Organisational leaders often talk about the importance of managing workplace stress. Ankita Gupta can deeply relate to the subject. After going through an intense period of professional burnout in 2019, Gupta, who heads Human Resources for Moët Hennessy India (MHI), took a break to “rest, reflect, re-energise” and to come back with “a 2.0 version” of herself. However, there was no magic mantra or lifestyle overhaul involved in the transformation. “It was just about making small lifestyle changes and putting myself first,” she reveals.
Earlier this year, Thrive Global India conducted a holistic behaviour change programme with MHI. The theme—Assess, Adopt, Train—focussed on enhancing productivity and performance while prioritising self-care.
Packed with the latest science, influencer story-telling, and performance-enhancing strategies, the objective was to take participants on a lifetime journey of improved well-being and performance. Post the programme, scores showed a healthy rise of eight per cent, moving participants from Semi-Thrivers to Thrivers indicating a success in building habits that empower individuals to make critical choices that make a positive impact, not just on their well-being, but also productivity and performance.
“Anxiety is a by-product of today’s uncertain world. And leaders need to seize the initiative to help people tide over the situation,” says Gupta. Having battled stress herself, she knows the pressures of the modern workplace and is empathetic towards those who struggle with it. “Working in lean and flat structures, where one is constantly striving to outperform oneself while constantly managing stakeholders and expectations, can make life stressful,” she says.
There is a saying that when fishermen cannot go to sea, they mend their nets. By moving many processes online, we’ve seen tremendous benefits in terms of stakeholder collaboration and commute time being redirected to productive workAnkita Gupta
The pandemic has only added more anxiety and stress to an overburdened work life. Small steps (what we call Microsteps at Thrive) such as commitment to self-care can stem the tide though. Gupta couldn’t agree more. She credits the power of these small, positive changes, such as eating right, running, practising yoga, maintaining a distance from technology, and staying hydrated, for successfully emerging from a brush with burnout last year. “By being thoughtful and empathetic, organisations can help employees ride out the storm,” adds Gupta.
“There is a saying that when fishermen cannot go to sea, they mend their nets. By moving many processes online, we’ve seen tremendous benefits in terms of stakeholder collaboration and commute time being redirected to productive work,” she says.
Mentorship plays a key role in personal growth, feels Gupta. It helped that she had a mentor, coach and ‘North Star’ in the form of her teacher, Sumitra Das. “Confiding in Prof Das helped me sustain the professionally consuming and tough time and making better choices during that challenging period,” she recalls of that period of burnout and stress.
Her experience in volunteering has added more dimension to her journey. “Volunteering takes you outside the workplace and gives you an insight into the problems that plague our society and environment. It is humbling.”
The thing that recharges Gupta most is travel, which she likens to meditation in terms of its curative effects. But since travelling hasn’t been possible of late, she’s turned towards other interests. “I am a foodie; cooking for me is a form of self-expression. I also like gardening and find it therapeutic to nurture plants,” she says.
Gupta swears by her own wellness habits, including exercise, a healthy diet and sleep. “When I get sufficient sleep, I feel like I bring my best self to work,” she says. Gupta also believes that religiously following a daily routine allows her to prioritise self-care. “I like variation in my workout. Running is my favourite form of cardio. I also do Pilates for endurance and core strength, as well as yoga, and functional training.” During the lockdown, a combination of running, stair-climbing, and virtual classes for yoga and functional training have kept her fit and strong.
As she puts it: “When employers address well-being as a whole—body, mind, heart and soul—with leaders being expected to walk the talk, you create a positive and productive workplace. And everyone thrives.”