Just as India was limping back to normalcy after the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020, we were hit by a second, more severe wave in 2021 that not only saw people scrambling for beds and oxygen, but also recorded more deaths.
India’s workforce was forced to remain indoors yet again, and prolonged work from home that has blurred the lines between personal and professional lives has led to increased burnout and exhaustion.
However, companies across industries have started recognising the same, looking at unique ways that can help employees cope with stress, distress and burnout.
Taking time off
Dating app Bumble, for instance, recently announced that all employees – in India and across the globe – will have a paid, fully offline one-week vacation in June. “Like everyone, our global team has had a very challenging time during this pandemic. We wanted to give our teams around the world an opportunity to shut off and focus on themselves for a week,” a Bumble spokesperson said.
Similarly, Cosmetics and personal care company L’Oréal India is offering employees a ‘Healing Day’ off, an extended weekend for self-care, as well as a ‘Healing Week’, which the company said is designed to lift employee spirits and to provide constructive support on coping in difficult times through various learning programmes.
Several companies have also announced an unlimited leave policy. Khatabook has an unlimited leave policy, which CEO & co-founder Ravish Naresh said gives employees the mindspace to focus completely on the recovery of health of their loved ones and themselves.
Other companies such as OYO, Myntra (Unlimited Wellness Leaves) and Grant Thorton too have introduced unlimited leave policies.
To ensure employees are not blurring lines between their professional and personal lives, mattress maker Duroflex has put in place a rule no work messages are to be sent before 9 am and after 9 pm. This is in addition to organising fun contests, talent shows, among others.
“Our meetings start with ‘What’s the good news?’ just to boost morale and team spirit. Workshops for yoga, etc. are organized during working hours so that employees take a break from work and stretch a little,” Ritu Moitra, Chief Human Resources Officer, Duroflex said.
Godrej & Boyce launched a company-wide COVID Support Group under the initiative called #TogetherWeCan where the company has been organising mental and physical wellbeing workshops for employees. Under the initiative, it also conducts activities such as Yoga Day session, Family Day, cooking workshops, window photography contests and more.
Real estate developer Embassy Group has launched the ‘Embassy cares wellness portal’, where the company engages with employees on wellness with puzzles, trivia, online fitness sessions, among others. This is in addition to the COVID-19 related support, online doctor and nutrition consultation and pharmacy at discounted prices that the portal offers.
“We also introduced an e-learning portal for all employees, initiating a ‘Learn, Grow and Connect’ series that provided master skills with in-depth learning. The monthly challenge on e-learning has enabled employees with key skills on cultivating joy, mindful moments, empowering women along with others. There is constant communication with individual teams at the group level, by connecting and highlighting individual efforts with all team members as regularly as possible,” Maria Rajesh, CHRO, Embassy Group said.
The Souled Store has been organizing several fun and engagement sessions like a stand-up act by a comedian, a therapeutic art session, a magic show event as well. This is in addition to its employee assistance programmes designed to drive home the importance of attending to mental health and arranged for professional counselling sessions through a confidential helpline number.
Seniority, a company that runs a portal for the elderly, too has been organising interactive events like Antakshari, Tambola, Seniority Premier League, Seniority Talent Hunt, etc. to keep employees motivated.
“Besides, we have collaborated with Juno Clinic, Cleartax, Marsh etc. to conduct various online webinars and industry interaction programmes covering various aspects of physical, mental and financial wellness for our employees,” Tapan Mishra, Founder – Seniority and Evergreen Club said.
Ensuring Mental wellbeing
Most companies have also started offering online counselling sessions for employees to be able to talk about and cope with the pandemic situation.
Retail chain METRO Cash and Carry India organises yoga sessions and pep talk sessions from the top management from time to time in addition to regular webinars on physical & mental health wellbeing.
At Budget airline AIR ASIA, the Chief Medical Officer has regular interactions with employees to keep them updated with essential care tips. The company also said that it has manager-lead processes to ensure employees have the right amount of breaks, activities, learning and wellness in place.
“Our much-awaited Coffee with CEO sessions involve heart-to-heart conversations, alongside our daily virtual meets, peer-to-peer counselling, focused group discussions with HR teams and live online sessions which strive to create open and safe spaces for communication and engagement,” Anjali Chatterjee, Head – People and Culture, AirAsia India said.
IT services company CSS Corp has in place a ‘CHEER framework’, developed for COVID times to help drive empathetic employee engagement and positivity “‘C’ stands for Communicating with employees; ‘H’ for Highlighting their accomplishments; ‘E’ for Energising them; ‘E’ for Engaging with them; and ‘R’ for Recognising and Rewarding them,” the company said.
In addition to this, the company also has initiatives in place to offer 247 counselling line supporting employees’ emotional and mental health.
Bharat Bhatia, Vice President HR at fine jewellery brand Melorra, said that the company’s HR team ensures that there is an environment where people in Melorra can approach their managers or the HR team in case they are overly stressed without any fear of being judged. Employees are also encouraged to take leaves as and when needed to ensure that they break the routine when needed.
“As the HR team, we try to do activities frequently to enable people to have fun at work and to break the daily routine. We have also launched a 24X7 professional counselling service for all our employees to seek professional help when needed,” Bhatia added.
Healthtech startup HealthCube also has regular discussions on mental and physical wellness between the employees and the HR team.