We are in unprecedented time with no rule book to refer to. Here are some top of mind thoughts that can help businesses tide over this period.

We are all in an unprecedented situation with no rule book to refer to. The corona virus has hit us all, globally, with far reaching impact on individuals, small scale and large organizations alike, the economy at large. The current quasi lock down, with ban on social gatherings, schools, malls, cinema halls being shut down in different states, offices being shut down, work from home being advocated, individuals and families self-isolating to prevent spread of infection, are all good measures to prevent the situation from taking pandemic proportions in India.

At the same time, it is posing problems for businesses. How do we maintain business and work continuity in such situations? How do we manage, motivate and drive remote teams? How do we conduct events, that we normally do at the beginning or end of the year? How do we conduct performance appraisals and difficult conversations over a call? How do we complete selection processes? How do we ensure that employees continue to feel engaged with the organization?

These are all very valid questions and need to be addressed NOW. So that when things get back to normal, your workforce comes back stronger, charged to take on those stretch targets and assignments, which will come because the industry would have lost a month/ month and half of business. All companies will have to catchup, and now is the time to help build that engagement and resilience in the teams.

So, what do we do?

1.     Business processes that need to be tweaked to ensure remote working succeeds. Review your way of working, process flows etc and ensure people are enabled to do their job.

2.     Build managerial capability to keep employees engaged through this period. Instill simple processes, daily/ weekly reviews, skip level calls to ensure employees and their families are well.

3.     Stretch your leave/ medical policy to extend support to those who need it. Ensure Insurance companies and TPAs are engaged and spoken to respond quickly in times of emergency.

4.     Engage employees in new learning projects. Develop something new, new ideas, new processes.

5.     Continue bite sized learnings through online programs/ zoom sessions and webinars. At this time webinars on how to work remotely, manage self and others, psychological safety, managing stress and crisis will make sense and signal to your workforce that you care.

6.     Ongoing communication from Leaders- over zoom call/ emailers to keep employees engaged with what’s happening in the organization at a business and employee health and well-being level.

7.     Build Empathy- This is new to all of us and each individual, whether a leader, manager or an individual contributor would be dealing with some issue or the other. Build empathy is your conversations. Listen to what the other is saying and be there to help.

Let’s all remember, this too shall pass. And we shall emerge stronger, braver and more resilient. We just need to work together on building a strong, engaged and resilient workforce.

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Workplace Burnout, the new occupational hazard and how to cope with it

Ankita has been a star employee in her organisation but from the last few months, there has been a shift in her behaviour.She is late for work on a regular basis. Her enthusiasm has waned, and productivity has dropped. She is shying away from responsibilities and has frequent arguments with co-workers. Her manager is both concerned about her loss of productivity, as well as impact on overall team morale and ethos.

Such cases are not uncommon in organizations. The instances where otherwise high performing employees suddenly demonstrate a dip in their productivity, and commitment should be warning bells for managers and organizations.

Is this a problem with the employee(s)? Or there are other factors influencing their behavior? Are they feeling overwhelmed or underappreciated? Are they seeing value in the work they do? Do they feel supported? Are they going through some emotional or mental trauma, or fatigue, that need to be addressed.

Some Data & Facts

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized burnout as a mental condition stemming from chronic workforce stress.

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.

year-long study conducted by the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management found that Fortune 500 workers who were offered flexible scheduling felt more in control of their lives, more supported by their bosses, and more content with the amount of time they spent with their families. They also reported greater job satisfaction, less burnout, and a decrease in psychological distress.2019 State of Remote Work Report found that remote workers were 40 percent more likely to have been promoted in the past year than their in-office peers, and 27 percent more likely to feel they had growth opportunities.

Understanding Workplace Burnout

Burnout is an individual’s response to ongoing and chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors around them.

It doesn’t simply result from working too many hours in a high-demand environment. Rather, it is a multidimensional response with many complex causes.

There are three dimensions to the Burnout:

1. Exhaustion: Exhaustion results from the depletion of emotional resources to cope with the ongoing work and personal demands. This is the stressed out, overwhelmed employee.

2. Cynicism: Cynicism is an individual’s distant attitude toward the job. This is the disgruntled employee.

3. Inefficacy: Inefficacy is a reduction in personal accomplishment. This is the stressed out employee who has developed a cynical attitude and has given up trying.

Common causes of Burnout:

1. Extensive Job or personal demands that the individual might find overwhelming

2. Role Conflict& Ambiguity

3. Lack of Appropriate Resources to deal with demands

4. Lack of Social, organisational or family Support

5. Lack of Feedback/Rewards

6. Little Participation in Decision Making

Signs of Burnout in the Workplace

Burnout not only affects the employee’s performance, but impacts the performance of the team and work environment. Below are some effects of burnout in the workplace:

·        Unexplained absences from work

·        Showing up to work late/leaving early

·        Decrease in productivity

·        Apparent frustration

·        Decline in physical health

·        Lack of enthusiasm

·        Isolation

·        Frequent interpersonal conflict

How Manager / Organisations can prevent or deal with workplace burnout

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for helping your employees deal with burnout. Sending them off on vacation will not make the problem go away upon their return. A real change needs to be made to their work, their work environment, and their emotional state.

Below are some tips to manage workplace burnout:

1. Offer remote work opportunities: One of the most effective and widely-studied ways to improve employee well-being is to offer remote flexibility. It’s not hard to understand why remote options are such a coveted benefit, commuting has been shown to negatively impact mental health and overall life satisfaction.

Working from home eliminates this stress and gives employees complete control over their work environment, such as location, clothing choice, and potential distractions. Working from home also saves money, time, and other valuable resources, often providing employees the freedom to pursue endeavors that promote overall well-being.

2. Encourage real weekends and holidays: Burnout happens when people aren’t given enough time to disconnect, rest, focus on other aspects of life and recharge. This is why it’s so important for leaders to create an environment where taking time off is not only allowed but championed.

3.Flexible scheduling options: In a flexible environment, your team may still need to come into the office, but schedules are more customizable. While flexible scheduling doesn’t have the same allure as telecommuting, it can still dramatically reduce burnout and job-related stress.

4.Recognize, Reward & Promote: Recognizing employees’ hard work and contribution goes a long way in making them feel valued.Each employee’s contribution to the company should be acknowledged. Reward excellent performances with recognition and awards.

5. Clarify Expectations and Job Requirements: Another common reason that employees experience workplace burnout is because it is unclear what they should be doing. Perhaps their tasks are vague, or perhaps they get instructions and feedback from multiple superiors. Regardless, it is the manager’s job to make sure they know their precise role. Otherwise, money and time are wasted, and frustrations will continue to grow.

6.Encourage Stress Relievers: In addition to directly motivating your employees, encourage them to rejuvenate by allowing stress relievers: Let them listen to music while they work, flex their work hours, create a friendly work environment where people can speak up and engage. This will help your employees enjoy their time at work, while also demonstrating that you care about their well-being.

7.  Encourage Socializing: A moderate amount of socialization is optimal for team bonding to occur. Encourage employees to freely socialize on breaks, at lunch, or after work.

8.Educate Employees on Burnout: Provide information about burnout and how employees can prevent it. It should not be a “Taboo” topic to be pushed under the carpet. Instead, it should be addressed openly, and employees to be made aware that the organization is there to support them should they start to feel early signs. Hold awareness sessions where employees can be made aware of early symptoms, causes and manifestation, where they can ask relevant questions and get answers.

Burnout is a common phenomenon that no one is immune to.In today’s VUCA environment, it is even more of a threat to organizational morale, satisfaction scores and productivity than ever. Keeping Employee Health and Wellness as a priority will go a long way for organizations to build a strong, resilient and dependable work force, which will be the ultimate competitive edge an organization can have.

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Psychological Safety in Uncertain Times

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered anxious times across the globe. We are getting to experience extreme facets of the VUCA world. What we learn in the next few months could help us shape the future of work.

These challenging times require organizations and leaders to think differently about how they can lead and sail through these tough times. Organizations need to look at strengthening their connect with employees, engage with them more authentically to neutralize the impact of uncertainty.

This is where the concept of Psychological Safety comes in which can influence the organization’s connect with employees positively.

What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological Safety is about providing a safe space for employees to be their full selves. It is an environment in which they feel included, safe to learn, safe to contribute and safe to challenge the status quo without any fear of being penalized, embarrassed or marginalized.

As Amy Edmondson, a pioneer in Psychological Safety defines it as – “A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes”.

It plays a key role in organizational effectiveness and helps build trust and motivation in teams considering the present dynamic work environment. It lets you be yourself, make mistakes, disagree, take risks and ask questions.

Generates positive emotions in uncertain environment

Volatile situations often spark fight-or-flight responses and restrict employees from thinking clearly. Psychological safety breeds positive emotions like trust, curiosity and resilience which gives employees the strength to broaden perspectives and navigate through unprecedented times with confidence. Employees are more open-minded, motivated, and persistent when they feel emotionally safe.

Fosters Innovation

An organization’s ability to innovate is critical to success in changing world. Innovation is all about taking risks, experimenting, asking questions and even accepting failure. A psychologically safe environment mitigates the fear of taking risks and is key to nurturing new ideas in the workplace to cope with the changing times.

Creates High Performing teams

Research reveals that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the confidence that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. This belief allows for risk-taking, speaking your mind without fear, trying something unusual— just the types of behaviour that can make a difference.

Promotes inclusive culture

Psychological Safety promotes a “speak up” culture, where employees from diverse backgrounds irrespective of their sex, age, colour, race, ethnicity can express and share ideas /thoughts without any fear of being judged. It creates an environment for open communication. Psychological safety can help break bias patterns in the organization and shift from unconscious bias to conscious inclusion.

How can we bring in psychological safety in teams?
Reframe work as a learning opportunity

We should look at work as learning experiences which can either go well or teach us how to do things differently in the future rather than a failure. In Amy Edmondson’s Tedx Talk she suggests that we “frame work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.” If we have an atmosphere of psychological safety we are in what she terms a learning zone rather than the anxiety zone with low psychological safety, which negatively impacts our performance.

Demonstrate vulnerability

If leaders of the organization are able to display vulnerability, acknowledge their fallibilities it will provide unspoken permission to others in the team to do the same, and will become part of the team culture.

Earn and extend Trust

It is not enough to acknowledge that trust is critical, but it is important to be built in teams.It is easy to extend practical trust which is purely based on the competence and dependability of people you interact with. But extending and earning emotional trust (that one will be treated kindly and respectfully, that one won’t be judged for his/her failures and that one is comfortable sharing honest thoughts, feelings, and ideas) is the key to psychological safety.

Replace blame with curiosity

Blame and criticism lead to conflict, defensiveness and eventually to disengagement. The alternative to blame is curiosity. Being exploratory, asking for solutions will help the team identify effective solutions in times of crises.

Give employees voice

Create pathways to leadership, provide channels for feedback, and encourage conversation. Encourage upward communication to give employees opportunity to challenge the status quo, offer ideas and identify opportunities.

Creating this sense of psychological safety in your own team starting now, we can expect to see higher levels of engagement, increased motivation to tackle challenging situations like the one we are in, and will surely emerge stronger and victorious, and ready to take the world head on!

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EMOTIONAL DIVERSITY & WHY CONSTRUCTIVE EXPRESSION IS CRITICAL IN TODAY’S WORKPLACE ETHOS

Emotions are an intrinsic part of our daily life, personal as well as professional. Various emotions serve functional roles for us, helping us prioritize and regulate behaviour to adapt to a given situation. Emotional Diversity, also called Emodiversity, draws from research in the natural sciences on the benefits of biodiversity. Our emotional landscape can be compared to an ecosystem. An ecosystem is healthier when various species are in harmony, serving their own functional roles, and suffers when any one species is depleted or becomes overabundant, throwing off the balance.

In a study published in the journal of Emotion, researchers have found that better health could be linked to “emotional diversity” rather than just having positive emotions. Jordi Quoidback, in another related study report,  says that biodiversity increases resilience to negative events because a single predator cannot wipe out an entire ecosystem; similarly emodiversity can prevent specific emotions becoming overwhelming and enhances the emotional resilience of a person.

Intimately connected with the theory of Emodiversity is the concept of ‘constructive expression’ of emotions. Constructive Expression is expressing the negative emotions with problem-solution approach.

Most people typically avoid expressing the negative emotions like anger or disappointment to avoid conflict of any kind, while a few may choose to vent them out instantly, which may be destructive in many ways. Both are not desirable in any workplace.

The time of ‘the workplace is no place for expressing emotions’ philosophy is gone, replaced with the understanding that ‘suppressing emotions does not lessen the problem, rather leaving it fester until it eventually comes out in ways that will negatively affect relationships, performance, and productivity.’

Understandably, the ability to effectively express emotions is a desirable skill in today’s workplace. The benefits of upskilling your ability to constructively express emotions are multifold:

    • Nips it at the bud: Having an emotionally expressive conversation with an employee or a manager is far preferable to letting it fester and brew into a negative-emotionally charged conflict.
    • Enhances empathy: One can raise the amount of empathy that your co-workers feel for you by making it easier for them to understand why you feel that way.
    • Accentuates understanding: Employees who understand why decisions are being made are much more likely to agree with and respect those decisions.

It is also important to understand how to be mindful of triggers that generate the spectrum of emotions, and how to constructively channelize and articulate those emotions, for better relationships at work and at home.

We at Marching Sheep believe in diversity & inclusion with constructive expression, both at physical & emotional levels, to make a workplace progressive with an environment that makes the employees comfortable to communicate their concerns, self-doubts and actions without fear of judgment or biases, enabling them to overcome personal obstacles and maximize their potential.

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Turning Toward Instead of Away- The Emotional Bank Account

We all pay attention to your financial bank accounts—the deposits and withdrawals, the interest and penalties. After all money does the world go round…. But does it?

Are we mindful of our relationships, both at work and at home, that help us become better professional, and human beings. That help us better be at work, and better versions of ourselves?

Are aware of our emotional bank account?

Emotional bank accounts are the investments we make in relationships. The deposits we make when we help some one out, or support them, mentor them, give them a shoulder to lean on. The withdrawals are when we seek help. The balance of the two is our emotional bank account (EBA).

What is Emotional Bank Account?

Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) uses the metaphor of Emotional Bank Account to describe the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship. This is one of the most powerful concepts to date on building relationships based on trust. The basic tenet of this simple yet profound principle is that we maintain a personal “emotional” bank account with anyone who works or relates with us.

This concept is powerful because it transcends time, space and hierarchy; that is; it doesn’t matter whether you are the office cleaner, middle, senior management, or the boss. Thus, a kind word from anyone in the office to another person of any level is a deposit. When you do anything nice to anyone in your office without expectation of any good in return, that is a deposit. This includes making a nice cup of coffee for your busy colleague or offering free rides to your colleagues because it’s ‘along the way.’ Also, when you relate to your potential client as a flesh and blood human being rather than your potential bottom line, you are making a deposit.

The deposits do not stop there as it transcends time and space: After work, there are the ‘inner-circle’ people whom we relate to and love. A loving hug and a listening ear for our loved ones is definitely a deposit.

Stephen Covey describes 6 major ways of making deposits on the Emotional Bank Account:

    • Understanding the individual
    •  Attending to little things
    •  Keeping commitments
    •  Clarifying expectations;
    •  Showing personal integrity
    •  Apologizing sincerely when you make a “withdrawal”

What can we learn from the EBA?

What can we take away from the concept of the EBA? We are reminded that people, not material possessions, are the real deal. Walt Disney is right when he says: “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality”.

Secondly, the EBA reminds us to be ‘other-centered’. Being other-centered is the first step to ‘seeking first to understand, then to be understood.’ If we constantly make deposits into the accounts of everyone whom we interact with everyday, the account (trust) will be healthy and so will the relationship.

When your trust level is high, because you’ve made lots of deposits, communication is almost effortless. You can be yourself, and others understand and appreciate you. Then, when you make mistakes or offend someone unexpectedly, you draw on that reserve and the relationship still maintains a solid level of trust.

Conversely, when you are discourteous, disrespect others, interrupt others, speak sarcastically or ignore others, your emotional bank account becomes overdrawn because you have jeopardized the trust level. When the trust level is low, you have to be very careful of what you say; you tend to be more political.

Gottman concept of emotional bank account

According to the Gottman Institute, a relationship and counseling program who championed the idea of an emotional bank account in relationships, the key is to keep a ratio of 5:1. That’s five deposits for every ONE withdrawal. But that’s just in times of conflict or stress (like bedtime routine!). Otherwise a 20:1 ratio is ideal for everyday interactions! TWENTY!

This 5:1 ratio does suggest that you still need to say and do five positive things for every negative thing, even during an argument.

Emotional Bank Account at Work

When it comes to relationships at work, we make similar kinds of deposits or withdrawals in what is called an Emotional Bank Account (EBA). When the EBA balance is high, so is the resulting level of trust—and so is your ability to achieve the results you’re measured by. When the balance is low, trust plummets, the quality of your work suffers or slows down, and relationships suffer.

Below are the tips to build a strong emotional bank account at work:

1. Never deposit to withdraw – While there are similarities between a traditional bank account and an Emotional Bank Account, you should never accumulate a high emotional balance in order to make planned withdrawals later.

2. Know the other person’s currency – We all have individual forms of currency we’re willing to accept. What amounts to a deposit for one person in the office can be meaningless for another. Take time to learn what the important people in your workplace consider a deposit.

3. Communicate your own currency. You can’t expect people to read your mind. In the fast-paced world of work, it can cost you plenty if you do. Clarify and communicate your expectations before, during, and after every project. Doing so sets everyone up for success.

4. Make small, consistent deposits over time -Relationships grow in security and trust when they are built with frequent, meaningful contributions rather than occasional grand gestures. You need to draw from the deep well of deposits to turn a situation around.

5. Right wrongs: A piece of Eastern wisdom says, if you’re going to bow, bow low. In other words, when you mess up, make a sincere apology. There’s nothing more meaningful than admitting a mistake without making excuses for it. Doing so can be a huge deposit in the EBA of another, and an experience that will build strong trust.

By applying these tips for building healthy Emotional Bank Accounts, you not only develop habits of good character out of the meaningful deposits you make, but you build the kind of security and trust that can weather the mistakes of unintentional withdrawals in the future.

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International Women’s Day- What Does it stand for?

As we approach international women’s day 2020, on 8th March, the theme for which is #EachForEqual, it’s important to understand what it stands for. In an evolving society where gender norms and violence against women are still rampant, it is important to pause and understand why do we celebrate this day? Is it just about women? Is it about feminism?

That is where the values of IWD come in. Let’s see what they are-

1. Justice: Justice here simply means being afforded the same equal rights and opportunities to women as men. Equal opportunity does not mean equal treatment. It means creating a level playing ground when all genders have a right to contribute and grow to the best of their abilities.

2. Dignity: Dignity refers to the idea that all people, irrespective of gender, age, caste & status, have the right to be valued, respected and to receive ethical treatment. This is where work needs to be done on unconscious bias, social conditioning, gender norms and stereotypes. Every one has a right to their opinion and ideas and to voice them. And the organisations need to create a work environment where all voices are heard.

3. Hope: Hope is the essence of life for all humans, looking forward to improvement and growth. Creating career progression policies and career paths that allow for employees of all genders to manage their professional and personal life stages and continue to grow in the organisation is key to this value.

4. Equality: Equality means all people have equal opportunities to make the most of their lives and talents without any discrimination based on their background, gender or status. it is the very core of IWD. Along the employee lifecycle stages- from resume shortlisting to hiring to increments, promotions, learning opportunities, employees from the entire spectrum of diversity should get equal opportunities.

5. Collaboration: IWD calls for collaboration of women across communal and geographical boundaries. Societal mindset and norms cannot change overnight. It requires collective efforts from both men and women, across families, organisations and governments.

6. Tenacity: IWD is the major day for rallying action, driving visibility and applauding women in a resolute & consistent way. Change will take time. It’s a slow burn and will require tenacity and resilience. Hence IWD is not once a year activity, but a celebration of what we do round the year to drive diversity and inclusion.

7. Appreciation: IWD celebrates the achievements of women from all walks of life. Every one likes to be recognised and appreciated for their contribution and achievements, at work and in personal life. Building a culture of recognition and appreciation, based on merit will help drive this value.

8. Respect: Respect for others and respect for self play a central part in forging gender equality. Respect every one- different genders, generations, people from different cultures, different functions, what have you. Every one has a role to play, and every one is a human being first before anything else.

9. Empathy: IWD calls for valuing diversity and caring for all without any biases to forge an inclusive and progressive world. Listen, be present. Build trust and empathy in the team and workplace. Extend support. Building empathy across all levels in the organisation will go a long way in building a cohesive, collaborative, inclusive workforce.

10. Forgiveness: Forgiveness for all the past wrongs is vital to establish inclusiveness under all forms of diversity. Norms and stereotypes have existed and will continue to. It’s only awareness and continued effort that will help bring about change.

These values are the bedrock foundation for an inclusive society. Let’s all join hands to imbibe these values in their true spirit and to celebrate the diversity with an open mind. Hence International Women’s day is not just one day, but a celebration of all the work done in driving the diversity agenda, and a promise of what to do next!

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Promoting Mental Well Being at Workplace – A Holistic Approach

We are in 2020, but Mental Health in India is fast becoming a cause for concern. As per WHO, mental illnesses constitute one sixth of all health-related disorders and India accounts for nearly 15% of global mental disorders. By end of 2020, roughly 20% of India will suffer from some form of mental illness.

Beyond these staggering numbers, it is important to recognize the voids in how mental health is understood and dealt with in our country. The lack of awareness on this subject, the old age-stigma associated with it, lack of trained professionals are reasons for the low priority given to mental healthcare in India.

One never hesitates from taking medication for high blood pressure, diabetes or wait to go to the hospital, if one experiences any physical pain. We do not hesitate in sharing and speaking about our physical ailments with our near and dear ones, family, friends and colleagues. But how often do we seek treatment for mental health issues. Are we comfortable in sharing that we are having anxiety or panic attacks, battle with depression or worse?

We often tend to forget that it is stress and mental issues like depression and anxiety which debilitate our health silently. They are in fact a major reason for most of the above physical illnesses.

In fact, India adopted its first act on mental health care as late as 2017 which covered medical services for people with mental illnesses but did not make provision for awareness on mental health.

Productivity Burden of Mental Illness

There are multiple researches which highlight the impact mental health has on productivity. The WHO has estimated that India alone will suffer economic losses amounting to 1.03 trillion dollars from mental health conditions between 2012 and 2030.

In addition to the direct costs to the economy associated with mental illness, there are many indirect costs which impact productivity. Research reveals that the most stressful thoughts in people’s minds are work related. Factors like job insecurity, challenging targets, performance pressure and even office politics at work lead to increased stress levels which physically, mentally and emotionally drain the employees. And when a person is mentally stressed, it limits her/him functionally. Reduced capacity to focus, handle pressure, respond to change, deal with negative feedback leads to increase in absenteeism and presenteeism  physically being at work but not working, underperformance, overstaffing to cover absences, conflict at work and the personal front. Without appropriate support and medication such employees struggle to manage, call in sick, and at times end up quitting adding to cost related to recruitment and retention.

Approach towards Employee Well Being and Mental Health

Again quoting WHO, mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his/her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. “

To realise this aspirational state of affairs, organizations have a key role to play.

Well-being cannot be an isolated program or initiative. Well-being is purpose-driven and woven into the fabric of an organization’s values and the employee experience. It is inextricably linked to policies, programs and benefits as well as to desired culture, productivity improvement, talent retention and sustainability of business at large.

Achieving health in the workplace begins by building and sustaining workplace culture that enhance health and well-being. Robust relationships with managers and colleagues, open communication, level of employee participation, level of responsibility, authority and decision making, optimal workload, flexible working hours, and career development prospects are key factors which define the work culture of an organization. Creation of a healthy company culture begins with top leadership support and includes every level of the management from leaders to line managers.

Regular training and sensitization programs on issues around mental health will help improve awareness on mental health issues. Tools like online courses, videos, and reading materials would improve mental health literacy in the organization and aid people managers to communicate with employees in a more sensitive and empathetic manner.

Beyond the steps taken around prevention, employers should also have in place support for employees showing signs of mental health problems. Identifying early signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression and other mental health problems through monitoring and screening tools, providing forums like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can help with diagnosis and treatment on time.  Also, organizations need to provide appropriate forums which encourage employees to share their success stories on dealing with such issues, encourage them to speak about it without inhibitions and come forward to seek help. This would be a critical step aimed at demystifying the stigma around mental health and its treatment.

Having occasional health talks or just doing a health camp will not be enough to move the needle. Organizations need to have well-being programs that are comprehensive and sustainable. Programs that can bring a change in employee behaviours and inculcate habits towards a healthy and stress-free lifestyle. Only then organizations will see a bend in their healthcare cost trends and improvement in work quality and productivity.

When we say comprehensive, the program should help improve well-being of employees around multiple health dimensions- physical, social, emotional and even financial.

Organizations need to understand that stress triggers vary from employee to employee depending on the different life stages they are in. For example, with Millennials and Generation Z entering our workforce and their changing focus from sales targets to aspects like work life balance and value creation, emotional and social wellness are becoming important which focus on being more self-aware, accepting diversity, being inclusive, supporting and collaborating with others. On the other hand, a new mother may seek help on postpartum depression, stress management or seek support through flexible working hours etc.

Organizational support should not end as the employee leaves office. Concerns around family, finances can also be major stress triggers which impact work. Having 24/7 access to counsellors/trainers can help in such situations.

Well-being programs need to be sustainable to see the desired change in the behaviours of its employees. This can be done by introducing programs which encourage continuous communication, engagement of employees and recognition – offering financial incentives for a healthy lifestyle.

From physical infrastructure like in house gyms, on campus doctors/pharmacy, nap rooms, standing desks, to offering healthy meals, introducing flexible policies, running awareness sessions/campaigns, having in house counsellors, it is heartening to see how some organizations have taken major strides in their journey towards the overall well-being of their employees. With the challenges of today’s VUCA environment (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), and increased levels of stress, mental wellbeing of employees will continue to be a focus area for organizations in years to come. However it will take a comprehensive and sustained approach to deal with it holistically and effectively.

 

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Human Rights Day: Relevance & Impact

To deny people their rights is to challenge their very humanity.

 -Nelson Mandela

What are Human Rights?

As per United Nations “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.”

10th December, every year is observed as Human Rights Day – the day United Nations General Assembly in 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UHDR is a landmark document, asserting the inalienable fundamental rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being. Rights that are universal and egalitarian. Observing this day is reiterating our commitment towards equal human rights, towards worth of humans, to promote social progress and improved standards of life.

While the role of Eleanor Roosevelt in drafting committee of the UDHR, is well known, Hansa Mehta from India deserves a mention. A staunch fighter for women’s rights and the only other female delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1947-48, she is credited with changing the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the UHDR.

 Human Rights in India

Human Rights in India is a topic complicated by its large size and incredible diversity. India has taken important strides with respect to legal reforms on various aspects of human rights in the recent years like the reading down of Section 377 which decriminalized consensual adult same-sex relations, passing of Transgender Persons Bill towards protecting the rights of transgender community, enactment of RPD (Rights of persons with Disability) bill, aimed at facilitating greater access to public places, education, employment and healthcare to PwDs, the Criminal Law (amendment) Act, stipulating stringent punishment against rape particularly of girls below 12 & 16 years, introducing fast track trials, Beti bachao beti padhao project to prevent gender based sex selection and promote female education and so on.

Despite the introduction of multiple laws and schemes to augment the level of human rights in the country, problems remain. Discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, and access to health care continue. In the report on ‘Disability Employment’ by TRRAIN (Trust for Retailers & Retail Associates of India), it is estimated that there are about 6-10 crore Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in India and of them around 1.23 crore in India are uneducated. Though 36 per cent are employed, almost 90 per cent have jobs only in the unorganized sector. Private-sector employment of persons with disabilities has remained low.

The Transgender Persons Bill failed to adequately protect the community, including transgender people’s right to self-identify. LGBTQ groups continue to face widespread societal discrimination and violence, particularly in rural areas.

Numerous cases of brutal rapes across the country expose the failures of the criminal justice system. Girls and women continue to face barriers in reporting such crimes. Victim-blaming is still rampant and inadequate protection laws for witnesses and victims make them even more vulnerable to harassment and threats. Incidents of gang rape of minors have remained prevalent.Whether it is the Nirbhaya case, Unnao case, Kathua case or the recent Hyderabad (Priyanka Reddy) case, these clearly highlight how inefficient our justice system is to protect the basic human rights of women. Even after introducing stringent laws, fast track trials, and numerous candle marches, it has been 7 years and we are yet to see these translate into justice in the Nirbhaya case.

In rural parts of India, discriminatory and abusive practices by local authorities continue unabated. Unofficial village councils like the Khaps in several Indian states, made up of men from dominant castes issue diktats restricting women’s mobility and rights, and condemning couples for marrying outside their caste or religion etc leading to so-called “honor killings” in states like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

Human Rights and Role of Organizations

Harmonizing economic growth with the protection of human rights is one of the great challenges we face today. Keeping this challenge in mind, human rights is a key performance indicator for organizations all over the world. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) offers a concrete framework of the duties and responsibilities of businesses to protect human rights.

Organizations have a significant role to play in protecting human rights. Firstly, they need to acknowledge their responsibilities for ensuring their actions are consistent with human rights. This is the first critical step towards public accountability.

Secondly, organizations need to institutionalise their concern for human rights through their decision making, policies, practices and their operational structure of business. It is their responsibility to provide a safe and equitable work environment for women and vulnerable communities like the LGBTQ community and PwDs at the workplace. They need to adopt a zero tolerance policy on any form of workplace discrimination – by strict adherence to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, defining clear anti-discriminatory policies and creating a robust grievance redressal mechanism to counter evils like sexual harassment and bullying at the workplace. With the current state of affairs, they need to go the extra mile to ensure safety of women. It could be in terms of their working hours, travel or even introduction of self-defence trainings for them. Simultaneously, enhancing awareness amongst employees on these through regular trainings/sessions is equally important.

Providing equal opportunities would begin with employing and engaging with PwDs, LGBTQ and other minority communities. Organizations can tie up with agencies/NGOs exclusively offering recruitment support in this area. At the same time ensure inclusive workplace facilities and appropriate infrastructure for them. For an inclusive and equitable culture, organizations need to inculcate practices that are fair like bringing in parity in compensation across genders and providing equal opportunities to all basis merit and performance.

Organizations also have a part to play in supporting the cause outside the workplace. They can drive community development and build social infrastructure through several CSR initiatives like preventive community healthcare, education, enhancing vocational skills and contribution in rural development projects etc.

Lastly, organizations should have formal mechanisms like social audits and reports to measure their performance on human rights issues. This will bring in greater transparency in their efforts to promote the same.

India is becoming a super-power but still majority of the population is facing serious obstacles to acquire even their basic rights. We need the concerned authorities across levels, whether it is the government, judiciary or even organizations to take concrete actions to safeguard the rights of its people. We need an approach which is proactive and result oriented rather that one which is reactive in nature. We can’t wait for more brutal incidents to happen, violating human rights and then expect remedial actions to be taken. The authorities need to be accountable for their actions and focus on effective implementation of laws/policies at the grassroot level to see a progress on human rights in India.

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Dispelling Myths Around Diversity & Inclusion

Since its initial entry in the corporate world, diversity and inclusion has acquired a considerable following. The importance of D&I in organizational context has increased manifold and policies & practices around D&I are becoming almost ubiquitous in the current organizational setup.

There are many misconceptions around this topic that are still doing the rounds. Myths that are being relied on, in the upbeat pursuit of diversity and inclusion. We all would agree that when dealing with incomplete information or lack of understanding on this topic, implementation becomes undeniably difficult. To create a lasting impact, it is important organizations do not bank on common misperceptions but ensure that their journey is fact based.

Some Common Myths

1.   Diversity and inclusion are the same

Often diversity and inclusion are used together and are considered having the same meaning. Both these words are interwoven when we think about creating a diverse and inclusive environment and are repeatedly used interchangeably. Though these are correlated, but we fail to acknowledge them as different concepts and the distinct nuances each of these words bring with them.

Diversity is all about human differences in terms of traits like age, race, gender, religion, physical disability, religion, sexual orientation etc. In an organization, it is often assessed in terms of quantity like share of women in the workforce, generational ratio in teams, percentage of PwDs & LGBTQ in different functions, number of women in leadership and so on.

Inclusion on the other hand is a cultural and environmental feeling of belonging. It is the extent to which employees feel accepted, valued and appreciated in the organization. If diversity is about quantity, inclusion is about quality. It is about implementing practices, fostering a culture and changing mindsets to make people from different backgrounds feel safe, comfortable and respected.

While diversity and inclusion are not the same but are incomplete without one another. Diversity without inclusion is not justified, and inclusion without diversity is simply hypothetical.

2.   D&I is the responsibility of HR

Driving the agenda of Diversity and Inclusion is habitually deemed to be the responsibility of the human resources function. Organizations need to understand whether steering D&I is just a HR initiative or is it truly essential for the growth of business. Leaders who acknowledge this difference and envisage its benefits ensure that driving D&I becomes a part of the DNA of the organization, a business strategy and not merely a HR program. It should be a leadership priority which is embraced by all. It must be the shared responsibility of leaders, managers, supervisors and employees to value diverse employees and make them feel included.

Further, having understood the essence of driving D&I across the organization, it would be unrealistic for HR alone, with limited team and resources to be put up against monumental challenges of bringing in changes in the culture and mindset of an entire organization. It is important for everyone and most importantly leaders, to not just endorse but engage in this entire process.

3.   Diversity is all about women and minorities in the workplace

When most of us talk of diversity and the initiatives which support it, we limit our thoughts to only gender and minorities. According to Gallup report 2018, diversity is “the full spectrum of human differences”. Hence, it is not restricted to gender or a certain set of minority groups, but covers other dimensions of diversity like age, disability, ethnic background and also invisible traits like marital status, sexual orientation, background and mindset.

Acknowledging all forms of diversity is important to comprehend how they manifest in the organization and impact its ethos and practices. Being mindful of the fact that every organization is at a different stage in its D&I journey, each facet of diversity has a unique bearing on the culture of the organization. Hence, we need to broaden our view and recognize how diversity will enable organizations to foster a more collaborative workplace.

4.   Diversity is a pipeline problem

We often hear that challenges in bringing on board diverse employees is a pipeline problem because there is lack of skilled and qualified candidates from the underrepresented groups in the market, including women, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities or any other minority group in focus.  It is true to some extent that some minorities are underrepresented in higher education, particularly in STEM field. But real reasons like recruitment biases confronted by them at the time of hiring, hostile work environment and unfair treatment at work cannot be overlooked. These are the main reason for their attrition and making the pipeline leaky in the first place. Hence, to say that there simply aren’t any skilled candidates in the market is a misconception. It is incorrect for lack of diversity to be reduced to a pipeline problem.

Organizations need to work on these prejudices and introduce inclusive processes and practices to fix the leaky pipeline.

5.   Diversity means lowering the bar or violating meritocracy

One of the most commonly cited rationales against D&I is that companies are meritocratic and to be diverse will have to compromise the quality of the people they are hiring. In such scenarios, companies mistake uniformity for quality. By citing meritocracy as a justification for hiring, employers try to match the candidates with existing majority and are unwillingly to look for talent from less common sources. So, in reality, meritocracy intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates bias and discrimination as the assessment methods used for hiring, compensation, promotion etc are rife with subjectivity. Hence, it is not completely wrong to say that it is the other way round – At times, meritocracy leads to lower levels of diversity!

Organizations need to think beyond meritocracy, evaluate the benefits of diversity and assess candidates and employees against more concrete, non-discriminatory indicators of performance. This will ensure that their staff is both diverse and high quality simultaneously.

By doing away with these fallacies, organizations can accept diversity and inclusion, not as a problem but as an opportunity. Opportunity to build a significantly diverse and inclusive workplace which can give them the edge as an employer of choice and the ability to be innovative and drive profitable decision making.

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Why and How Women Undersell Their Work

It is very evident now from a lot of researches that women receive less recognition than men for equivalent accomplishments. But the big question here is why?

When looking at the issue of the gender pay gap and the lack of women in boardrooms and top levels across the globe, a common focus is the expectations and actions of women themselves.

Some facts & Data

According to a report by Hewlett Packard into their own hiring found women would apply only for jobs they felt they were 100% qualified to do, whereas men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet only 60% of the job requirements.

Under qualified men don’t think twice about it, as Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook says in her book ”Lean in”.

study from LinkedIn found women are 14% less likely to apply for a job after viewing it than were men, signaling their reluctance to go after jobs for which they may not be fully qualified.

How women self promote way less than men

The gender gap in self-promotion is notably persistent. A study conducted by researchers from Harvard Business School and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, set out to assess whether men or women were more likely to rate their own work performance positively, needless to say the results don’t come as a surprise.

Despite the fact that men and women performed just as well as each other on the test, women on average reported their performance as being 15 points lower on the 100-point scale than the average man.

When communicating to potential employers, women systematically provide less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future ability than equally performing men.

Another interesting fact is this that women find other women’s accomplishments inspiring, but avoid talking about or downplay their own.

Ways in which women fear to self promote

While publishing their accomplishments or articles women hesitate to use positive words such as  like “novel,” “unique,” “prominent,” “excellent,” and “unprecedented.”

Men on the other hand unhesitatingly put up their successes on social media platforms;they use their profiles to showcase the stories of their careers in a  more positive light.

Meanwhile, women keep it short and simple on their profiles, even to the point of underselling the accomplishments they had earned. LinkedIn said women would still include 11% less of their skills than men on their profiles.

Women consistently “diminish their talents and abilities by perpetually omitting valuable information about their core skills, and fail to acknowledge key achievements” on their resumes.

Women undersell themselves but why? There’s more to it

There is certainly some truth in this that women do undersell themselves, but the advice does often come across as blaming the victim rather than addressing the cause for the behaviour. It’s important to recognise that there are several complex issues at play – a combination of systematic imbalance and institutional gender bias, subconscious gender bias, and internalised sexism that lead to women underselling themselves.

It’s tricky for women to talk about their accomplishments and their abilities for a few different reasons. In the workplace, they tend to be judged more harshly than men for self-promoting, particularly when it’s other women who are doing the judging. (Yes, sadly, the research suggests that women are more likely than men to deem other women who advocate for themselves strongly as “unlikable.”).Combine that with good girl conditioning that tells us to never do anything that could come across as “full of ourselves.”

Women are hesitant to self-promote or talk about their achievements because they don’t want to dismiss or alienate less successful people, according to a study from employee search firm, ISR.

How to make the concept of self promotion more comfortable for women

Instead to use the term “Self Promotion” reframe it to “Make your work visible”.

Focus on being of greater service. Instead of thinking about promoting yourself, call to mind the ways your talents and your work are of service to others. Get excited about having more impact.

Live with this idea—that your works’ visibility is important and something to be mindful. Ask yourself, “Are my accomplishments visible within my organization?”

Understand your audience- When you are determining a distribution list for your achievements make sure you’re not just blasting it to everybody you need to understand that who would actually want this information.

Call on an outside source for help- Never be hesitant to ask for help. Ask your former colleagues, bosses, to write you a recommendation on professional networking sites.

So it seems fair to say that women do need to promote their accomplishments more and in a better way. But the onus does not reside only with them. Male colleagues and organizations also need to encourage women and ensure that they do not get penalized for the self-promotion they

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