News & Analysis

Tech Firms Put Mental Health at the Top of the Agenda

On World Mental Health Day 2020, CXOToday puts the spotlight on some technology companies that are putting mental health at the top of their business agenda.

Mental health

From increased isolation due to working from home to blurring work-life boundaries, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in increased stress levels for employees. A recently released LinkedIn report that surveyed professionals between April and September this year shows that nearly 40% professionals are experiencing increased stress or anxiety due to Covid-19.

While the economic repercussions of the ongoing pandemic have made IT professionals vulnerable to job uncertainty, financial instability, and bleak company outlook, as they continue to work remotely in social isolation, it has also given an opportunity for companies to use this time to rethink work-life balance and prioritize mental health.

On World Mental Health Day 2020, CXOToday puts the spotlight on some of these tech companies that are putting mental health at the top of their business agenda. Let’s hear from the experts…

“We’ve witnessed tremendous benefits of a strong tech-enabled virtual collaboration experience. We encourage colleagues to turn on video to feel more connected, make space for fun by using GIFs, stickers and emojis as a mode of expression and turning on live captions to be inclusive of colleagues with disabilities. We’ve seen a number of our teams schedule no-agenda ‘tea-breaks’ on a Microsoft Teams video call. Technology has helped virtualize the water cooler conversation that many miss these days. We also ensure our employees feel connected, heard and empowered to share their experiences through listening channels like Yammer and Workplace Analytics. To help leaders prioritize well-being for every employee, we’re introducing experiences to help structure the day, make space for breaks, nurture relationships, and stay on top of tasks. We are also partnering with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness and meditation experiences into the flow of work in Microsoft Teams. This experience will make it easier to find time to relax and recover. A new emotional check-in experience, also coming early next year, will allow employees to stay connected and empathetic to their teammates.” – Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources, India at Microsoft

 

“In the context of COVID-19 and the shift to remote working, HGS India has consciously realigned existing HR programs and redesigned new ones to address the overall wellness and mental health of employees. The new normal has seen almost all our employees working remotely…technology has been a big savior. While the delivery of work continues to be business as usual, employees are also facing challenges and stress caused by limited mobility, minimal positive news around, reduced boundaries between personal and professional space, etc. To boost employee morale, we have increased our engagement activities multi-fold, ranging from employee connects such as townhalls and skip-level meets, one-on-one connects with HR representatives to training sessions. To execute all these, we have been extensively making use of the audio/video conferencing apps, instant messaging apps, cloud storage and other digital tools to establish and sustain connects with our employees.” Shubhayu Sengupta, Senior Vice President – HR Head India, HGS

 

“People are increasingly getting comfortable with leveraging technology to manage their health and well-being. However, we are conscious that technology is only an enabler and it is in combination with human connection that we can create truly people centered experiences. At Accenture, we offer a variety of programs and tools that enable our people to take care of their mental wellness. For example, we offer an AI-enabled chatbot to provide mental health self-help techniques and access to mental wellness experts. We have introduced a meditation, sleep and relaxation app focused on the benefits of mindfulness. To help our people understand their stress signals, we have introduced a Bio type quiz, designed by Thriving Mind and Stanford Medicine. In addition to a 24/7 employee assistance helpline, our virtual training sessions now include resources for building mental resiliency to help people cope with the stress that could be created by physical distancing.” Lakshmi C, Managing Director and Lead, Human Resources, Accenture India

 

“At Clumio, the health and well-being of our employees have always been our top priority. During the early months of the pandemic, we quickly adopted the work-from-home model and leveraged video-calling and virtual-meeting platforms. We have encouraged and adopted a hybrid model of work by ensuring a safe work environment. Keeping employee wellness at the heart of all we do, we continued further, strongly on our culture of consistent and transparent communication. This helped keep those working remotely updated on new developments and initiatives and helped them make sense of changes, as we collectively navigated through the crisis. We are boosting employees’ mental health by encouraging them to eat well-balanced meals, exercise regularly to stay fit, stay in touch with friends and colleagues online and indulge in some ‘me time’ to de-stress and relax. We conducted Zoom happy hours frequently to stay connected and enjoy with our colleagues offline. As part of the session, we also celebrated the virtual baby shower of one of our colleagues recently. We were able to do all this with the help of remote working technology tools and creating wonderful virtual memories.” – Sandeep Soni, GM and Vice President of Engineering, India operations, Clumio

 

“At CSS Corp, we have launched several initiatives in line with leveraging technology towards advancing mental health and wellbeing. Our 24/7 employee assistance platform called ‘Turning Point’ provides counselling and aid to employees, along with HR chatbots that automate responses for queries, thus leading to faster issue resolutions. Additionally, we have been conducting virtual mindfulness sessions to enable employees to find the balance in the midst of their hectic schedules. It is to be noted that the increasing use of gadgets and technology could lead to ‘increased digital quarantine’ which can cause other health problems. Hence, it is crucial to be cognizant of one’s priorities and use technology appropriately. Also, there are limitations in the use of technology as it cannot replicate the human touch and reassurance. Sometimes, a simple pat on the back can be good enough to alleviate stress and anxiety.” – Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head of HR (Global) and Quality Control, CSS Corp

 

“Our top priority is to create an environment where our people can bring their whole selves to work and do the best work of their lives. Even through COVID-19, our goal has been to focus on their holistic wellbeing, safety, growth and development and this included ergonomic assistance, time off benefits to recharge or look after loved ones and other resources to better balance their work life and families. The pandemic has highlighted the power of technology, especially collaboration tools, enabling us to connect with each other, keeping productivity and morale high. We have been using various tools to ensure our employees have all the support that they require during this time- whether it is supporting the managers through interactive platforms and resources to lead their teams or for our employees to access ways to keep investing in themselves through virtual learning platforms. We created a microsite for our employees with all the essential resources to support them as they moved to a virtual work environment overnight and continuously check the employee pulse through virtual townhalls, engagement activities, etc, which help in boosting employee morale and provide much-needed breaks from work. We also have an Employee Assistance Program that our employees can make use of whenever they need it.” Sanket Atal, MD, Intuit India

 

“We, at Birlasoft leveraged technology to ensure that we continued to stay connected with our people, to foster the community spirit in our workforce by engaging with them proactively and meaningfully. To name a few unique events – we organized virtual game sessions, fitness challenges, #lockdownmoments contest for sharing positive memories, experiences during the lockdown on social media, and Virtual Antakshari. Additionally, in collaboration with our partners, we were able to stand upvia Virtual Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services and healthcare support for our employees and their families.  We are witnessing a new normal where technology and the virtual world would play a huge role in a business organization, perhaps through social architecture. This global pandemic has led us to better leverage online health services, and I truly believe that the online health consultations would only get consolidated over time as people combine safety and comfort interms of accessing healthcare services.” Arun Rao, Chief People Officer, Birlasoft

 

“At ThoughtWorks, we leverage tech platforms (like monday.com and Trello) to ensure task management is planned and coordinated amongst larger teams – this reduces the possibility of bandwidth issues that could contribute to stress. We also use digital workspaces (like Jamboard and Mural) for visual collaboration and brainstorming sessions. The People, and Diversity and Inclusion functions at ThoughtWorks leverage tools (like Peakon and Google Forms) to proactively run wellness surveys and gather real time insights into employee well-being. These insights help us constantly improve our responses/policies in the new normal, thereby better impacting employee morale and well-being. We encourage workers to communicate using the multiple available platforms (like Gchat, Zoom, Slack etc.) at an individual, team, region and function level. We also use them for employee counselling and mindfulness sessions and conducting employee-run group sessions – fitness for all, art, yoga etc. Our intranet is another channel used to share multiple formats (video, infograph, article) of relevant information with our employees. The pandemic has brought to fore the importance of mental health and we’re seeing an increased awareness and willingness to discuss mental health issues amongst our employees.” – Tina Vinod, Head – Diversity and Inclusion, ThoughtWorks

 

“A switch to the new normal has introduced us to innovate ways of collaborating and working together even though we are apart. In the light of the various changes the pandemic has brought, we must come together to support each other in our journey to emotional and mental wellbeing. We understand and realize this and are committed to prioritizing mental and emotional health – just as we prioritize other aspects of our employee’s wellbeing. We are happy to announce the launch of BYJU’S Let’s Talk – an employee wellness initiative. BYJUites will now be able to access 24X7 one-on-one online counseling via chat/video sessions in real-time from experts. Through this initiative, we aim to achieve a complete holistic wellness solution for employees helping them take care of all their emotional levels for personal and professional needs. We are contributing our bit for fostering conversations around mental health and wellbeing of people.” Pravin Prakash, Chief People’s Officer, BYJU’S

 

“Technology has been the great enabler and leveler as we drive a holistic focus on associate well-being, including mental and emotional health. Not only has it helped us deliver offerings at scale irrespective of location, technology also enables the creation of more personalized experiences as there’s no one silver bullet. It also creates a safe space for a topic as sensitive and personal as mental health. At Walmart Global Tech India, technology has been deployed in various forms to provide a range of options to our associates – from access to Thrive, a globally renowned wellness app, to virtual sessions by industry experts, to self-paced e learning modules. Even using surveys to gather feedback on the challenges of working virtually is an effective use of Technology. The challenge clearly is to replicate the immersive experience and social connect of in-person programs. But I believe that is compensated for by the personalization and reach that tech-enabled offerings provide, especially for a topic as sensitive as mental health.” – Sudeep Ralhan, VP – People, Walmart Global Tech India

 

“At GOQii, we have been using our network of mental health professionals for not only our players and clients but employees too. Our employees have access to the app and are encouraged to speak to professionals. Ever since the pandemic hit India, followed by an unprecedented lockdown, stress levels have been on the rise and according to GOQii’s recent survey, 43% of Indians are suffering from depression. It’s imperative that in a situation like this we take care of our employees. All our employees aim to get at least 6-7 hours sleep and monitor their sleep via the GOQii wearable given to them. We have leveraged our unique technology practices to advance mental health in the workforce. For example, our GOQii Play app allows people to watch live videos by experts on health, nutrition, exercise, yoga and meditation.  The app has doctors on-board that our employees can consult and also opt for personal coaching. We also introduced the GOQii Karma Points wherein for every 390 steps, users earn 1 Karma Point. You gain more points by walking and working out and then these karma points get converted to donations by our donor partners and we try to motivate our employees by letting them know that working out will garner them Karma points which will further help them to help people in need.” Vishal Gondal, Founder and CEO, GOQii

 

“During this work from home period, an important initiative at Talent500 is to consistently ensure there are engaging virtual huddles and group activities. Video conferencing technologies, like Zoom, have given us a platform to seamlessly connect with one another and organise games and other fun activities. Features to mask backgrounds have significantly aided in giving more folks comfort in switching their videos on, which was a challenge earlier. These activities, aided by technology, help us break the monotony and connect with our colleagues in a friendly setting.Another recent activity, conducted over a Zoom call, was a session with a wellbeing coach that was very helpful to our employees as it was a step toward practicing empathy and self-awareness. Activities like these do not cure deep and serious mental health problems that can arise. However, they are a step in the right direction of replicating the physical working experience to the virtual one.” Ashwin Kasturirangan, Co-founder, Talent500

 

 

“The ongoing global pandemic has turned lives and economies upside down. For past couple of months people have been juggling between office work and managing their personal life. During the initial months of COVID-19 outbreak, Amdocs with the intervention of technology;  ensured  its employees’ well-being and mental health with launch of ‘Virtually Together’. The website curated content to help employees beat stress and manage work life balance. We also launched ‘Employee Well-Being and Assistance Program (EWAP)’, a free 24*7 psychological support service to help employees and their families tackle issues of depression, anxiety and financial stress. Clearly, technology has been a major support system for people to stay connected, seek social support and counsel from friends, relatives, doctors etc. In future the virtual health services, counselling trend is expected to grow as people are realising and experiencing the benefits of technology as they now bring it use.” – Lynette D’silva, Head of Amdocs People, India and APAC at Amdocs

 

“Technology has played a pivotal role in ensuring business continuity throughout the pandemic. While it has supported organizations to keep people engaged and connected, communicating without any physical contact can lead to isolation and digital fatigue can begin to set in. Pitney Bowes has always made employees’ physical and mental well-being a priority. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have leveraged technology to hold virtual team connects, organized Mental Health sessions and hosted regular meditation and yoga workshops so that our employees are aptly able to adjust to the new normal of a fully-virtual work environment while balancing home responsibilities. This year, we will be hosting a ‘Mental Well-being Week’ in October with a series of webinars to encourage open dialogue on the importance of emotional health and to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues. We are partnering with expert organizations to help our employees understand their stress triggers and to capture the mental health of our organization.” – Ruchi Bhalla, Country Head – India Delivery Centers & VP HR (APAC), Pitney Bowes

 

“At Aeris, employee fitness and mental wellbeing has always been a very important part of our corporate culture. Our HR team has been working diligently to create a healthy environment for employees sitting at home, where we share tips of quick workout sessions, sitting and standing exercises to follow during work hours to ensure physical and mental wellbeing during these tough times. Since March, Aeris has conducted multiple online sessions on Yoga/fitness across our national and international offices. Also, Aeris India has been part of the global fitness challenges since its inception in 2016. This year, to create a connected exercising experience, the company has launched the initiative – ‘Journey around the Globe for Global Diversity Awareness Month’ in which employees across the globe will form regional groups to complete the challenge of Traveling 4,000 miles! We have daily/weekly scheduled meetups from leadership team to department wise employee meets on collaboration platforms, where we ensure that our employees get together to brainstorm, ideate and interact openly with other team members. We believe, it is not only HR’s responsibility to ensure employee wellbeing, our leaders are in regular touch with each of their team members on a one-on-one basis, approachable and available to hold informal discussions and extend support even at personal level.” – Sushant Patnaik is the Head-HR at Aeris Communications 

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com