Living to work or Working to Live

I have just 12 months of professional experience in one of the oldest and most successful companies in our country. One of the first lessons I learnt as a fresher in the company was to learn to accept that I must asphyxiate my social life. I took it in my stride as I convinced myself it is what every newbie must do to gain foothold in an environment where his bosses have amassed more professional experience than his age. 

As time passed by I realised I’m not the only one with a social life in the ICU. Almost everyone in my department was used to the hectic regimen and worse still, believed it was normal. “Our clients don’t sleep on Saturday” was the most common reply to every inquisition of mine. Six months into professional life, I was completely jaded and thoroughly demotivated. No amount of praise or monetary raise could convince me what was being demanded of me was acceptable. My parents asked me to stop cribbing and my seniors advised me to get used to it because “everyone does it“.

I tried. And I failed spectacularly. Every sixth day of the week felt like a punishment. Not because it was physically exhausting, but because it was mentally taxing. All my hobbies and interests were buried so deep in my To-Do list that I didn’t even remember what I liked or disliked anymore. Despite my steady progress at work where I was raking up praise for my hard work on a frequent basis,  I was disoriented as monotony had become the ruler of my life. I asked myself, “Is it like this only here or other companies know the importance of free time?”

To my horror I realised it was pretty much the same everywhere in India. 6 day work week? Pah! “You’re lucky they don’t make you come on Sundays. Itna sara kaam Kaun karega?” All my friends working in different organisations the same story with different protagonists. Internationally, and mostly in developed nations, there are strict labour laws which make sure there is a humane environment for the employees to function. Even India has a framework. But like most things in our country it is neither regulated nor followed. Our populace, unsurprisingly has become “used to” this system. 48 hour work-weeks are absolutely normal in our nation of a billion plus people. So are we reaping the benefits of such a gruelling schedule?

Definitely not. India has a massive productivity problem. Multiple Chai Breaks, hour long lunches, personal phone calls and unbelievable hours of overtime on a regular basis are the pillars of our work culture. You can’t munch on samosas and and sip tea for 20 minutes and expect to finish the job on time! No wonder we flout deadlines as easily as traffic rules. This leads to propagation of an unhealthy cycle of overtime and wasted man hours, which in turn affects the quality of work. In a country where jobs are at a premium due to a gigantic population, even asking for pay hikes is seen as risky. 

But money was not my point of contention. My primary need was to find a way to create time for myself in a country where travelling in sub human conditions for work is seen as a part of the job. Almost all my seniors chastised me for behaving like an entitled adolescent when I brought this up. For them I was being unreasonable and impractical. I begged to differ.We live in a world where personal time is growing significant every passing day and people have realised burnout is not just another term coined by whining lazy people. It is a very real condition which has the potential to affect the performance of an organisation to a huge extent. Forget getting answers, I didn’t even have the right questions. But then it struck me. I was spending 12 hours a day everyday, for 6 days a week, travelling and working. That is 43% of my week, which is more than the 25 % I spend sleeping. Although that sounds fair enough, it leaves an incredibly small percentage of free time. If I was being treated like a machine by the system, I was definitely not being maintained like one.

So I asked myself, Do I live to work? Or Work to Live? We’ve heard this innumerable times since childhood but it doesn’t really strike you until you realise you have spoken more to the printer-repairing guy in office in a week than your own mother in a month. I was ashamed of  myself. I couldn’t speak to loved ones without snapping at the slightest disagreement. This wasn’t me. I must change. But would the system let me? I wasn’t born to handle Excel sheets 6 days a week! A simple Wikipedia search shows that India has one of the highest number of working hours in the world, eclipsed only by african and middle eastern nations. Source :

In an age where France has strictly limited working hours upto 35 per week and Carlos Slim, one of the richest men in the world proposing 4 day work weeks, can our great nation continue with its outdated policies and attitudes? I don’t want the latest I-Phone here, I want the latest progressive mindset! I dream, nah, I advocate 5 day work weeks in India for the betterment of the nation’s populace and a much needed spike in productivity. I want to enjoy my Friday night and complete all miscellaneous chores and indulge in all my hobbies on the weekend so that I go all guns blazing into the office on Monday. Monday morning Blues for me are nothing but Sunday night Disappointments.

I love working hard and I will continue to go beyond the call of duty if and when required for whichever organisation I work for and I’ve done it before. But I also want to live for myself and ask my mom how was her day instead of asking the printer guy if the ink on my new trousers will wash away or not!

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