workday
In the global workplace we not only work harder we work longer! When we wake up our counterparts in US may be just about to sleep. To ensure seamless operations Indian team members wake up sooner to take the download from the US office and we may sleep later to ensure that unfinished work does not impact the next shift.
- Midnight calls may often be taken at home. Work and home life often merge so that the distinction between work time and home time becomes blurred.
- There is often no escape from long hours, constant calls and emails. Absence of downtime increase overall feelings of stress.
Team members burn out or leave the team if work hours are not limited even if compensation is appropriate. Constant flux increases pressure on other team members to compensate to the new Boss or Fellow worker – both of whom may take time to pick up the ropes.
“When i started this job (BPO)2 years back, I loved it, the money was good and I enjoyed the culture. Things are different now, I don’t feel like going to work, I feel tired all the time and my blood pressure is constantly high”.
Is there an email that I haven’t read? Has anyone called in the ten minutes that I have been away from my Cell phone?…..today’s workers are never really free from things that seemingly require immediate and urgent attention.
- Managers sometimes get 100 emails a day. They can never really respond to them. The cumulative effect of pending work makes sure they always feel that there is a lot to do, long hours and weekends go up in smoke trying to stay ahead.
- After a while the need to stay connected becomes a habit, the net is always on-even if there is really no work, the cell phone is never really switched off and the Electronic Boss makes sure that the co-workers too are always connected-perpetuating the problem.
- Anytime, Anywhere connectivity has meant that you can work while you are traveling or away from your place of work. While this could have led to flexi hours and more humane work life balance. It has infact meant no escape even during travel, family events and vacations.
“You can’t even get a rest on the weekend”, says a senior manager, “there is a funny oft repeated episode of my colleague receiving a call from his boss during his wedding ceremony. They halted the ceremony so that a password could be given to the CTO”.
“My HR head says that my work hours are 9 to 9”.
Workaholism is in!
Employees in the city are spending 10-12 hours in office. This goes up to 14 hours or more at the senior managerial level. Keeping up with changes in the global markets and increased competition ensures that Indians are working harder and longer.
- Talent crunch has ensured that existing employees are given additional responsibilities. If you are willing to work harder and longer – you will invariably get more work, more pay and less time for yourself.
- “What are my work hours” is the wrong question to ask in an interview. You are expected to work late – even if there is no work, you may need to stay back just because your boss is there as well!
- Longer work hours mean faster burnout – many employees in their 40’s start feeling the impact of Long Term stress.
“Most Indian companies don’t realize that longer hours only ensure short term results – for a productive, innovative workforce you need a strong, motivated team. Long term impact of insane working hours makes the team slack and unproductive”.
“My boss sends me a mail at 11 at night and expects a response by 6 the next morning !”
Not only is the impact of long hours on personal health but the health and wellbeing of the family. There is no time for ailing parents, small children and family outings. This is more so in cases where both partners are working. If only one person is working the stay at home person is left to carry the burden of family alone.
- Families are increasingly feeling disconnected. Children fend for themselves and the elderly feel lonely and uncared for.
- The personal cost of preparing proposals, presentations, late work hours immerse the person completely into the company without a stable balancing influence of the family.
Longer work hours mean faster burnout – many employees in their 40’s start feeling the impact of Long Term stress.
A COO’s ailing daughter remarked – “ Papa you must love me a lot that you are here today on my birthday” – The executive had been traveling for months.
A senior executives son has severe crying bouts when he knows that his father will be traveling again. He has been diagnosed with a psychological problem born of insecurity and anxiety.
What are the problems?
Night Shifts – disrupted bio rhythms
Constant late nights – 14 to 15 hour days
Excessive Travel – (Jet lag, Travel on weekends)
High levels of in city commuting – (stressful driving)
Competitiveness/ Corporate Policies
Unhealthy eating habits – stress eating/ fast food
Sedentary lifestyle – no exercise
Poor work life balance – absence of any slack time
What are companies doing about improving wellness?
Setting up Gyms
Most Gyms are set up at high cost of space and equipment, but most of them lie unused – “to use the office gym seems to imply that I am not working”.
Diagnostic tie ups with hospitals
“I get the corporate health check up done once a year….what good is that if I am working all hours and weekends”.
Art of Living Workshops/ Yoga Sessions
“These sessions relieve stress, but should be done more regularly, they are so sporadic” – Employees
“What is the tangible benefit to the company of these activities” – HR Heads
Most insurance policies cover inpatient visits to a hospital – whereas employees are looking at OPD cover, Wellness Benefits and something for their families. Medical Insurance in India is still in its infancy.
Club memberships are given only to senior level executives – for them playing anything other than Golf is passe’. Cricket championships etc are organized, in which few companies/ employees participate.
What are health providers doing?
B2B Sales – Rate Contracts
Most hospitals have B2B sales teams that visit HR heads and tie up with them for Diagnostic/ Medical Check ups.
Workshops/ Doctor on call
Hospitals have realized that just rate contracts are defeating in the long run as it means that they just compete on price. Hence they have started doing workshops in companies. The popular workshops are – Stress Relief, Heart care etc.
Companies such as also have doctors on site available for employees.
HR managers are realizing that sporadic one off activities such as those mentioned above are not very successful. This is because unless there is a change in lifestyles and employee sensitization there are few tangible benefits to these activities. In addition health needs are varied and no single provider can take care of all of them. The need is therefore to change mindsets and constantly track success.
What are employees doing?
Employees are aware of the impact on their health. However active participation in wellness activities is low.
People who are self starters typically take things into their own hands by starting to Diet, Jog, Walk, visit a Gym, buy a treadmill etc. Mostly this segment of people is Male, 25 to 40. An active lifestyle follower is one who does not need to spend money to be active.
Employees who recognize their need to do something but don’t want to do anything themselves. These are people who would happily visit a spa, spend money for a massage or visit a beauty parlor.
What do HR heads expect of health providers ?
Increase awareness amongst employees – “Most of us don’t know how to balance our work and home. We carry stress like a badge of honor”.
Develop an actionable and measurable framework to improve health – “I get presentations from Health care providers everyday, but most of them only look at selling their services. No one really takes any comprehensive responsibility”.
In Summary – The worksite wellness space is a big opportunity for health services providers.