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Why Indians Suffer Work Burnout

By SHOBHA WARRIER
Last updated on: November 27, 2023 10:52 IST
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'We all work hard and save money, and later spent it in hospitals!'

IMAGE: Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Tara Winstead/Pexels.com
 

The McKinsey Health Institute's 2023 survey conducted among 30,000 employees in 30 countries around the world found that Indian employees reported the highest level of workplace exhaustion at 62%, followed by Japan at 61%. Switzerland reported the least level of workplace exhaustion at 22%.

The highest rates of burnout symptoms was in India at 59%. Younger workers between 18 to 24, employees from smaller companies, and all workers who are non-managers reported higher burnout.

In September 2022, when Genius Consultants Limited conducted a survey on 'Workplace stress and its effect on Employee mental health', they found that 100% of participants said that workplace stress had an adverse effect on mental health.

77% of the participants confirmed that work related stress induced anxiety and depression. 82% of the participants also said that they suffered from health issues like immunodeficiency disorders, gastrointestinal disorders.

In another survey conducted by them in September 2023, they found that 71% of employees believed discrimination and partiality by the managers created workplace toxicity.

"In today's times, work happens not just in the office, but on the go too," R P Yadav, founder, chairman and CEO of Genius Consultants, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

IMAGE: Genius Consultants Limited conducted a survey on 'Workplace stress and its effect on Employee mental health', they found that 100% of participants said that workplace stress had an adverse effect on mental health. Photograph: Kind courtesy Genius Consultants

The 2023 McKinsey report says a staggering 62% of Indian employees experience workplace exhaustion while the global average is 20%. Why are Indian employees the most exhausted? Why are they made to work more?

It is not just the company that makes the employees work more. There are other factors that add to workplace exhaustion.

Though there are stipulated working hours, employees work more than 11 hours including travel, for example in a metro city. These days, even when you are travelling, you are on call. So in today's times, work happens not just in the office, but on the go too.

The report further found that the burnout is more among those below the age of 30. The exhaustion is less among those who are above the age of 30 and who work at a higher level.

According to me, the reasons for the burnout are: One, the workload which should be done by 10 people is done by 7 in most small companies and start-ups. This will create burnout of those 7 employees.

The second reason is personal ambition. When a person is very ambitious and competitive, he exerts himself more. This will result in burnout.

The third reason is, many companies take up lots of projects but do not have enough people to finish the work on time. This also will lead to the burnout of those who work on these projects.

And the fourth reason is, we are a developing country. When you are a developing country, people are also developing, in a sense.

In Europe, the developed part of the world, people end work by Thursday evening and restart on Monday afternoon giving them four days to relax and enjoy. That's why there is no growth in Europe now while India is growing at 7% to 8%. The fact is, when you are a growing economy, you have to work hard.

All these factors put together result in the burnout of employees.

You said, the burnout is more among those below the age of 30. If the young of India burn out fast, what kind of impact will it have on the Indian economy and society as a whole?

Yes, the burning out of those below the age of 30 will definitely have an impact on the individuals and also society as a whole.

We know that heart attacks have gone up among young people. So also high blood pressure and diabetes.

There was a time you saw 80% of the patients in the hospitals were old people. Not so today. 20% to 25% of the patients in the hospitals are young people.

So, after a few years, you will see more people with serious health problems in the country.

IMAGE: 77% of participants confirmed that work related stress induced anxiety and depression. Photograph: Kind courtesy Genius Consultants

When we are talking about workplace exhaustion and serious health problems among the youth, how can a person like N R Narayana Murthy ask people to work 70 hours a week?

We should look at the context in which he made that remark.

When a person starts his career, the ambition of every person is to reach as high as possible. You cannot become a vice president or a CEO unless you work hard and more than the others.

Working hard is directly proportionate to putting in more hours at work. Then, you need commitment and also consistency.

If you want to achieve high goals and stand out, you need these three aspects, much more than the majority of employees.

It is in this context that Narayana Murthy made the comment. He said if you want the Indian economy to be $30 trillion by 2030, like some people are talking about, you will have to work 70 hours a week.

How did America become the biggest economy in the world? How did China become a developed country and the second largest economy in the world? In both countries, people used to work more than 70 hours a week to reach such a position.

Now, they need not work so hard as they are developed countries. When a country is developed, there is money in the hands of the people and the economy is better. Then you can relax.

The irony is, we all work hard and save money, and later spent it in hospitals!

Was it inconsiderate of Narayana Murthy to make such a remark when the young have already started showing symptoms of exhaustion and health problems?

I will say, it is not correct to say that you get heart attacks and other health issues only when you work hard.

Narayana Murthy clarified later that while you work 70 hours a week, if you look after yourself by going for a morning walk, eat at right time, spend time with your family and sleep well, you can reduce health problems.

IMAGE: R P Yadav. Photograph: Kind courtesy R P Yadav

Who can do all these things after working 70 hours a week? Who will have the energy to go for a morning walk? Where is the time to spend time with the family? The person will be too exhausted after working for so many hours...

It is true that after working so hard, the person will want to sleep once he is at home, that too at 2 at night!

Yes, it can create medical problems among those who work such long hours.

How will this affect industry?

In the initial days of a company, it will benefit the company when employees work hard to achieve the target. That's the short-term gain.

But in the long term, it will not be beneficial. When the team burns out after 6 months or one year, the productivity comes down.

There should be checks and balance in terms of health and work.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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