Companies add extra day-off to counter work-from-home stress

Longer hours, erratic schedules, and more meetings characterize the pandemic workday, and now companies are slowly recognizing that employees need a little more time off. Google and Cisco started the trend in May with a company-wide day-off to help staff deal with work-from-home-related stress, and now corporates and startups in India are following suit.

Last month, ad agency Ogilvy announced a “Do Nothing Monday”, one day of paid leave that was not part of the scheduled leave calendar. It was announced two weeks in advance so that employees could inform clients as well as clear their desks and not take any calls.

“It was the first time I’ve had a day off like that in the six years I’ve worked here,” says Shoaib Alim, 34, a management supervisor at Ogilvy. “It feels great that the management is thinking about you. It’s such a psychological boost.” He used the three-day weekend to cook, cleaning up his room and just relax.

From Ogilvy and Freshworks to Scripbox and PwC, companies are giving employees a “surprise day off”, a company-wide holiday that’s not part of the regular leave calendar to help employees deal with the hardship of working from home for months. They’re usually clubbed with the weekend, and announced early to avoid disruption in work.

Bengaluru-based online financial company Scripbox has given its employees pandemic days-off in July and August. “It definitely had a positive impact, even though you can’t go out. Earlier, we would have team outings or lunches every quarter. Now, we can’t do that, so I think this is a way for the company to say ‘we care for you’,” says Ishan Singh, growth marketing manager, Scripbox, who clocks an average of nine hours a day.

Ogilvy’s head of HR says the last five months have blurred all lines between the workspace and home. “People have been working hard—long hours, virtual meetings and making complex deliveries happen. “Do Nothing Monday” was our attempt to say that just for one working day, take it slow. More than anything, it was a way for us to say thank you to an extraordinary set of employees,” says Monty Bharali, national head, talent and HR, Ogilvy India. “We will do it again, in case there is a need to re-energize the team.”

In July, SaaS marketing company Rocketium added two days to a weekend to give staff a long break. Co-founder Satej Sirur says the idea came from his team as a substitute for the 48-hour hackathons the company would organize in a resort every quarter. “We thought it was great idea. People want something different to break the monotony,” says Sirur of his 31-member team. Though the company working hours are 8am to 4pm, he has noticed that most work beyond 4pm and even on weekends.

Customer service platform MoEngage gave its team a surprise day off on the first Friday of July. “We advised managers to tell their subordinates to postpone meetings and calls scheduled for that day. Even our website showed ‘under maintenance’ that day,” says Jitendra Panihar, chief people’s officer, MoEngage.

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