As country manager – India for UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), Sumeet is responsible for the vision and execution of UKG’s long-term strategy and growth in the Indian workforce management market. Sumeet joined UKG (earlier Kronos) in 2007 as a solution consulting and business development manager — and the third employee working in India — before bringing his business development expertise to his role as the head of marketing. There, he led the India marketing organisation to build a sustainable channel and alliance network in the region. In his most recent role he headed sales for the India region.
Uncertainty generates anxiety and we all are living in uncertain times.
A survey from McKinsey’s Center for Social Benefit through Healthcare shows that a third of the workers surveyed have reported anxiety over layoffs since the pandemic began, 28% have reported burnout, and 21% and 20% have reported stress over childcare and the health of loved ones, respectively. Moreover, according to the U.S. Labor Department, a total of 4 million individuals resigned from their employment in April 2021, kicking off the so-called “Great Resignation” era. The reasons of exits can be attributed to increased strains on employees’ mental health. Increased workload, extremely long work hours and strong pressure to consistently deliver the best performance at the same pay can leave employees emotionally drained. Furthermore, not spending enough time with family due to always-on work culture also contribute to an employee’s stressors.
From the “Great Depression” in 1929 to the “Great Resignation” in 2021, economic recessions have always contributed towards worker’s anxiety – be it work related stress, stress about employment or the lack of minimum wage to cite a few. Similarly, COVID-19 too has defined a new way of life and work instigated by the socio economic and health repercussions of the pandemic.
As organisations navigate these disruptions in an effort to retain a sense of pre-Covid normalcy, we know for a fact that some things can never go back to how it used to be. You might return to same workplace, and even the same cafeteria, but how we conduct ourselves at work will be very different. By nature, any small change to long term habits or routines can be micro-stressors which most employees will eventually adjust to. But this takes time and doesn’t happen uniformly across all levels and age groups. At the peak of the pandemic, many companies saw their employees grapple with stress, anxiety, burnout, and other adverse mental health experiences. This has necessitated the need for well thought out policies that place equal stress on mental health as much as physical well-being.
It’s often a lack of work-life balance or the blurring line between work and life in a hybrid work set up that has been causing this anxiety and debate on mental health. Even as the gender bias in household chores are being addressed better than before, there is still a lot of room for correction. This has impacted working mothers more gravely putting their mental health at bigger risk. Also, with most people working remotely now, prolonged periods of isolation has developed higher than average levels of stress on employees at large.
Due to our always-on culture and job expectations, employees may be afraid to voice concerns about their schedules, workload, personal and career priorities, or the overall experience they have at work, all of which lead to mental health issues which they sometimes are unable to cope up with, and instead choose to quit. Now, with so many people working from home, it can be even harder to notice triggers that someone is in trouble.
Technological advancements coupled with modern workforce management system will be key to providing the hybrid workers with a high-quality work experience while also helping employers ‘listen’ to what is not explicitly said.
Through the prudent use of data insights, schedule optimization, machine learning, and smart productivity tools, organizations can proactively identify signs of employee burnout, stress, overwork, and lower job satisfaction by gaining insights into attendance, scheduling preferences, and employee sentiment. Also, AI-powered tools can help organizations optimise scheduling to distribute hours fairly, identify more desirable pay rates or other offerings, and ensure shifts are covered and employee morale remains high. These workforce tools thus allow HR teams to make data-driven informed decisions that improve the overall employee experience and their mental well-being.
Companies must continue to adapt to changing demands to help employees build resilience, cope with stress, overcome emotional problems and anxiety. Leaders must find ways to foster collaboration between teams, improve real connections, and redesign their processes to build a culture of caring for their team. So what was effectively a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to mental health in the workplace should be “do ask, do tell, let’s talk”, which could be institutionalized with the help of technology-enabled solutions.
To sum up, mental well-being in the workplace cannot be achieved overnight, but the collective acceptance of employee mental health as a core business priority and investing in non-intrusive tools to help assess these issues is a necessary starting point for creating a better work culture, and a more inclusive economy, for all.