Solving problem of both employee and company

As much as President Obama would like to keep jobs in the United States, jobs continue to pour into India in the IT sector, callcentres and off shore support services. Companies here are under pressure to deliver and meet deadlines — working 24/7.

On the upside, a booming economy and surplus wealth among the middle classes to splurge on luxury and items. But on the downside, the effects could be disastrous as work pressure mounts. Employees are put to work round the clock with no respite resulting in total burn out, serious health issues and the extreme case of suicides.

One of the facilities companies now provide in their (EAPs) employee assistance programmes is counselling, which is still considered alien in our society. Being in counselling or therapy has a certain stigma attached to the idea. Somehow it seems relevant to the West, but here people frown at the concept. But it is fine to seek counsel from elders or religious leaders.

Gradually, employees are seeking help but wish to remain anonymous for fear of the tag ‘psychologically imbalanced’. Organisations that care for their employees, for whom reputation and image is valuable have come to recognise that counselling in some ways can combat and ease the many ills facing the industry.

Disrupted lifestyle

A case in point in the IT sector is when employees totally immerse themselves in projects for days or months on end where their normal lifestyle goes haywire. Lack of adequate sleep, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, continuous intake of beverages and excessive smoking, can lead to serious health problems including cardiac arrests in professionals as young as in their 30s.

BPOs face similar issues as well. Some employees are comparatively younger and join the work force after plus two. Again, long hours of work, night shifts and the monotony tend to make them irritable and emotional, which impacts upon the effectiveness and productivity, especially when servicing clients globally over the telephone. The same is true for medical transcriptionists.

Those using computers continuously encounter certain physical ailments namely — carpel tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the nerves at the wrist) tunnel vision, acute lower back pain, obesity, poor blood circulation, headaches, nausea, neck pain, lethargy and posture problems. A 10 minute (SRE) ‘Stress relieving exercises’ break for every hour in front of the computer would do wonders to stem (RSI) ‘Repetitive stress injuries’ to a large extent. Companies hardly adhere to this necessity, thereby forsaking the health of its employees.

Besides exercises, counselling is vital and important for the general wellbeing of the employees and the organisation. Employees have to deal with a whole lot of problems — emotional, interpersonal, over work-load, conflict with superiors, subordinates and management, etc. Personal problems creep in inadvertently.

A professional counsellor guides employees to come to terms with their emotions and feelings, helping them gain a better understanding of what ought to be their values and aspirations in life. Counselling should enable them to rely on their personal resources to
deal and cope with men and matters more effectively.

A simple case could involve a problem with a superior. The employee should address the problem himself after a proper analysis and seeking counsel to handle the problem in a decent, appropriate and effective manner.

A complex case could involve making a lifestyle change. An employee who is obese and with low self-esteem finds this an impediment to progress and growth in the company. A proper evaluation of the situation has to be made, information gathered to make changes. Once the information is got, it has to be applied to make a lifestyle change.

In this case the change has to be slow to allow the body and mind to get used to a new way of thinking, a new way of eating and exercising. With eating, the key is moderation and intake of just the right food. The same applies for exercise. The employee doesn’t have to spend hours at the gym to achieve permanent weight loss. Daily exercise should be intentional and gradual as well as generally being more active throughout the day.

Earlier an employee would bring a problem to the HR manager, and he would feel reluctant to address the issue for intruding in the privacy of the employee. But a counsellor, being an outsider and professional, can be objective, non-judgemental, maintain confidentiality and above all show empathy.

So, the next time you want to just talk and de-stress, your counsellor is just a phone call away. And companies today realise the importance of attracting and retaining highly skilled, quality employees. They have to care for the wellbeing of their employees to stay a cut above the rest.

(The writer is a health and fitness consultant and counsellor to corporates)

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