A dynamic young graduate, campus recruited by a large multinational, finds himself on the verge of a new life. Everything about this job – the work, boss’ attitude, overtime, targets, appraisals, friendly colleagues, and late night parties seem wonderful. Over time, the work environment remains the same but the pressures begin to mount and the young enthusiast begins to feels the heat. One evening he calls his buddies and they hit the local pub. They booze heavily till two in the morning and our young, dynamic executive is hopelessly inebriated and needs his pal to drop him home. This soon becomes a weekly occurrence.

Welcome to the world of BPO culture- the newest shortcut to alcoholism! India’s BPO industry has been labeled as the “Sunshine Sector”. It is projected to grow as much as 30 percent in the next few years. But have we, in the bargain, traded health for wealth? BPOs have made it possible for the youth to achieve money and success at a young age. At 23, the average college-goer with limited means and resources, can catapult himself into owning a car, a blackberry and credit cards.

In a recent study, New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital observed 181 BPO workers and confirmed poor sleep patterns and high substance abuse amongst them. Owing to their lifestyles, the use of stimulants like tea and coffee was also significantly higher whereas around 40 percent were smokers, and almost 30 percent were found to abuse narcotic drugs.

BOSS – Burn out Stress Syndrome

I often ask my clients their daily routine. A typical day begins with staggering out of bed, showering and dragging self to work where a whirlwind of meetings, deadlines and con-calls consumes them. All this without breakfast. The first meal is around 12 and lunch is skipped. Most corporate workers report eating something heavy around 6 or 7 pm (the time we usually stress eat) followed by more work until midnight. Dinner is usually late after which there is immediate crashing into bed.

Added to this are the frequent smoke breaks, umpteen cups of tea and coffee, lack of exercise and a diet filled with emotional eating. Most clients report that the highlight of the week is hitting the pubs on a weekend with friends coupled with booze.

According to psychologists, the roots of alcoholism begin with social drinking. High disposable incomes and stress at work only help to encourage the culture of hitting nightclubs and pubs. This habit becomes vicious once the youngster becomes totally dependent on these substances to keep himself feeling motivated and happy.

Such lifestyle is a recipe for disaster and the beginnings of BOSS or Burnt Out Stress Syndrome.

What does this foretell?

Are we looking at a culture where post 30, today’s youth will develop liver disease and heart trouble as a result of overstress and unheeded alcohol consumption?

Remedial Measures:

Change should best begin at the organizational level where stressed employees are identified and introduced to better coping mechanisms such as Yoga, meditation, work-life balance and seeking personal counseling. Even better, if the organization provides these benefits in-house. Health checkups to need to be made compulsory at the workplace so that any stress related illnesses can be addressed in time.

At a personal level employees between 25-35 (when alcoholism is strongest) need to take extra efforts to follow a healthier lifestyle. Some tips:

  • Regular health checkups that monitor Hemoglobin, Thyroid, Blood pressure, Blood sugar, VitD3 and VitB12 are mandatory every year.
  • Aerobic and strengthening Exercise atleast thrice a week
  • Tuning out to the world and tuning in to thoughts, ideas and emotions is important
  • Keeping in touch frequently with family and childhood friends
  • Having a hobby or second interest (including some social work)

Perhaps towards this end, efforts are only a drop in the ocean. But for a country grappling with economic success, employee health in the burgeoning BPO sector may be taking a backseat and is therefore an issue needing immediate intervention.