“My request is that our youngsters must say, ‘This is my country. I’d like to work 70 hours a week.'” – Narayana Murthy (Co-founder, Infosys)
70 hours in a work week.
I, of course, had to crack it down to make sense (also because I’m really bad at Chacko Maash’s subject).
70 hours a week in a typical 5-day working week would mean investing 14 hours a day for work.
Break it down to a 6-day working week, and you’ll have around 12 hours a day.
Now, in a world where you work all days in a week, 70 hours means working 10 hours a day.
Now, that’s the kind of clock I’d probably get frustrated over and break within a week. But this clock is something that many baby boomers like Narayana Murthy are familiar with. Much respect for that, but also, what the fuck?
Like my parents too, the baby boomer generation’s mantra was “Ellu muriye pani eduthaal, pallu muriye thinaam”. However, Gen-Z have broken this record by having broken bones by 20s and eating stuff that concerns our teeth and organs altogether.
So, for a generation like that to get outraged over Murthy’s statement is natural. Even I scoffed mentally the minute he requested youngsters to put in more hours of work to raise the country’s productivity. (Followed by grabbing the calculator to check how many hours that is in a 5-day work week.)
Another Day, Another Billionaire Wanting All the Living Hours
It was not a surprising statement, though. This is not the first time some billionaire founder dude has talked about ‘milking more hours’ from youngsters. To me, it is just ‘another day, another billionaire’ in the “Hustle till you die” culture. This hustle-glorification is often followed up by stories about how they worked their asses off in their good ages and found success or stability by the time their bones gave up.
But just this once, I want to dissect this statement and understand if putting in more hours did any good whatsoever for youngsters, corporations, and the nation. The nation deserves to know, after all.
In my line of work, where creativity sells, quality of work is what matters more than the quantity of hours. You could make a creative sit around a desk for 24 hours and not get a thing out of them. Instead, give them their space and time and see them put forth their best work.
Of course, no industry can afford to work with such flexibility, though. Especially if it’s one of those IT places that I never seem to understand what they do.
Even within the creative space, there’s the constant rush around deadlines and clients. So, work clocks are unavoidable for practical reasons.
Now, we decode just exactly how many hours seems like a reasonable request to put in.
Reducing Hours Instead of Building It Up
Post-pandemic, many workplaces got this bodhodayam that they can get work done without having employees warm the office chairs from 9-6. After this, many countries (especially in the UK) tried the 4-day work week project.
The project focused on reduced work hours with the same pay. It then measured how this new pattern impacts worker’s productivity and health.
And guess what? Giving workers an extra day off a week proved to increase productivity, boost physical and mental health, and additional benefits – reduced pollution because people just sat at home or worked from home. (Also supported by earlier studies conducted by the University of Massachusetts, which reported that a 10% reduction in work hours cut an individual’s carbon footprint by 8.6%)
Almost 3,60,000 workers conveyed that the additional off gave them the time to relax and focus on their health. They also showed reduced levels of stress and personal satisfaction that reflected in their work as well.
A win-win situation for personal health and Bhoomi Mata.
Turning Workplaces into Yuddhabhoomi
These findings published in the World Economic Forum based on experiments conducted across nations were again not really surprising. If an employer is under the illusion that overworking their employees is the way to success, they’ll just have an office full of burnt-out employees wishing that the office burns to the ground. In fact, if you make them work for any more than 50 hours a week, they might as well be the ones to burn it down.
While Murthy conveniently uses examples of youngsters who put in more hours in “Japan and Germany after World War 2”, I wonder if it makes any sense at all in the current scenario.
In fact, even in Japan (2019), Microsoft experimented with the four-day workweek and reported a 40% boost in productivity. With fewer work hours, people seemed to get more work done efficiently than they would have within the annoying ’70 hours’ clocked by billionaires.
Working for the nation’s GDP shouldn’t come at the cost of “blood, sweat, and tears” that show up as symptoms of early cardiac disorders. Yet we have Murthy boy living in the World War times and wondering why youngsters are getting early heart attacks.
Stop having youngsters go to work like they’re waging wars, maybe?
Happiness and Money Grows on the Same Tree
Many nations have time and again shown how productivity doesn’t have to come at the cost of the employee’s sanity.
Mexico and Columbia were among the least productive countries despite having the longest average work weeks in the world. Mexico set a standard of about 48 hours/week (which is often not abided by) and easily slid among the countries that do not have desirable work conditions for employees.
Meanwhile, Ireland, the top productive country in terms of GDP generated per hour, has employees working about 39.7 hours under the legal framework. Denmark, which is among the top three, has an average workweek of 37 hours. Almost half the work hours Murthy boy thinks is required to succeed in this fast-paced environment. These are also the countries that happen to be among the leading ones with healthy workplace cultures and a high employee happiness meter.
Now, it wouldn’t take a genius to crack how employee happiness and the GDP are actually related to each other.
And have you seen any employee happy after having worked 70 hours a week?
Even daily wagers like Ramanan and Kittunni showed how frustrated an employee can get if they’re made to slave around in the name of “work”.
In short, you ensure healthy workspaces and ningalkum naad’inum gunam undavum.
Right To Disconnect
Give people their space to disconnect from work instead of making their lives all about work.
In a few European countries like Belgium and Portugal, there are laws in place that prohibit bosses from calling up federal civil employees after their work hours. Employees have the “right to disconnect” for a better work-life balance.
Of course, in our country, this right to disconnect is not possible for many people. Especially the daily wagers who shuffle between jobs to make ends meet. But there are many workplaces which can make these cuts but still keep draining worker’s hours with bullshit facades.
Working hard never meant working non-stop with no regard for self or life in general. People should be able to go to work without having to put their social and family life in the chavattu kotta.
Another private sector employee who hopes her employer sees this and approves offs on Saturdays as well.