HR steps in to ease work from home pressure amid Covid-19 pandemic

Ghose agrees that companies should not overdo it. “They should instead be genuinely mindful of people’s personal requirements.”
Pooja Singh, a Delhi-based senior sales executive at an online music app company, has developed “screen sickness” after hours of calls, webinars and video conferences that have become a norm today. Even a phone call with this reporter ends up becoming a taxing affair after a few minutes.

 “While it is great that work from home (WFH) has found greater acceptance, work-life balance has taken a big hit,” she says. “Earlier, the line between personal and professional life was blurred. Now, it has completely disappeared. People are no longer apologetic to call you at late hours,” adds Richa Kapoor, a communications professional at a leading technology company in Bengaluru. 

In the initial days of the lockdown, WFH was celebrated across sectors. It was meant to give more flexibility and improve productivity. Five months down the line, many are finding the concept unsustainable.

Companies, conscious of the stress and challenges their employees are facing, have started taking steps to address these issues by introducing fixed hours for official calls and giving the staff the freedom to not respond to emails after a certain time. Some have brought back the concept of chill Fridays with lighter work, fewer calls and online coffee sessions with colleagues. Others are encouraging employees to take at least a week off.

“A lot of this is desired but on many occasions fails in implementation. We find policies aplenty, but putting them into action is less common,” says Anandorup Ghose, partner, Deloitte India.

As a result, people are logging longer hours. A recent study of 3.1 million workers around the world shows that the pandemic workday has increased by an average of 48 minutes. “It is like we are living at work and not working from home,” says a senior official at a Mumbai-based technology start-up.

To foster good mental health, some companies are organising online meditation and yoga sessions, which often also have a therapist who offers advice on stress management. “But even for such activities, I have to log in and sit in front of my laptop. I would instead like to have more time with my family,” Singh says.

Ghose agrees that companies should not overdo it. “They should instead be genuinely mindful of people’s personal requirements.”

The human resource department of Verizon Media, after noticing that its employees had stopped taking leave because travel plans had come to a standstill, nudged them to take time off to simply relax and rejuvenate. “Especially now, switching off, even if at home, can relieve the tedium and break the relentless loop of work-home-work,” says Lavanya Rajan, senior HR manager at Verizon Media.

Some employees, however, lament that the mindset of “wait till the boss leaves” has not set an encouraging precedent as none of the top management has taken a holiday in the last few months.

Deloitte India, meanwhile, has introduced a “shared leave bank” that gives its employees the option of donating their leave to help out, in case of an emergency, those who may have exhausted theirs.

A Deloitte spokesperson says: “We are also programming our internal chat bot to prompt people each day to take breaks and remind them to keep hydrated, have meals on time, take a walk around the house or just relax for a few minutes.”

Some names have been changed on request

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