Here’s How a Multinational Financial Services Company Fights Burnout

Employees are reeling under stress and burnout. Long work hours, lack of sleep and no time to unwind has stunted productivity and torn them away from their ideal life. Here's how American Express is addressing the problem.

Study after study establishes that Indians are inching close to burnout with as many as 80 per cent of Indian professionals calling themselves stressed. If the country’s stress and burnout epidemic was the ignored elephant in the room, it has now slowly begun to trumpet. And to amplify the sound, leaders of large organisations such as American Express are designing policies to control, if not stub out, the wildfire.

Manoj Adlakha, CEO, American Express India, is at the forefront of the change. He believes that the best way to back their customers is to back their colleagues. “We are committed to ensuring not just financial, but also physical and emotional well-being of our colleagues,” he says. “Our goal is to build a ‘Culture of Health’ through our leadership, policies, and work environment.”

More and more companies today realise that chronic stress and burnout lead to impaired performances and building a culture of health creates happier employees who are more productive. A workplace stress study in 2016, for instance, found that the total organisational productivity loss per year because of absenteeism due to stress adds up to Rs 105.48 crore for the finance/banking sector. Adlakha agrees, “Better health for our colleagues and their families is good for them and it’s good for us. It’s a win-win.”

Building a culture of health

One of the ways American Express implements its healthy living initiative, Adlakha says, is by following the four pillars of “physical health, mental well-being and resilience, financial wellness and caring for the family.” There’s easy access to physicians and opportunities to participate in physical activities such as yoga and zumba, but it’s employees mental well-being that’s most important to American Express. “We have psychiatrists and psychologists who talk to people on strict anonymity and help them,” Adlakha says, before summarising American Express’ impactful, overarching philosophy as, “move more, eat well, and stress less”.

The concept of 9 to 5 is gone… [but] for you to be an engaged employee, you need to make sure your family is well-protected.

Manoj Adlakha, CEO, American Express India

The ubiquity of technology means that we live intertwined lives today, with no work-life balance or integration. Self-time or time with family is most affected when we’re a victim to the smartphone ping. “The concept of 9 to 5 is gone,” Adlakha agrees, but spending time or caring for the family should not. It is, in fact, American Express’ philosophy of caring for the family which goes a long way in building a nourishing and positive company culture. “For you to be an engaged employee, you need to make sure your family is well-protected,” Adlakha says. “We cannot take the tension back from work into our homes because that’s not fair on the family.”

It’s this continued focus on thriving and a culture where leaders care about employees well-being, not just measurable outcomes that, to Adlakha, is the future of American Express and the future of workplaces around the world.

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