Covid: India Inc adds mental health of employees on their priority list

As the ongoing second wave of the pandemic exacerbates the pressure on teams and individuals, more Indian companies are making mental health an urgent priority for businesses. Live meditation, mental health sessions with specific focus on vulnerable groups, extended weekends, special holidays, free subscription to wellbeing apps and 24×7 counselling helplines —companies are running a series of initiatives to help stressed-out employees, with senior leaders playing increasingly active roles in the process.

At Genpact, the CEO and senior leaders communicate often through various channels across all levels of the organisation, EY’s leadership team does regular virtual connects. The Edelweiss Group has regular outreach programmes and townhalls by the leadership to express solidarity and support with employees.

“Our leaders hold a pivotal role in the recovery — they are the company-wide anchors to help ease concerns and rally teams,” said Piyush Mehta, Genpact’s chief HR officer.

“We have initiated small sessions, by business, with no agenda — so people can just talk about what is on their mind, and the support they need. We built an AI chatbot (Amber) to check in with our employees to capture immediate concerns and needs so we can support them better,” he added.

To ensure that employees do not feel isolated, EY has recently introduced EY Social — its inhouse platform of hobby clubs. The India leadership team has been conducting regular virtual connects with teams through forums like counselling family, regular team huddles, virtual townhalls, etc.

Companies such as ICICI Lombard, Snapdeal, MakemyTrip, Diageo and Publicis Sapient are also focused on mental health and wellbeing.

“We have been organising emotional counselling sessions, yoga and meditation sessions and collaborated with therapists and experts from the field of stress and anxiety management for consultations,” said Yuvaraj Srivastava, Group CHRO, MakeMyTrip.

Diageo has an employee assistance programme to provide counselling services. They are also conducting mental wellness sessions: the ones for employees cover effective stress management, avoiding digital burn-out among other issues, while those for line managers focus mostly on how to manage teams in terms of mental wellness.

Snapdeal is providing its employees and family members access to licensed counsellors, organising meditation and breathwork classes; Publicis Sapienthas mental health first aiders and sessions with specific focus on women, people facing domestic violence, etc.

Adobe India has company-wide day o􀂃s every third Friday as well as free access to meditation and wellbeing applications like Headspace and LifeDojo.ICICI Lombard has introduced flexible working — no meetings prior to 9amand after 7pm and no weekend/holiday meetings. L’Oreal will be hosting sessions for people managers leading teams to train them to better manage productivity with empathy.

“HR teams are in constant touch with the employees to build psychological morale and extend support to access quality and affordable healthcare. I speak with every Covid-impacted employee to offer support and guidance, which helped me understand the ground-level challenges they face,” said Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, Head of HR (global) and corporate quality, CSSCorp.


Corporates reach out with digital detox, voice-out forums, HR chatbots

The pandemic and the lockdowns have left a trail of loss and grief and it becomes imperative, now more than ever, to scale up quality mental health services at all levels. This is what countries across the globe felt the need for at the World Health Assembly in May 2021.
Accordingly, corporates close to home are already adapting to the post-pandemic setting and doing their bit to raise awareness and destigmatise mental health issues. Read on…

‘Okay to not be okay’

While employee mental wellbeing was always a topic of discussion, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown brought the issue to the fore with corporates aligning their goals in this direction.

“Owing to the challenges of the pandemic, several of our employees shared how they were experiencing feelings of isolation and burnout and their inability to use the pre-pandemic informal networks and support systems such as friends or co-workers. Many employees were hesitant about sharing these emotions and were unsure about where they should seek support. Against this background, it was important to assure our employees that ‘It is okay to not be okay’,” says Neerja Bhardwaj – HR Business Partner, India Technology Centre, GE

“We acknowledge the ills of the ‘daily grind’ and have tried to prioritize a healthy work-life balance for all our employees. In the initial days of remote work, as teams were settling in, we encouraged them to take days off for their ‘mental health.’ We suggested teams keep a few working days call-free or zoom-free, to give them a break from being on video calls. Additionally, we also offered 12 weeks of paid time off from work to employees who have spent a certain number of years with the company and at regular intervals after that, employees are given another six week sabbatical. Also, there isn’t a limit on the number of sick days that an employee can avail if one needs them,” adds Tina Vinod, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Thoughtworks.
Katarzyna Kern, global head of HR at ANSR, stresses that it is essential to encourage employees to explore their emotions and discuss how they are feeling at work. “It’s also crucial to have a working culture that encourages employees to talk about their personal problems,” she adds.
Buddy system at work

Lending a helping hand to fellow employees are mental health advocates within the organisation. “Advocacy plays a key role in driving positive change and we have developed a voluntary network of more than 1,600 mental health advocates who regularly reach out to their colleagues so that everyone can have a colleague who is ready to listen and discuss mental health issues, and we can proactively provide support where needed,” says Lakshmi C, managing director and lead, human resources, Accenture, India.

Safe spaces to show we care

Companies have also gone beyond regular workshops and confidential counselling sessions with their employees, Sindhu Gangadharan, senior vice-president and managing director, SAP Labs India, informs, “Our Employee Care Cycle aims to de-stigmatise mental health issues by outlining the cycle of support from prevention to cure.”

A recent initiative they rolled out aims at providing a safe space for colleagues to share and talk about their grief in the presence of others with similar experiences.

“Voice-out forums and safe spaces for employees to freely share their experiences with their colleagues did help us in helping out our employees at India Technology Centre,” says Neerja, adding that they also have Wellness Day offs for employees to rejuvenate.
Lakshmi adds that earlier this year, Accenture had upgraded their medical insurance policy to include mental health consultancy reimbursements for dependent family members.

Technology to drive change

While technology has received the short end of the stick, companies across the country have tried to use it to reach out to employees. Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and head – HR (global) and head of corporate quality, CSS Corp, says, “Our 24/7 employee assistance provides counselling and aid to employees, and HR chatbots automate responses to queries, leading to faster issue resolutions. Additionally, we have been conducting virtual mindfulness sessions and digital detox (digital quarantine) to enable employees to find the right balance amid their hectic schedules.”
Sudeep Ralhan, vice-president of people, Walmart Global Tech India, adds that they have leveraged technology to ensure a wider range of personalised options for each employee. “And now that organisations and people have had a taste of the many benefits of tech-enabled focus on mental wellbeing, I see the adoption increasing substantially over the next few years,” he adds.


CSS Corp ranks 6th globally in HFS Research for Top Digital Associates Services Companies

CSS Corp, a new-age IT services and technology support company today announced that it has secured the 6th rank globally in HFS Research’s Digital Associates Services Global Top 10 study and 5th rank in voice of the customer category. This report assessed top service providers in the industry for how well they are helping their clients embrace and realize results from deploying technology-driven digital associates solutions in a wide array of business and IT functions.

CSS Corp’s cognitive solutions have evolved from process enabling bots into next generation of digital co-workers. These digital co-workers or digital associates infuse intelligence across the operational ecosystem, driving intelligent automation while empowering and augmenting human workers’ capabilities across enterprise functions like customer service, technical support, IT, HR and more. This drives better strategic business outcomes and improves the overall stakeholder experience. HFS Research recognized CSS Corp for showcasing differentiated use cases driven by proprietary solutions such as its customer experience transformation platform for contact center operations and its advanced AIOps platform, Contelli for IT, and infrastructure operations.

Commenting on the recognition, Manish Tandon, Chief Executive Officer, CSS Corp said, “The on-going global crisis exposed the fragility of a siloed approach to digital transformation attempted through standalone AI and automation initiatives. Businesses worldwide have realized the need to break the organizational siloes and integrate technology across enterprise functions to supplement people and processes with shared intelligence and insights. CSS Corp’s cognitive solutions are more than showcases of cutting-edge innovation as they solve real business problems and drive tangible outcomes across our clients’ enterprises. We are incredibly proud to be the only mid-sized service provider in HFS Digital Associates Services Top 10 list. It motivates us to keep pushing the bar with world-class services and pioneering digital solutions.”

“CSS Corp has significantly and steadily improved its capabilities for greater conversational sophistication and to drive business outcomes for clients across a wider range of services capabilities. The firm showcased some differentiated use cases featuring emerging technology, particularly for its capabilities with incorporating augmented and virtual reality.  This combined with strong ratings from reference clients landed CSS Corp at #5 rank for Voice of the Customer and #6 overall in our ranking.” said Melissa O’Brien, Research VP at HFS Research.

HFS Top 10 Digital Associates Services report, rates 17 reputed service providers on how well each of them performed across a defined series of execution, innovation, and voice of the customer criteria, showcasing the overall leaders and top 10 performers by sub-category.

Read more

International Women in Engineering Day: What’s there for women in the male-dominated field?

“Retaining women at mid-management levels is challenging. It is observed that in organisations where many senior leadership positions are held by women, they are more likely to get equal pay, feel higher job satisfaction and stay longer with the company,” said Prashanti Bodugum, Vice President – Enterprise Business Services and Chennai Centre Head, Walmart Global Tech India.

ETHRWorld interacted with industry leaders on the occasion of ‘International Women in Engineering Day.’ The leaders talked about the current situation of women in engineering, challenges the women face and how to address them.

Prashanti Bodugum, Vice President – Enterprise Business Services and Chennai Centre Head, Walmart Global Tech India, who is an engineer herself, said, “Retaining women at mid-management levels is challenging. It is observed that in organisations where many senior leadership positions are held by women, they are more likely to get equal pay, feel higher job satisfaction and stay longer with the company.”

What the pandemic has changed for women in the sector

Jharna Thammaiah K, Director and India Site People and Places Leader, Intuit, said, “The pandemic has certainly created a greater demand for tech roles and has also created new opportunities in an otherwise challenging job market. I would believe this has paved the way for more women to join the tech industry.”

According to Jharna Thammaiah K, currently, there is a demand for women to lead and mentor, as the need for more empathetic decision making sees a rise.

Noting the challenges of work from home mode, Balvinder Khurana, Technology Principal and Global Data Community Lead, ThoughtWorks, mentioned that while everything is moving on to remote mode, it becomes easier for women to participate equally in work-related activities.

On the other hand, Khurana added that in the current scenario, the home front is witnessing an increased burden of workload on women as well as other family members due to the shutting down of educational institutions, which are also operating remotely, and the absence of the house help.

Explaining the positive aspects of the situation, Sashikala Viswanathan, Director – Corporate Quality, CSS Corp, said, “The technology industry is evolving rapidly and is one of the spaces where women can explore many opportunities to expand their horizons and succeed in their careers.”

Viswanathan stated that the initiatives and support offered by technology companies through mentorship programmes, peer training, reskilling, and upskilling courses or sessions provide women in tech a platform to hone and nurture their abilities further and grow within their roles.


#WorldMentalHealthDay: How India Inc. is helping its workforce to combat mental health issues

After COVID-19, most organisations took initiatives to support employees and their mental well being. While some announced mental health breaks, others started various programs to get in touch with employees in person.

If you are wondering how India Inc. is helping it’s workforce to combat mental health issues, here are their responses:

Lakshmi C, Managing Director and Lead – Human Resources, Accenture in India

“At Accenture, we believe that mental wellbeing is critical to one’s overall wellbeing and has been a big focus for us, for some years now. We have been running extensive internal campaigns to create an environment where our people feel comfortable about having open and honest conversations about mental health. We have a dedicated mental wellness portal where we share advice on developing mental resilience. On our internal social media platform, our people share their own stories and self-hacks so that others may benefit from them.”

Sahil Mathur, CHRO, InMobi Group
“At InMobi, we encouraged employees to work in a distributed environment long before the pandemic struck. However, the remote work environment has given rise to challenges, and it has led us to make conscious efforts for our employees’ well-being, in all aspects. Being cognizant of the new models of working and the exhaustion plus stress due to that, we have introduced 21 additional days of well-being related leaves which the employees can avail at any time during the year. These can be used as a pit-stop, rejuvenation, self-car and/or recouping days.”

R Nanda, Chief of Human Resources and CSR, Tata Chemicals
“At Tata Chemicals, we have always believed in the overall well-being of our employees including their mental and physical health. This World Mental Health Day, in collaboration with “1to1 Help” our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) service provider, we held a special webinar for our employees to understand the kind of help and support they need to go through emotional distress. It is important to provide a platform at the enterprise level for enabling the workforce to engage in activities, awareness and discussion surrounding the importance of mental health within the workplace. This not only helps to encourage our employees to maximise their potential at work but also builds resilience and improves the overall quality of their life both at work and at home.”

Tina Vinod, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Thoughtworks
“At Thoughtworks, we have an ongoing commitment to educating, raising awareness and advocating against the social stigma related to mental health. We continue our efforts to build a culture and environment where people feel safe to speak up about mental health and wellbeing and comfortable to ask for help when needed. The pandemic and further reiterated the importance of this. We offer employees augmented support, and through it have realised the support needs to be customised to individuals’ personal contexts and the role they play at the organisation, and in their personal capacity. This further needs to be strengthened by having an empathetic leadership, inclusive work environment and the right support.”

Jharna Thammaiah K, Director and India Site People & Places Leader, Intuit
“At Intuit, we are prioritising holistic well-being and encouraging our employees to invest in themselves by providing necessary well-being offerings and resources that can help them handle life’s challenges, build resilience and manage stress. Through our ’Well-Minds’ benefits our employees have access to a digital mindfulness platform comprising over a 1000 self-paced tools and sessions to cater to individual needs. Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has become our employees’ go-to for one-on-one counseling with qualified experts to help them navigate through challenges.”

Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP and MD, SAP Labs India
“At SAP, we are committed to fostering a culture of inclusion and have removed the stigma surrounding mental health disorders in the workplace. We have made sure that our employees can initiate dialogues around mental health without any fear of judgement. Our Employee Care Cycle aims to de-stigmatise mental health issues by outlining the cycle of support from prevention to cure. Our employee assistance program offers 24*7 free, professional, and confidential counselling. A recent initiative we rolled out provides a safe space for our colleagues to share and talk about their grief in the presence of others with similar experiences.”

Arun Dinakar Rao, Chief People Officer, Birlasoft
“Employees continue to face challenges in striking the right balance between their personal and professional lives in the wake of the pandemic which perhaps is the root cause of mental health issues. We put together an Internal Task Force which has led the response strategies. They have expanded the scope and reach of our EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and helped set up a 24×7 counselling helpline. We have also set-up online self-help resources, self-assessments, and workshops ensuring mental well-being. We strongly believe that healthy minds lead to healthy bodies which are table-stakes for sustained organisational productivity.”

Prakriti Poddar, Global Head for Mental Health and Wellbeing, RoundGlass
“Today’s workforce needs to be cognitively well, mentally resilient, and adaptive to be able to live and work in this disruptive environment. To equip the workforce to deal with these challenges, we need to focus on restoring and enhancing their Brain Capital – a combination of brain health and brain skills – which is extremely important in our complex and fragile world economy. And the way to do this is by supporting the mental health, brain health, and emotional health of employees – only possible when corporations take charge of the Wholistic Wellbeing of their employee”

Pranali Save, Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), Icertis
“We believe taking care of oneself is the first essential step to personal fulfilment. As a team, we are only as strong as our individual members, and we encourage every employee to first and foremost look after their own health and well-being while at work and in their personal lives. Our commitment to supporting employees is represented in the Icertis “Four Rings of Responsibility,” which is rooted in our FORTE values. The framework encourages employees to Take care of themselves, Take care of family, Take care of the community and Take care of business – in that order.”

Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and Head – HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality, CSS Corp
“During times of uncertainty, it is crucial to lead with empathy. CSS Corp tracks the health status of employees constantly. Since the onset of the pandemic, I have personally spoken with more than 90% of the Covid-affected employees. This conveyed the support and reassurance to the employees in a direct personal way apart from ensuring a thorough understanding of the ground-level challenges they face. We also aim to proactively neutralise burnout, anxiety, stress, and the problems that emerge from working virtually over an extended time.”

Sankalp Saxena, SVP and MD-Operations, India, Nutanix
“At Nutanix, the safety and mental health of our people is our main priority. We have always championed remote and hybrid work options. These tailored employee-driven modes of working helps ensure our team members have the time to balance work and their personal lives. This also includes encouraging team members to have virtual, non-work related catch-ups, as well, so they can stay motivated, connected and engaged with the help of colleagues.”


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