How Unisys keeps employee burnout at bay

The IT company has been focussing on giving more opportunities to employees to engage and socialise


With work-from-home tossing work-life balance out of the window for many, employee burnout has become a more frequently-observed phenomenon since the pandemic started. A survey of 1000 full-time employees across the US, carried out by Visier, found that 89 per cent of employees experienced burnout in the past year.

With the digitalisation of various businesses post the pandemic, work pressure on professionals in the digital space has grown tremendously, leading to IT emerging as one of the more hectic work profiles post pandemic.

Dealing with the increased rates of burnout has become a new challenge for companies that continue to seek more efficient long-term methods to solve the issue. Unisys Corporation, one of the largest global information technology companies, has put in place a system to reduce burnout for its employees. Its system relies on improving employee engagement and socialising between colleagues, both of which had borne the brunt of working from home.

Avneet Hora, head – human resources, Unisys India, in conversation with HRKatha, discussed the five associate councils that Unisys set up to improve inter-employee engagement. These councils operate across five different areas of interest — corporate social responsibility, sports, diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as talent and grey cells. All five conduct employee-engagement activities regularly. “Set up five years back, these councils came in really handy in boosting engagement during the pandemic. At the time of setting up, we sent out enrolment e-mails to our employees urging them to register with a council of their choice. These councils have grown in strength since,” Hora tells HRKatha proudly.

“CSR activities actually make the employees realise that there are problems much bigger than their own, and hence, they see the issue of burnout in a whole different light”

Avneet Hora, head – human resources, Unisys India

Today, Hora explains that new hires are briefed about the councils at the time of onboarding and are encouraged to join a council of their choice, in the capacity of an event organiser, a volunteer or a participant.

Each council is operated by a core team of 10-12 employees, who plan and schedule monthly events in consultation with leaders. This core team includes employees with varied experience. Leaders of the councils are rotated on a regular basis so that there is no dearth of ideas.

The Talent Council brings together people who wish to showcase their talents such as singing, dancing, photography and so on, to participate in competitions held on a monthly basis. Employees’ families are also engaged in these competitions, which are judged in real time. “Internal communication circulates videos of performances of the participants, for the rest of the employees to vote and choose the winner. It’s like a real-time event,” says Hora.

The CSR Council works to help the larger society and helms the CSR activities for the Company. The members plan the measures the Company should take to help the community by connecting with ground-level organisations, understanding the essential requirements and helping with adequate aid. “These activities actually make the employees realise that there are problems much bigger than their own, and hence, they see the issue of burnout in a whole different light,” Hora says.

The Sports Council organises sporting events for the company, and the employees actively participated in up to 15 such sports events in pre-pandemic. With interaction going digital, the council also moulded its operation and started holding events that could be conducted online. Hora also details two recently-organised events, where employees formed groups and registered their steps in a tracking software. The global event enhanced connectivity between employees working in different parts of the world. “People got to connect with their global peers and discuss things outside of work. These discussions sort of replaced the traditional water-cooler conversations and alleviated employee stress,” says Hora.

“The Grey Cell Council works to engage employees in mental games, such as chess and quizzes, while the DEI Council has strategically bettered the inclusivity in the Unisys workforce,” says Hora. The DEI council determines ways to make the company more gender inclusive and has played a big role in successfully increasing the hiring of women to 40 per cent. “To reduce burnout amongst women employees, who may be handling their professional commitments along with their families, the DEI Council arranged for dedicated de-stressing sessions. Experts were engaged to help women figure out how they can better manage work and life,” explains Hora.

Hora tells HRKatha that even though the councils generally receive a good response from the employees, there have been instances amidst the pandemic when the response was mixed. “At a time when we couldn’t go out, this was one way to keep the employees engaged, productively. Employees engaged with the councils freely, but there were phases when work did pull them away,” she says. However, Hora believes that the councils give Unisys employees a great chance to interact with colleagues outside of their immediate teams, as there is no scope of informal water-cooler discussions while working from home. “The activities that the councils plan facilitate interaction outside of immediate teams with people of similar interests. This offers an opportunity to network better within the organisation, and thus, helps deal with burnout. After all, socialising is one of the best de-stressors,” Hora points out.

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