“I’m stressed out!” is altogether too common a refrain to be heard in the cubicles of IT companies. “It’s because stress is a huge part of techie life. It’s really something that comes as a package deal with our jobs,” says Rohith George. He has been working with a major IT firm for the past decade and used to “extraordinarily long” working hours, especially when he is on a deadline. “I’ve often worked 14 hours a day in those instances,” he claims, surprisingly cheerfully, considering the circumstances, and surely jokingly when he adds: “There are two times only when I feel stressed... day and night!” No joke, it seems. From techie after techie the stories on stress are similar.
Divorce rates, nervous breakdowns, chronic fatigue, alcohol and tobacco abuse, low retention rates and the like are reportedly high in the IT corridors.
Dileep Choyapalli, who used to work in delivery process and who now works in human resources at IBS, says: “I think tight milestones are the primary reason for stress among techies. The amount of work we do is on the higher side too. If we take a step back and contemplate on our lifestyles, we are sort of programmed to work more!” That and the culture of not saying no, he adds. “Most of the time we find ourselves agreeing to more work even if we don’t have the time for it. It’s always a challenge not to say no.”
Anish, a techie who works at another MNC, adds: “Long working hours, very less family and off time, sitting for hours on end in front of the computer, lack of proper training and knowledge of the latest in the business of technology, are among the main reasons for stress among techies. The working culture within a company also contributes to stress – some companies are very strict about everything from dress codes to break time.”
Agreed, not all IT firms are all about equal work and play like it is at Google. However, almost all of them do go out on a limb to help their employees manage stress and strike a balance between career and home. Many of the big firms, it seems, have in-house doctors who visit the campus on scheduled days. Human resource personnel in companies often take the initiative to conduct regular sessions on stress management and counselling. They encourage group activities outside of work such as film, theatre and dance clubs (which are very popular as stress-busters in Technopark), and even organise wellness and fitness classes such as yoga for their employees. On that note, yoga, it seems, has still has not caught on in Technopark and the impact is limited to those who attend such classes, say HR professionals of a couple of companies.
IBS has a policy of running all inclusive employee engagement events on a frequent basis. “Not only does it nurture camaraderie among employees but these events are also stress-busters that everyone looks forward to. We also have an informal guidance programme going where we’ve noticed that employees who have been with us for years now, help out others, especially new recruits, on how to manage stress at work,” says Dileep, even as he heads to play in an intra-company football match.
Infosys too has such a system in place. “It’s an internal mechanism of support, whereby select senior employees act as counsellors to junior employees. They are given training for the same. Confidentiality is the key,” says an employee of the company.
While stress-management and counselling help-lines and/or forums exclusively for techies are the norm in IT firms in places like Bangalore, such a thing is only catching up in the city. Oracle and Infosys, for instance, have a doctor/psychologist on call. Employees can make calls to them – all confidentially, of course. Employees have the option to meet them face-to-face during their regular visits to the campuses. Oracle also has a ‘bunker room’ where employees can go for a quick shut eye. At another MNC in Technopark plans are underway to start a counselling hotline, as part of its popular employee assistance programme. Then, there is also Technopark’s clinic that functions on the club premises to ‘provides primary and preventive medical care support to employees and corporates’. Stress-busters unlimited!