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Employee Happiness

Start-ups hit reset button to help employees stay sane and productive

Redefining conventional workplace norms helps start-ups improve employee retention rate and avoid burn out

Start-ups hit reset button to help employees stay sane and productive
Vinay Dominic, Outlook Business
POSTED ON October 04, 2022 11:57 PM

Yesterday, industrialist Harsh Goenka tweeted a picture of two pie charts. The first indicated an employee working from home (WFH) who is fully focused on their work, while the second chart of people working from office showed that staffers spend 40% on actual work and the remainder on sitting in traffic, helping others at work or getting lunch and coffee.

This tongue-in-cheek post opened the floodgates once again about the merits and demerits of WFH. While the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) statement that the end of the pandemic is in sight is cause for celebration in several quarters, companies continue to struggle when it comes to getting employees back to the office after two years of working remotely.

According to Microsoft’s 2022 Work Index Pulse report, where it surveyed 20,000 across 11 countries including India, 93 per cent of business leaders claimed that getting employees to return to the workplace is a major concern. 80 per cent employees also said that they needed a better reason to go to the office besides company expectations, though they would be motivated if offered other reasons.

One reason companies are insisting that their workforce return to the office is because of what Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella termed the ‘productivity paranoia’, where leaders are concerned that employees are less productive while working remotely.

"We have to get past what we describe as 'productivity paranoia,' because all of the data we have that shows that 80 per cent plus of the individual people feel they're very productive, except their management thinks that they're not productive," Nadella said, while referring to the Microsoft survey. "That means there is a real disconnect in terms of the expectations and what they feel."

Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella used the term ‘productivity paranoia’ to describe situations where leaders are concerned that employees are less productive while working remotely 

Burnt Out And Left Out

The Microsoft survey threw up another interesting insight. 47 per cent of employees and 57 per cent of leaders who participated in it reported claimed feeling burnt out at work. With burnout and anxiety emerging as key concerns for today’s workforce, start-ups are exploring reset and recharge concepts to care for the staff’s mental wellbeing.

This is because the sector has received a bad rep for having a toxic work environment with long working hours in a high-pressure setup. Wanting to break the mould, Meesho recently announced an 11-day companywide break from October 22, 2022 to November 1, 2022 for the second year in a row.

Talking about the initiative Ashish Kumar Singh, the company’s chief human resources officer, said, “Building a great company culture requires one to acknowledge that work-life balance, rest and rejuvenation are key to employee well-being. With Reset and Recharge, we continue to push the envelope and redefine conventional workplace norms. Employees can choose to decompress however they want–whether it’s spending time with near and dear ones, traveling or picking up a new hobby. Such progressive policies have helped augment our employee centricity and industry-leading retention rates.”

Ashish Singh, CHRO, Meesho
Meesho's chief HR officer Ashish Singh believes that building a great company culture requires one to acknowledge that work-life balance, rest and rejuvenation are key to employee well-being

Mind Over Mindset

Becoming a people-centric organisation is not just good for optics, it also pays off fiscally. According to WHO, depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion each year predominantly from reduced productivity. The Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP survey titled 'Mental health and well-being in the workplace’ estimated that poor mental health amongst employees costs Indian employers around $14 billion annually.

This eye-popping number is probably why even large organisations like Bain & Company are deliberating an equitable treatment of employees regardless of their working choice. The company claimed that workers across tenure levels can move to part-time (often 60 per cent or 80 per cent time) arrangements while continuing to advance, and models of success are championed.

Start-ups are taking smaller steps to promote employee wellness. Direct to consumer (D2C) home and sleep solutions brand Wakefit.co launched the ‘Right to nap’ initiative earlier this year, a nod to the habit people developed while WFH of grabbing a siesta. Announcing this in a company statement, Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, the company’s co-founder and director said, “We decided to normalize afternoon naps at work and declare 2 to 2:30 pm as official nap time for all our employees…their calendars will be blocked during this time as official nap time.”

He said that the Bengaluru-based start-up took this decision because research shows that afternoon naps help with memory, concentration, creativity, and productivity. He cited a NASA study that revealed that a 26-minute catnap can enhance performance by 33 per cent, while a Harvard study shows how naps prevent burnout.

Another start-up that is keeping their employees engaged and happy is the Good Glamm Group. Dispensing the attendance system, the lifestyle D2C brand introduced the Amber chatbot. It connects with employees regularly to check on their feeling including whether they are feeling burnt out. The company claimed that this digital tool has helped it proactively identify employees feeling disengaged and then work on ways to retain them in the organisation.

Employee wellbeing
By incorporating employee-first policies, companies can also mitigate any potential business disruption

Business As Usual

By incorporating employee-first policies, companies can also mitigate any potential business disruption. Meesho’s business plans, for instance, are designed considering the implementation of such breaks like the 11-day reset break, ensuring minimum to nil impact to business operations.

“Recognising the possibility of unforeseen situations, we had planned for an exigency well in advance so that it does not affect important business matters that may need any special attention. We also undertake corrective measures to ensure business is sustained with zero disruption,” Singh said.

In the past, Meesho announced a ‘boundary-less’ workplace model, infinite wellness leave, 30-week gender-neutral parental leave as well as 30-day gender reassignment leave. In the backdrop of an unstable macroeconomic condition and high demand of tech talent, the company claimed that these initiatives have ensured that its retention is twice that of the start-up sector.

Building a people-centric organisation with a boundary-less workplace model can help companies get positive response across the board— be it employees, customers or investors. 

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