Occupational stress is the most rapidly growing global phenomenon. The article below very aptly showcases the condition of business people, especially in India, as they are trying to fight an economic slowdown, which has led to more & more employees getting bogged down by workplace stress. Incidences of anger, depression and other pathological conditions are on the rise as depicted by the recent bout of labor unrest in the Maruti Suzuki car plant in Manesar, India, which snowballed into an extreme case of corporate violence.
This unfortunate incident, a resultant of constant work pressure and strained relations shows the intensity of damage workplace stress can do. It leads to dysfunctional behavior not only at the workplace, but also at home, and the work-life balance goes for a toss.
Though there are many methods being used to reduce stress, Laughter Yoga is most cost effective, less time consuming and is a single exercise routine which reduces physical, mental and emotional stress simultaneously and brings an emotional balance. By introducing Laughter Yoga sessions on a regular basis, lot of companies and corporations worldwide have reported a happier workplace and better communication thereby leading to better relations and lesser bouts of rage and confrontations. It also increases the efficiency, sales and productivity. In fact, the business world is now beginning to consider laughter seriously as a tool to combat stress arising due to work.
Full Article By Kala Vijayraghavan & Rica Bhattacharyya, Mumbai:
For close to a year since October 2011, Ashutosh Bhagat (not his real name), 41, vice-president for sales at a leading financial services firm, spent sleepless nights; as a result, he was finding it tough to report to work on time every morning. Otherwise a highly productive and energetic employee, Bhagat’s team and co-workers were suddenly finding it difficult to deal with his oscillating bouts of rage and depression. Medical tests revealed Bhagat had developed blood pressure coupled with mild depression, forcing his immediate superior to sign him up for counseling. Subsequent sessions with the therapist revealed that Bhagat was worried about meeting targets that had recently been revised on the higher side to help his company beat back the economic slowdown. This pressure at the workplace had snowballed into marital discord as the sales head was spending less time at home to ensure he didn’t underperform; he couldn’t afford that — not at a time his bosses were keeping an eagle eye on weeding out deadwood in the system. Bhagat is one of thousand corporate executives who have become victims of stress triggered by the economic slowdown that has been raging for a year now. Concerns about the looming threat of layoffs, salaries that are either cut or delayed, and pressures to meet higher targets are conspiring to create a tempest of uncertainty that executives are finding difficult to cope with. That anxiety is manifesting itself in dysfunctional behavior at the workplace, and at home too as work-life balance goes for toss. It’s a vicious cycle — the resultant depression and dependence and abuse of addictive substances to cope with the stress only succeed in increasing inefficiencies in the workplace, and worsening the situation at home. According to estimates by PPC Worldwide, a global provider of employee assistance programmes (EAP), more than 62% of health concerns in India Inc in the year to October 2012 were due to work stress. Job insecurity has risen from 10% pre-slowdown to 18% and suicidal tendencies rose from less than 1% to almost 5%.
India Inc Responds
“There has been a marked jump in work-related stress in the past one year, which is clearly related to the overall economic uncertainty and slowdown,” says Amber Alam, head of operations (India), PPC Worldwide. But the good news, adds Alam, is that “the stigma around seeking professional help to deal with mental stress and resultant issues has been broken in India. Corporates are comfortable today seeking guidance to help employees deal with work-related stress”.
To be sure, sections of India Inc acknowledge the increasing levels of anxiety, and are responding accordingly with activities that range from yoga and breathing exercises, to fun activities like movies and sports, to lifestyle coaching sessions, to counseling. “We have created mechanisms like confidential emotional counseling, which is offered as a gift to employees, and we find them proactively responding to avail of the facility,” says Ashutosh Telang, executive vice-president and head-HR, Marico.
“Stress at the workplace requires proactive and creative treatment by making work fun and people passionate about the work they do,” says Prince M Augustin, executive vice president, group human capital & leadership development, Mahindra & Mahindra. “To this end we are working at building core capabilities within our leaders of weaving passion and energy at work.”
That sounds impressive, but may cut little ice with managers in the line of fire. Like this senior official at a big Indian organized retailing chain who points out, on the condition of anonymity, that reorganization as frequently as every six months at his company has resulted in uncertainty levels peaking. “We were constantly asked to include new processes, report to new bosses and deal with new structures. It reached a point where I started getting panic attacks, which at one time I mistook for a stroke,” says the executive.
“Fortunately, timely intervention by my wife, who forced me to see a counselor and take up yoga, saved my life. I now have a Zen-like approach to the maaramaari in the workplace. I bring humor into everything,” he adds.
Employees ET spoke to are also cut up with organizations’ sheer disregard for loyalty, particularly during the tough times. “One has to prove oneself every day. Companies have a short memory span and are only interested in what we have done for them lately,” said an employee in a telecom company on condition of anonymity.
However, employees for their part do themselves few favors by making work their life, with little room for anything else. As Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava points out: “With iPads and iPhones, executives today think they have to attend to every work development 24/7. One has to cultivate a hobby or do something creative that is unrelated to work for at least two hours a day.” He adds that leaders of organizations should help employees in such endeavors to tackle stress. Besides courses, yoga, meditation and breathing exercises, Maruti has conducted special stress management workshops for managers and above during the recent bout of labor unrest at Manesar.
However, may be here to stay in today’s climes of cut-throat competition and rapid changes. Says Milind Sarwate, CFO, Marico: “People born in the 90s have born into uncertainty. The generations before that did not deal with this kind of uncertainty. So the ability to cope with it is more difficult.” The slowdown, though, only increases levels of uncertainty, anxiety and stress. The only antidote: an economic turnaround. “When that happens, pressures from various parts of organizations will come down, giving employees some relief. Until that happens, it is a pressure cooker scenario everywhere,” says Damodar Mall, director of food strategy at Future Group.
Increasing uncertainty, mercifully, has been accompanied by increasing awareness levels, says Karuna Baskar, director-operation at 1to1help.net, a corporate counseling provider.