Work Fatigue & Burnout: How Unisys India Is Helping Their Employees?

"Monotony can exacerbate the problem of a ‘virtual burnout’ or virtual meeting burnout for professionals from various fields. This can definitely affect productivity, making it difficult to concentrate and contribute, " Unisys's Head HR points out


Long-term remote work, which was an offshoot of the pandemic, has left many professionals in every domain fatigued in India. The shift from work-from-office to work-from-home was sudden, giving employees little time to attune their life.

During an exclusive interaction, Avneet Hora, Head of Human Resources, Unisys India ponders on the factors resulting in fatigue, how can it be addressed and what initiatives Unisys as a company are indulged in? 

Q1) As an HR leader of an IT firm, what are your thoughts on burnout among IT professionals and how can it be avoided?

Post pandemic, people-to-people interactions became minimal to none. Time spent on commute which was essentially used as “me time” by many went out of the picture. Casual conversations with colleagues around the coffee machines and water coolers also disappeared. IT professionals in particular spend the majority of their time in front of the screen. They stretch their office hours while working from home, owing to the fact that their workstations are readily available and the lockdown restricted the other outdoor or social activities they would indulge in.

This can be avoided by creating awareness about the need to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Employees need to make physical and emotional health a priority and organizations can enable this by providing access to resources and tools which help them achieve this. Employee engagement activities, even those conducted virtually, provide another opportunity for employees to unwind and connect with their peers. Internal social media platforms can also be leveraged in creative ways to keep employees connected and engaged.

Q2) What steps has Unisys undertaken to tackle and avoid burnout amongst the employees? How have these initiatives/ strategies helped the employees?

At Unisys, we have ensured that all our employees are equipped with the right tech support, to make remote working a seamless experience. As the remote working model continues, Unisys’ leadership is extremely vocal about work-life balance and frequent connection between associates and leadership so as to address any associate concerns.

In order to further promote physical and mental well-being, we have introduced various initiatives such as:

1. Employee Assistance Program (EAP): From time to time, everyone experiences situations that affect their general well-being. Unisys recognizes this and as a result, has introduced a global Wellbeing and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that can provide support on a wide range of work and personal issues. Some areas include improving relationships, parenting, couples’ support, managing stress, managing life changes, career success, wellness coaching, surviving the loss of a loved one, managing workplace pressure and more.

2. Fitness in the Fun way: Destination GO, a flexible well-being program, served as a personal digital health coach. The program offers a way to connect with coworkers and engage in healthy competition through an easy-to-use app. The app offers other features such as a health assessment, health check, offers a personalised wellness report, while respecting employee privacy. Personal or peer-to-peer mini-challenges to stay motivated are also available through the app.

3. Associate Councils –The Associate Councils of Unisys India drive employee engagement and provide platforms for constructive initiatives outside regular work, so associates can experience greater fulfilment in their workplace. Given below are the five Associate Councils of Unisys India:

● Talent Council (The Talent Squad)

● The CSR Council (Unicare)

● The Sports Council (Uniplay)

● The Grey Cells Council- 

● The Diversity Council (Mélange)

Q3) How do you think team leaders or managers could follow a new direction to resolve these issues where productivity gets affected by stress, burnout and screen fatigue?

Virtual burnout is a serious issue for professionals who are spending an increased amount of time in front of their computers as they work from home (WFH). Employees can and will complain about headaches, swelling or pain in the eyes, or vision getting dimmed due to excessive screen time. Exhaustion, tiredness, constant headaches, drowsiness, irritability, are some signs of burnout that have been noticed amidst the coronavirus pandemic. If you have been feeling exhausted while just talking/sitting through video calls, then you may have experienced virtual meeting burnout leading to fatigue, decreased sustained attention and straining cognitive resources.

Monotony can exacerbate the problem of a ‘virtual burnout’ or virtual meeting burnout for professionals from various fields. This can definitely affect productivity, making it difficult to concentrate as much or contribute to the meetings with the same excitement. Considering a total virtual disconnect is impossible, companies should devise methods of reaching out to support their employees:

● Managers can set priorities and limit access: Basis the employee workload, managers can take a call on employee participation in team meetings. 

● Taking breaks in between: A movement break or a stretch helps in feeling less lethargic and offers a change of scene, even if it means moving from one room to another or simply talking a small walk.

● Changing the sensory mode: While working on the computer, it is natural to feel overstimulated. Companies can give screen-time breaks and let employees turn the video off.

● Hygiene functions: Regular Check-ins from managers into employee wellbeing, be it mental, emotional and physical, will go a long way in this hybrid model of working. 

Q4) Are high burnout levels only because of work from home? How do you think it will play out in the hybrid work model? What Does the future of work look like to you?

The current state of affairs presents leaders with two challenges: how to manage remote working conditions amid the uncertainty of today, and how to prepare for and optimize the hybrid working models of tomorrow, in which fully in-person and remote work will be two ends a fluid spectrum of options. The former is sometimes a necessity; the latter, an opportunity. In any case, hybrid work is here to stay. By acting boldly now, they can define a future of work that is more flexible, digital, and purposeful.

CEOs and their executive teams can manage the increase in remote work to maximize employee engagement, well-being, and productivity. Weekly roundups can be organized to understand employees’ workloads and equip managers with tools to effectively manage them. Staff meetings can include a section to identify burnout. They can also ask questions about employees’ well-being related to sleep, appetite, social life informally.

Organizations that create a level playing field for all employees, regardless of their location, empower frontline leaders and continue to make employee wellbeing their top priority can holistically re-create their work model—not only structurally but in ways of working, workspaces, and culture—to win the future of work.

Q5) Due to the hybrid work model, employees are facing difficulty in maintaining the work-life equilibrium. How do you as a leader and company help employees to balance the two?

Majority of Indian professionals believe that hybrid work is essential for work-life balance, as this model would allow them to strike the right balance between their personal and professional lives. At this time, as leaders and companies, we should keep exploring flexible offerings that enable greater work-life balance. Empathetic leadership is the need of the hour. 

Workplace technology also plays a key role in determining the workplace experience of employees and this is one aspect where companies can invest in to ensure that the hybrid model succeeds. Besides these, the various channels of communication and collaboration also play a key role in determining employee experience in a hybrid world. This should also come under the radar of leaders as they work towards making the hybrid model succeed.

Q6) What advice would you want to give to HR leaders in order to address this current issue? Do you think that it can be one of the deciding factors for employees to move on from a company?

The HR function was at the heart of every organization’s response to the pandemic, dealing directly with impacted employees and their families. Emotional exhaustion or compassion fatigue is a real concern among HR professionals in this scenario. Hence, it is important for HR professionals to focus their energies on finding plausible solutions that would build motivational workplaces while keeping their own mental health in check.

Yes, the kind of support provided by organizations to their employees has been a key factor in driving employee preference for an organization. Healthcare and other benefits, insurance coverage, vaccination support and other assistance provided to employees impacted by COVID-19 are all points of discussion while employees make career choices these days.


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