Mental Health Day – Just Today?

Now that we have survived a tough dark alley of healthcare crisis, we are inches away from its domino effect – from respiratory health to mental health

CIOL Bureau
New Update

Pratima H


Why is it getting tougher and tougher to stay sane, balanced, happy, contended and positive – that too, in a decade where we have all the comforts of life, and yet we struggle with imagined monsters? Is technology on our side, or with these monsters?

Word goes that the most clever stroke that Steven Spielberg ever used in a movie was the art of Wu Wei. He made the deliberate act of not showing the shark for a long-long time in the movie ‘Jaws’. Yes, the shark. Supposedly, the main protagonist or antagonist in the movie. The creature around which the whole movie revolves! Left ‘not shown’. Deliberately.

He was spot-on though. Nothing that he could have created, no matter how gory, how scary, how fierce could have ever matched the imagination in a viewer’s mind.


That’s the power of human mind- and its flip side too.

Now that we have survived a tough dark alley of human healthcare crisis, we are inches away from witnessing its domino effect – from respiratory health to mental health. Or maybe, we are already witnessing it. The hangover has already begun. In the most unexpected places possible.

A lot of news-ink in the recent weeks have been poured over the hard-to-explain trend of the ‘Great Resignation’. As per some of the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 3.98 million workers quit in July; and 3.99 million walked out in April. Experts have also augured that if not for the pandemic, 3.7 million more people would have quit their jobs and we call them ‘missing quits’.


Even the latest quarterly IFO institute survey corroborates the wave. The lack of skilled workers stood at 34.6 percent in July, up from 23.6 percent in April. It was observed to be the highest value since the second quarter of 2018 and the second highest on record.

If we look at a Microsoft study, the trend emerges there too. It has been seen that 41 per cent of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year. In the 2021 Work Trend Index, 46 percent were seen planning to make a major pivot or career transition.

Digital overload is a reality – there was a 45 per cent jump between February 2020 and 2021 and a 40.5 B rise in emails while weekly meeting time has more than doubled (148 per cent) for Team users.


Survey respondents showed enough hints for explanation of this fatigue and disillusionment – some employees are likely to struggle balancing work with life (+8 percentage points) and to feel exhausted after a typical day of work (+8 percentage points) when compared to older generations. Gen Z also is also expressing difficulties feeling engaged or excited about work, getting a word in during meetings, and bringing new ideas to the table. 

Interestingly, some Visier data shows that Employee resignations in 2021 are trending upwards–especially in Tech and Healthcare. Here - it has been seen that resignations are occurring most amongst mid-career workers with the 40-45 age group experiencing the greatest increase in resignations at 27.9 per cent. 

The wave is hitting workplaces hard – no matter what sector or segment we are talking about.


It is not hard to spell out why. There are a host of reasons:

1. The rise in distance or anonymity can allow rude behaviours to get ugly and frequent- specially when one is on a video call or in a virtual meeting room

2. Pandemic-fatigue is leading to rise in psychological distress and emotional depletion


3. Workplace-bullying is finally taking its toll – on already-exhausted and disoriented employees

4. A big wake-up call on ‘where is my work-life balance’ which the lock-down allowed more time to reflect upon

5. Stronger blurring of personal and professional lines


6. The Ikea Effect – people are less willing to part with flexibility and control now that they have tasted it during the remote-work scenarios

And if employees are not feeling happy enough to be on their jobs, it’s a big canary in a big coal mine. Why are people hopping out? Why are young people opting to ‘lie flat’ as a form of rebellion against capitalism, mental stress, skewed work-life balance and low quality-of-life? Is Tang Ping just a Chinese worry or would it make way to other parts of the world like an infectious trend?

Hypothetically – if that happens, are we ready enough? The big question boils down to mental-health quality yet again.

Sarvesh Shashi, Founder, SARVA, the Yoga and Mindfulness movement that delivers on-demand yoga work-outs, reckons the gravity of the mental health issue for workplaces in India as we move ahead to post-pandemic rebooting. “Well, firstly thank you for raising this subject. We believe that awareness about mental health is a very important step to solving the challenge. There have been several researches being done on the subject. And the recurring themes in major research papers are these:

1.    Teams grappling with burnout. They’re constantly working.

2.    Lack of socialisation and negative feelings stemming from it.

3.    Higher stress levels and inability to de-stress

4.    No distinction in personal and professional life.

These challenges cannot be brushed under the rug and need to be accepted as very real, very human problems we are all dealing with.” Shashi opines that as offices open up another layer of stress is the fear/anxiety of contracting the virus. “These can definitely hamper the emotional wellness of an individual. As we reboot, these challenges will have to be addressed well.”  

Steven Spielberg must mean something when he says this - All of us every single year, we're a different person. I don't think we're the same person all our lives.

Ask Shuchita Gupta, Associate Director, Sustainable Solutions, Space Matrix and you can hear the echo clearly. “The pandemic has dramatically altered the way we live and work. The associated changes have resulted in various mental and psychological stresses among the majority of the Indian corporate workforce. Increased distance from loved ones, uncertainty about the future, fear of losing loved ones, fear of job loss etc are major trigger factors.”

As per ‘The Way We Work’ survey conducted by Space Matrix earlier this year, a large section of the workforce is also stressed due to lack of adequate human engagement and collaboration in the remote working times.

Gupta reminds that a staggering one-third of the workforce will be affected by mental health challenges as the world transitions towards a new normal (as per some estimates). “It is no secret that mental health has a domino effect on performance, wellness and the ability to fulfil personal and professional responsibilities. Hence, it is highly imperative for corporate decision makers across industries to proactively focus on mental health promotion among their employees through technology, design and company policies and reboot their workspaces to ensure better mental health for their employees and eliminate the stress factors.”

Don’t Let Em Drown

 “C’mon, beat Spielberg!” Can you believe his entire class was cheering for an intellectually-challenged guy when he was racing against Spielberg, for the last spot in a race? For Spielberg though, even at that young an age, letting this guy win was the clear and generous thing to do. 

Can we, as an industry, show some empathy and understanding? It’s time to step in and take proactive action to help people stay sane and mentally-alive at work. It has to be more than a boilerplate quote. Companies need to find time, money and the will to take mental wellbeing of their workforce very seriously.

Aruna Joshi, author of books like ‘The Happiness Manual – 21 Ways to stay Happy no matter what’, and ‘The Subtle Art of Dealing With people’ shares some prescription for employers to keep their talent safe, engaged, interested and less-disillusioned in the ‘new normal’.

“One thing that drives us to stay enthusiastic and engaged is the ‘Purpose’ or the “Why” of our lives. We all have an innate desire to contribute in some way to the society. An altruistic act gives us a sense of fulfilment and direction to our lives. The employees feel safe and less-disillusioned if they feel a sense of ownership.” 

According to the Microsoft survey, during the lockdown mode of work – people have come closer in strange ways too. About one in five have met their colleagues’ pets or families virtually, one in six (17 percent) have cried with a colleague this year. Today, 39 percent of people are more likely to be their full, authentic selves at work and 31 percent are less likely to feel embarrassed or ashamed when their home life shows up at work. Those who have actually interacted with their co-workers more closely than before forged stronger work relationships. You know the best part? These were also people who reported higher productivity and better overall wellbeing!

There is a lot that can be done with/about technology in making sure that individuals/corporates strike a good balance between productivity and wellness. As Shuchita Gupta, Associate Director, Sustainable Solutions, Space Matrix points out – “There is a need for corporates to adopt a supportive stance wherein the infrastructure as well as cultural support system is built using technology and tools. From conversational AI solutions and discussing mental health to automation of routine tasks, and usage of IoT sensors to generate data about behavioural patterns at the workspace, all of these can help in enhancing employee experience.”  

I think tech plays a large role in both today. Whether it’s an app on your phone that reminds you to stay away from work, or one that tracks your meditation and workout, technology helps in measuring our health standards.

Sarvesh Shashi, Founder, SARVA

Gupta opines that usage of audio-visual elements such as relaxing and rejuvenating music, smart lighting and cooling that automatically adjusts according to the user’s preferences etc., are some other elements which are helping in the creation of a productivity-enhancing and wellness-oriented workplace. “Integration of digital mental health support through AI chat-bots within the company’s HR platform can be a highly useful tool. Other than that, usage of data insights to design and optimize workstations is also a key element that technology can help improve in the post-pandemic workspaces.”

Shashi cautions that while technology seamlessly transitions, it’s important that we learn to use technology in moderation and allow ourselves the much needed rest, by using wellness tracking apps just as religiously as we use productivity apps.

Not Another Horror Movie Please

A very strange hangover of the movie ‘Jaws’ was that there was a national wave of fear, a drop in beach tourism, and a sudden surge of shark-killings. Lots of education, awareness and environmental activism was needed to tell people that the shark-paranoia is not healthy.

So when we talk and act about mental health, we need to do it without stigma, prejudice and myopia. We have to make sure that. 

The big question of mental health is not something that can be trapped in a flimsy net. But it cannot be turned into another nightmare or taboo either. We just need to make long, consistent and sincere efforts in creating happier and better lives. Corporates and technology industry players have a lot to do here – because they ‘can’ do a lot here.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat.” as Roy Scheider from ‘Jaws’ would remind.

How can you help your employees?

 -To keep your employees engaged and interested, you can plan some kind of CSR activity where the employees are involved from planning to execution.

-Check on your team from time to time and talk to them on a personal level, listen to their problems, ask them about their well-being, so that they feel a sense of belonging. 

-You can plan some activities such as talent shows to develop a camaraderie and include their families too.

-Don’t forget to appreciate, acknowledge and reward your employees when they come up with bright ideas, or achieve goals or targets.

Suggested by: Aruna Joshi

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