"I reply to every message within ten minutes."
"I am accessible even during vacations."
"I sleep for five hours a day."
These habits, seen as accomplishments, are often bragged about by employees in office corridors and canteens as they are linked with efficiency and high productivity. But media mogul and founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington doesn't think so. "It is delusional to believe you need to be always on to succeed. It is one of those things where an entire culture believes in something false."
There are numbers to demonstrate that companies and individuals in India are grappling with stress and burnout. According to the World Health Organisation, 4.5 per cent of India's population suffers from depression and 36 per cent of Indians are likely to suffer from major depression at some point in their lives.
It is to bring about a behavioural change in India that Huffington is bringing her new venture "Thrive Global" to India. "I wanted to launch in India first because India doesn't just need the solutions but it also has the answers to these modern problems in its ancient wisdom and philosophy," she says.
The focus of Thrive Global is to create awareness about how health and wellbeing are necessary stepping stones to success. Its content platform journals have successful role models penning down how they manage their fast paced life. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has written about how his decision making improves if he sleeps for eight hours a day.
Thrive Global also has online and offline solutions which it offers directly to consumers and to employees through corporate partnerships. They are a combination of live workshops and online courses on ways to manage your email and how to disconnect on vacation. One of their key digital offering is "Thrive Away", a solution that managers your inbox when you are on vacation.
They are also launching a mobile app "Thrive in Partnership" with Samsung to help people overcome their phone addiction. "The app will turn your smartphone into a dumbphone for specified periods of time when you don't want to be disturbed." For instance, if your phone is on Thrive mode, it will send text to the sender that you are having dinner with family or are in an important meeting and will reply later. It will also give people a mirror of their social media habits by providing notifications on their usage patterns and suggesting changes to reduce the time spent on these platforms.
Thrive Global is currently working with the C-suite in JP Morgan and looking to tie up with call centres in India.
These solutions are incremental steps to be incorporated into daily life to help people focus on their happiness and wellbeing. Data has shown how stress has a direct impact on the company's Return on Investment. According to the 2016 report "Workplace stress: Impact and Outcomes" by SHRM and CGP India, the total organisational productivity loss per year adds up to Rs 49.67 crore, 105.48 crore and 10.5 crore per year across IT/ITES, Finance / Banking and Travel & Hospitality sectors. It makes a serious case for organisations to focus on holistic health and wellness of employees to minimise their stress levels.
"These are not sustainable numbers and we are at this inflexion point where we need to address this issue urgently," says Huffington. This year India passed the much needed Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016, to provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and ensure they have a right to live a life of dignity and are not discriminated or harassed. There are also a plethora of startups that are helping people manage stress. Startups such as HealthEminds, YourDost and ePsyclinic provide online counseling by connecting individuals to psychologists and psychiatrists to help them cope with personal and professional life. With the discourse on mental health starting in India, Indians can now hope to slow down for a few deep breaths without feeling guilty.