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Rising stress levels of India Inc: Overwork, financial woes, remote work take toll on mental health

Coronavirus impact: Financial commitments, extra hours of work and remote work are leading to depression and anxiety amongst Indian employees 

Sonal Khetarpal | October 16, 2020 | Updated 09:43 IST
Rising stress levels of India Inc: Overwork, financial woes, remote work take toll on mental health 
COVID-19 impact: Mental health of Indian employees deteriorating

Rupesh Garg (name changed) senior manager in a market research firm had his life sorted. He would report at work at 9.30 am and would be back by 7 pm. Days when work got over after 9 pm were far and few. But then lockdown happened in March. As months passed, managing the team remotely became a challenge. "Expecting the same efficiency of meeting tight timelines month-after-month in the current environment when everyone is facing some or the other issue is not easy. It is also unfair," he says. Some team members are facing health issues at home, some financial concerns. "When employees are under stress, their performance gets impacted," he adds. As a result, Garg is up till late, often stretching up to 2 am or 3 am filling in for his team; fixing the client reports ensuring that they meet the desired quality. After four months of this routine, Garg started having headaches, felt exhausted and was irritable with his family members. It was then he decided to seek professional help.

Garg is not alone. Data from LinkedIn's survey on mental health over the last six months finds that 40 per cent professionals in India are experiencing increased stress or anxiety. Around 37 per cent of them feel lonely as they work remotely and another 36 per cent feel it is impacting their work-life balance. 

"When lockdown started, there was a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen," says Dr Sapna Bangar, Psychiatrist and Head of the Mpower Centre in Mumbai.

Also read: Should you count on health insurance for mental illness treatment? Not blindly

She says, earlier people called to discuss their feeling of hopelessness, from not having any end in sight of the current pandemic. Now, there is a shift from anxiety to depression.

Lockdown has been accompanied by layoffs and pay cuts across sectors. LinkedIn survey shows that close to 40 per cent of Indian professionals continue to experience financial instability, due to high levels of financial stress and uncertainty related to jobs. Several entrepreneurs have used up all their life savings and have no clear answers on how to continue their business.

As a result, families now have less money in their hand, and many have made changes in their personal lifestyle. A lot more are finding it hard to meet their financial commitments.

Financial stress along with the overall volatile environment has led to anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high.

Mental health study of 10,000-plus individuals from smart-tech healthcare platform GOQii substantiates this. Almost 43 per cent of Indians are struggling with depression, it finds. Of these, 26 per cent Indians are facing mild depression, 17 per cent face a more strenuous kind and 6 per cent are severely depressed.

"The bottom line is the overall mental health of the country is deteriorating very fast," Vishal Gondal, Founder and CEO, GOQii.

Also read: Mental well-being crucial amid coronavirus, so why is insurance not easy?

He adds that as more people are working from home, there are blurring of boundaries between work and home life which is affecting their lifestyle and sleep pattern. "Sleep is the foundation of a sound mind and despite people staying home longer, they are sleeping less and they are sleeping late," he says.

Garg says earlier he would sleep by 11 pm. Now, the days he sleeps by 1 am are good days. Another senior HR professional Tripti Chawla (name changed) says due to the increased house work she is not able to work consistently and often finds herself awake past midnight, when her kids are asleep, to finish the remaining work. She has been complaining of disturbed sleep for the last few months and is waiting to go back to office.

Experts say that depression is an abused word and that being sad is not being depressed. Some common signs of depression are prolonged anger issues, trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much, feeling down, exhausted or tired, feeling bad about yourself - or that you are a failure or letting people down, poor appetite or overeating, trouble concentrating on things such as reading, and in extreme cases having thoughts of hurting yourself in some way.

Gondal suggests, "People should zero in on things that are in their control and focus on that." Working out for at least 30 minutes a day whether it is doing yoga or aerobics helps. Following proper sleep hygiene goes a long way in staying positive. Avoiding caffeine after 4 pm helps in sleeping better. Lastly and the most important is to include meditation in the daily routine.

Also read: 92% of Indian employees prefer discussing mental health issues with robots than managers

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