The growing problem of work stress and remote work fatigue pushed IRIS, the Indian IT and software firm, to declare a ‘No Work Hour’ period for all its employees on August 6, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. confirms Sharad Verma, VP & CHRO, IRIS Software.
According to Verma, the Company observed that excess of remote working was leading to extended working hours for the employees, resulting in excessive work stress and mental health problems. As per Verma, the HRBPs had been on their toes for the last one and a half years, and people had been observed to be experiencing burnout. Requests had been coming in from employees who were yearning for a break to refresh themselves and then get back to work rejuvenated.
The ‘No Work Hour’ meant that employees were asked to do nothing related to their office work. In addition, the Company strictly encouraged all employees to just stay away from their screens. “We have found that increased screen time has led to increased stress levels for our employees. In fact, there are studies that suggest that too much screen time can lead to health issues and increased chances of burnout amongst employees,” shares Verma exclusively with HRKatha.
“As human beings, we often feel guilty of not working or not meeting our deadlines, but the HRBP team at IRIS conveyed a message that please ‘do not feel guilty of not working’ during this ‘No Work Hour’”
Sharad Verma, VP & CHRO, IRIS Software
As part of the ‘No Work Hour’ initiative, the employees were encouraged to not set up meetings, or take work calls or even reply to e-mails. Employees were encouraged to resist the temptation to scroll through social media content or any audio or video content on their mobiles and laptops. This meant, no WhatsApp, no Messenger, Microsoft teams or any other social-media platform. IRIS strictly wanted to ensure abstinence from all devices, including mobiles and laptops, for that one hour.
Employees are so used to talking or staring at the screens all the time that it is definitely taking a toll, and Verma says that it is not doing any good to the employees.
In fact, IRIS suggests that its employees first switch off all devices, such as mobiles and laptops, and connect with the family members. The Company encouraged staff to have more face to face interactions instead of video calls, go for nature walks, write, meditate, exercise and undertake similar activities.
Ultimately, the idea is to let employees do whatever they like apart from office work and usage of devices or internet. Whatever activity they indulge in, such as an indoor game, should be offline, without involving usage of any electronic device. The entire exercise was more about letting employees enjoy some ‘Me Time’ and focus on their health, family and whatever makes them happy.
IRIS realises that simply encouraging employees to not do certain things and engage in whatever they like is not going to suffice. The HRBP team requests all stakeholders and heads of departments to refrain from pressurising their teams to work during this one hour. Verma shares that everyone, including all the stakeholders, were really supportive of this initiative. Apart from that, employees were also sensitised by the HRBPs that they should not worry about work and enjoy some lighter moments.
“As human beings, we often feel guilty of not working or not meeting our deadlines, but the HRBP team at IRIS conveyed a message that please ‘do not feel guilty of not working’,” says Verma.
Verma also mentions that the ‘No Work Hour’ activity was intentionally scheduled during the second half of the day, when employees feel more fatigued and need a break to recharge.
A similar activity, but on a larger scale, is on the cards, as revealed by Verma, depending upon the kind of feedback they get through this activity from employees.
In the past, companies such as Godrej Housing, Goldman Sachs, HUL and Raheja QBE have also organised similar activities, where they have given a day off to all their employees so that they can break the monotony of work.
Apart from this, during the lockdown and the challenging second wave, the Company really has been cultivating a culture of empathy and care. As mental health has been a major issue this year, the Company has decided to train all its HRBPs in counselling, by engaging professional psychology practitioners to take a very intensive and advanced three-month course. “HR professional do have a basic knowledge of probing and listening skills from their MBA classes, but this is a more advanced training that equips the HRBPs with the skills to counsel employees during tough times,” reveals Verma.
The Company has been proactive in supporting employees during the second wave, providing beds and oxygen concentrators as well as a 24×7 helpline.