A psychologist’s take on Workations (Working + Vacation)

I am a Psychologist working in a corporate setting as an HR professional since the last few years. Though I truly believe that life in a corporate gives you an identity, security and friends, it also takes away a lot from you if you do not draw boundaries. Most often than not we are faced with this existential dilemma of Work-Life balance. While some researchers will say it exists and the critiques will tell you it’s a myth, it’s for us to find out our balance…

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We play multiple roles in our life- be it that of a parent, a student, a partner/spouse , a manager/colleague/team member. Some of these roles might hold more importance than the others, or may change situationally. While we may never be able to achieve a perfect balance, we can definitely try and achieve some balance. A perfect balance is salvation, the problem is when individuals or employees overrate their corporate roles and start letting it slip into all the other roles they perform. Putting everything else at the back burner all the time to satisfy the duty as an employee can be dangerous.

Once during a coffee chat, my boss and I were having a conversation about corporate wellbeing and how to set goals to achieve it. He asked me during the chat,  “Aishwarya, so tell me if Sales was the backbone of any organization, operations the brain while IT the muscles and the bones, what role does HR play?” I thought for a while and promptly responded that HR is the Heart of the organization because we are the once taking care of health and wellbeing of the organization. HR takes care of the learning quotient and the happiness quotient of the organization. But I was not convinced with my response, I understood after few minutes of deep thinking that the heart of the organization are the people itself, the employees who work there. HR plays the role of veins, seemingly invisible connecting links that join the various organs/departments pumping in oxygen and promoting blood circulation within all the parts of a complex system called an Organism.

For long, psychology and aetiology have found partnership in each other, one affects the other. There are several researches that prove the existence of a link between them, especially diseases like diabetes, hypertension, depression, insomnia, heart diseases etc. have their origins in a disturbed mind and a stressed out body. I call these partly corporate sponsored diseases. Jeffry Pfeiffer, a professor of Organizational Behaviour at Stanford University says, “By doing this we are harming both company performance and individual wellbeing and this needs to be a clarion call for us to stop. There is too much damage being done”.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 300 million people across the world are living with depression. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death among people. Close to 1.3 million people are affected by hypertension across the world. Further studies by Gallup Q12 say” the average percentage of engagement is very low among employees across the world. Engagement is the predictor of productivity, profitability, wellbeing and quality work. These studies are alarming and a sure shot sign that we need to move away from corporate sponsored illnesses to corporate sponsored wellbeing.

The People Matters Magazine once published an article about why most of the corporate wellness programs fail. In their finding they suggested that organizations must develop robust ways of measuring wellbeing. While this is true, the other reason could be that most corporates focus on temporary quick fixes rather than forming and achieving long term wellness goals for its employees.

The two main aspects of wellbeing are physical and Psychological. Physical wellbeing could be achieved through corporate diets and corporate exercise regime. Simple changes like replacing snacks with seasonal fruits and dry fruits will help promote a corporate culture with healthier eating habits. Allowing employees to leave on time will help them catch up with sleep and family. 

Psychological wellbeing is fairly complicated to achieve but not impossible. Coaching and mentoring must be made available for employees so that they can speak about their issues and have an outlet to reflect. One of my suggestion would be Workations- paid work holidays , where the employee has the freedom to bag pack his laptop to a remote part of the world to allow his creativity to take over. Workations can be planned for meetings as well! “Imagine you have your annual meet in the lap of Himalayas?” Would you not be more productive? 

This article is written by Aishwarya Hariharan, a psychologist who works as an HR professional.

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