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Why pandemic stress isn't going away anytime soon

A new study says that while businesses have been supportive of their employee's mental health, extra pandemic responsibilities continue to be a challenge for workers in India

Employees are stressed because of extra pandemic responsibilities
Employees are stressed because of extra pandemic responsibilities (Elisa Ventur, Unsplash)

According to a report, mental health support is high in India, but there is still a long way to go as employees are taking on extra pandemic responsibilities. A study by leading payroll and human capital management (HCM) technology provider, ADP titled 'People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View',  says that support for mental health in India fared higher than the global average.

Around 70 per cent of workers in India said their employer supported their mental wellbeing compared to 65 per cent globally. "It's great to see so many businesses recognising the emotional and psychological toll the pandemic is having on their workforce and putting constructive measures in place to help them handle it," Rahul Goyal, ADP's Managing Director of India and Southeast Asia, said.

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Goyal further noted that "it is interesting but unsurprising to see Indian employees feel more supported compared to the rest of the world. Many Indian companies during the pandemic have helped employees with regular reach-outs, 24/7 counselling helplines, and even additional leave specifically for mental wellbeing."

Despite the support, stress caused by the pandemic has still been a significant challenge for workers in India. The global study of more than 32,000 people noted that due to COVID-19, employees' time and productivity are being increasingly monitored, risking further stress. Moreover, 1 in 3 respondents said they have taken on extra responsibilities since the pandemic.

Staying healthy and balancing work and family needs were rated as the most significant challenges at work since COVID-19 began, as cited by almost 20 per cent of workers. Creating a safe home working environment and stress management were the biggest challenges by around 12 per cent, followed by maintaining productivity (9 per cent) and building relationships (7 per cent).

Globally, the study also found that more than 62 per cent of participants say that their employer is more closely monitoring time and work attendance. This increased to 72 per cent for workers in India. "Efforts to support the mental wellbeing of staff are positive; however, employers are keeping such close tabs on attendance and time-management. This can add to feelings of stress and anxiety for workers," Goyal said.

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This change in the way employees work has thrown up a multitude of new challenges for workers and businesses alike. While employers need to adapt quickly, they must also tread carefully. Being seen to be appropriately managing issues around stress, wellbeing, productivity, and morale is likely to be a key preoccupation for managers and HR teams alike in the future.

"HR departments can lead the way in improving culture and workplace practices moving forward. Understanding how teams and managers work together and using employee data to identify opportunities for improvement is the first step," Goyal said. 

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