Why ‘burnout leave’ is the new normal

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on September 25, 2020

The pandemic has wrought several incongruities in our work and life. One such is managers not raising their eyebrows when a staff member asks for leave. Indeed, companies are all but insisting on employees taking off for rest and recuperation.

Work from home has blurred the line between working hours and personal time and weekends and weekdays. With digital fatigue taking a toll on both physical and mental health of employees, companies are coming up with leave policies that offer ‘wellness days off’ to prevent a burnout.

For instance, semiconductor major AMD has announced a ‘Summer Recharge Program’. Under this, AMD encourages leave days over several long weekends aligned with regional holidays through September.

“As home becomes office, most people are finding it difficult to disconnect from work. This takes an added toll on their emotional energy and mental resources, and sometimes leads to what is being termed digital fatigue,” Fathima Farouk, HR Head at AMD India, said. “There needs to be an emphasis on self-care among employees with routine and scheduled time-off,” she added.

Meeting restrictions

Tech giant Lenovo India has also revised its workplace guidelines to include mandatory leaves (five days) every quarter to unwind; it has brought in a policy of no meeting post 6.30 pm; no meetings at 1-2 pm, which shall be mandatory lunch break, and one no-meeting day till 2 pm every week.

Besides multiple webinars on mental well-being, health and fitness and a dedicated Employee Resource Group for all employees who are parents, credit rating agency Crisil is also offering wellness days off.

Anupam Kaura, President, Human Resource at Crisil, said: “We also encourage them to combine it with the weekends so they get an extended weekend.”

Some new-age digital companies have taken this a step further. Razorpay, for instance, has renamed its sick leave ‘wellness leave’ and expanded the scope (and count) to cover any leave needed for employees to be fully functional at work. This includes mental health, burnout, menstrual cycle and anything that affects their physical and mental well-being.

All in the name

“While this sounds like a small change, naming it ‘wellness leave’ was a really important part of this decision to remove the stigma of sickness that discourages people from taking leave for things like mental health,” Razorpay CEO and co-founder Harshil Mathur said.

Semiconductor company Texas Instruments India also said it has re-categorised ‘sick leave’ as ‘sick leave and family care leave’ to include recuperative time required, apart from taking time off to recover from physical ailments.

It also opens the door for employees to take a mental health day off without worrying about social stigma.

Published on September 25, 2020

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