Close to one third of workers in India face increased burnout at work

Workers in India are facing increased burnout due to lack of separation between work and personal life as well as concerns of contracting COVID-19, according to Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index report. Close to one third of workers in India cited increased rates of burnout over the past six months, with the lack of separation between work duties and personal obligations as negatively impacting their wellbeing.

Surveying over 6,000 information and first-line workers across eight countries globally including Australia, Japan, India and Singapore, the study found that India had the second highest percentage of workers facing increased burnout in Asia at 29 percent. India came out top with over 41 percent of workers citing the lack of separation between work and personal life as negatively impacting their wellbeing, resulting in increased stress levels.

Samik Roy, Country Head, Modern Work, Microsoft India, said, “In the last six months, we have seen how COVID-19 has created an era of remote anywhere. It has led to the evolution of a new workplace – from a physical space to one residing in a virtual world. As businesses adapt to a new way of working, it is important to examine the multifaceted impact that the new working conditions are having on employees. This is helping us provide relevant and timely solutions to all our customers and users.”

Inspired by this research and conversations with customers, Microsoft announced the start of a longer journey to evolve its productivity tools to promote individual wellbeing and organizational resilience. A series of updates have been launched within Microsoft Teams to support employee wellbeing. These include a virtual commute experience that helps users prepare for the day and mindfully disconnect in the evening and new insights that supports managers and leaders in understanding how work happens, and its impact on employee wellbeing. Microsoft has also partnered with Headspace to bring a curated set of mindfulness and meditation experiences into the Teams platform and launched new Teams experiences for firstline workers to support them with the tools they need to work more safely.

Key findings from the research include:

  1. The pandemic increased burnout at work – in some countries more than others.
  2. Causes of workplace stress differ for firstline and remote workers.
  3. Six months in there are more communications and fewer boundaries.
  4. No commute may be hurting, not helping, remote worker productivity.
  5. Studies show meditation can fight burnout and stress during the workday.

The pandemic increased burnout at work – in some countries more than others

Microsoft’s research showed that everyone is experiencing burnout differently. Burnout can be attributed to many factors, and the chart below explores how longer workdays impact feelings of burnout. For instance, the study found that 29 percent of workers in India are experiencing increased burnout at work, owing to its increase in workday span by 1 hour.  While workers in Australia[1] saw the highest increase in workday span in Microsoft Teams at 45 percent, with a medium increase in burnout, the graph below shows that India had the longest workday span of surveyed markets. This was also significantly different from workers in Germany that saw very little change to workday span or feelings of burnout.

Causes of workplace stress differ for firstline and remote workers

The report revealed that the top stressors shared by workers in India was the worry about contracting COVID-19 at work and feeling isolated or disconnected from co-workers, at 42 and 35 percent respectively. The study also found that 19 percent of workers have not been provided the tech or protective equipment they need to effectively socially distance by their company, contributing to increased stress levels.Workers also cited differing factors contributing to work stress. The lack of separation between work and life was a prime stressor among 34 percent of workers, with unmanageable workload and/or work hours coming closely behind at 28 percent. Nearly 23 percent of workers cited too many meetings and not enough focus time as factors contributing to stress at work.

Six months in there are more communications and fewer boundaries

Having identified lack of separation between work and life, along with unmanageable work hours, as top workplace stressors in India, Microsoft turned to usage patterns in Teams for more insight. Data showed that globally, even six months past the first work-from-home orders, people are in significantly more meetings, taking more ad hoc calls and managing more incoming chats than they did before the pandemic. As people adjusted to remote working, after hours chats, or chats between 5pm and midnight, have also increased.

No commute may be hurting, not helping, productivity for remote workers in Asia

For years, Microsoft’s research group has been studying how commute has helped maintain work-life boundaries—and worker’s productivity and wellbeing. A 2017 study helps us understand the productivity benefits of commute time. As part of the study, a digital assistant used chat conversations featuring task- and emotion-based questions to help participants prepare and detach from work through the day. The study found that 6 in 10 people (61 percent) globally felt they were more productive when the digital assistant helped them ramp up to and down from work. On average, productivity increased between 12 and 15 percent.

The new virtual commute experience in Teams will help workers have a productive start in the morning and mindfully disconnect in the evening. Users can expect to customize their experiences from a set of suggested tasks such as meditation with the Headspace app, reflecting on the day or helping workers close out on outstanding tasks.

Studies show meditation can fight burnout and stress during the workday

Of those surveyed in India, 92 percent also said meditation could help decrease their work-related stress. External research backs this up – consistent meditation with Headspace can decrease stress and burnout and improve your ability to react to negative feedback.

Microsoft’s partnership with Headspace will offer workers the ability to schedule ad hoc or recurring time for mindfulness breaks anytime – before a big meeting or to find focus needed to start on an important project.

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