Variety

When IT becomes hard work

K. V. Kurmanath | Updated on August 15, 2013

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Companies are now implementing de-stressing measures for employees, but are they enough?

Easwar Satyanarayanan, a 27-year-old professional working for a top IT firm in Pune, is seeing days which he has not seen before.

"The way projects get executed now is different from what we used to do in the past," he says. In the past, employees were given a brief by their project head and were given a timeline.

Now it is completely different. “I have to figure out how an existing project can make money for the client, and then give him a timeline to execute it,” he added.

For this to happen, he has to work harder than ever, moving from meetings with team members to discussion with clients and finally to executing the plan. He reckons that this is putting a lot of pressure on his family time and social life and is contemplating to do something on his own.

High stress levels

This is not a problem of Easwar alone. Thousands of IT pros are facing this as the industry is moving to ‘outcome based’ delivery models as against the billing per employee model.

Doctors say enormous amount of stress is resulting in early onset of blood pressure, diabetes, urine infections and cardiac diseases.

“They are down with depression, lack of sleep and excess sleep. In addition to this, girls are reporting polycystic ovary syndrome, which in turn could result in infertility problems later on,” Dr Prashanti Raju, a physician with wellness clinic, of CARE Hospitals group, says.

Vasudha, a lawyer who attends to family and labour-related cases, points out to three triggers for stress among IT employees. “Insecurity at workplace, disconnect between studies and job profile and irregular timings are the main causes. They lose jobs at a short notice, leaving little scope to protest,” she observes.

“Working for 12-15 hours a day, they get little time for their children and spouses. More often than not, they work in different shifts,” she says.

In the multi-generational workforce working in the IT industry, there is a distinct difference we see in the tolerance levels between Gen-X (born 1960-1980) and Gen-Y (born between 1980-2000). Gen-Y is more vulnerable to the pressure than Gen-X.

“Gen-Y is exposed to higher cost of living that puts tremendous pressure on their financial needs. Today you see the Gen-Y employees not even hesitating to put more than 60-70 per cent of their income to buy a bike, a car or swanky phone or even a flat,” Raj Reddy, Senior Vice-President and Chief HR Officer (Global) of CSS Corp, feels.

This leaves them with huge liability, which puts them in a crisis as life's other demands catches up.

Work-life balance

The concept of work and life is also blurred now with the social media giving rise to ‘Always-On’ generation. This further puts more pressure as there is no switch-off time available for the new generation through out the day.

“Companies need to create mechanisms to help employees to cope up with the job expectations through appropriate interventions such as on-the-job training, career enrichment programmes and competency development programs,” says Reddy.

It is important to promote right people for right jobs so that the employees are successful in their jobs.

CSS organises Career Aspirations sessions, Culture Awareness sessions at the time of joining, Counselling sessions with Certified Counsellors, H2 Club to promote health and hygiene and workshops with senior leaders to get right perspectives, he explains.

Hema Parikh, Director, (Human Resources) of the healthcare BPO Ajuba Solutions, feels that employers require a proactive and structured approach to help make work fun, stress free and at the same time productive, ensuring that there is fine work-life balance for the employees.

“I feel Work Life Coaching or workplace counselling should be made compulsory,” she says.

Srimathi Shivashankar, Associate Vice-President (Diversity and Sustainability) of HCL Technologies, feels that organisations should go beyond just gender for managing work life balance matters.

“We believe in work life continuity for our employees. Most of our office locations are within the city limits, and in some areas the office campuses are located in the vicinity of satellite townships. This has helped many employees to reduce their commute time, and can reach to their families in pressing times,” the HCL executive points out.

HCL’s social connect site MEME helps employees on long leave, especially women on maternity or extended sabbatical, to stay connected with their project members, thereby facilitating their return to work smoothly.

If an employee is down, it is not just him who is going to suffer. It can wreck a team and cause financial loss to the company.

“We do understand that stress can strike anyone at any point of time. We are addressing this at different levels. We conduct screening programmes for hypertension, stress management and work-life balance sessions, besides organising talks by experts,” B Ashok Reddy, (President HR and Corporate Affairs) of Infotech Enterprises, comments.

Rajita Singh, Head HR (Broadridge Financial Solutions), observes that each individual has a different way of coping with things and translating ideas into different actions.

Rajita feels that it is possible to reduce stress if one trains oneself to live in difficult situations. “Take responsibility for improving personal physical and emotional well-being. Avoid pitfalls by identifying knee jerk habits and negative attitudes that add to the stress. Learn better communication skills to ease and improve relationships with leadership and fellow workers,” she advises the IT pros.

IT companies are increasingly organising yoga, Art of Living, physiotherapy, gyms, 10k runs and walkathons for employees. But whether these measures alone are enough to improve the work situation for staff is another question.

(with inputs from T E Raja Simhan in Chennai, Venkatesh Ganesh in Bangalore, S Ronendra Singh in New Delhi and Rajesh Kurup in Mumbai)

kurmanath.kanchi@thehindu.co.in

Published on August 15, 2013

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