Work life balance Vs 70-hour work week - A Debate
18th Nov, 2023
I have received many requests from my contacts asking me about my opinion about the 70-hour workweek stint in social media. I thought about it for a while because not every social media stuff needs an opinion. Considering the thoughts were expressed by none other than the tycoon Narayana Murthy himself, it deserves some pondering. Many people troll him; however, one cannot deny that his company employed thousands of people in India. (approximately 342 thousand) His company is one of the reasons for providing more employment opportunities. Of course, I understand that it's not the only reason to trust anything he says and do whatever he says. Following what someone says is purely a choice, but one needs to understand before trolling that Narayana Murthy is honored with Padma Vibhushan and Padma Shri awards.
So many informational posts and data point to India being the seventh country with the most working hours and ranking higher in minimum wages. It is something that needs to be looked at as well. Let's talk about work-life balance first, as many youngsters are pointing fingers at that thing.
Let me tell you a small story first. I come from a humble background, and my grandfather worked so hard that he never had any balance. My dad has never seen him around much because he works considerably. My grandfather came home after my dad slept and left before my dad woke up. At times, my grandfather couldn't tolerate this pressure and went missing for a couple of weeks. He disappears without telling anyone. He goes away from the city and stays on a farm or a temple premise away from family and work. Initially, family members were worried about him, but it became habituated so they could understand that he would return.
He provided for the family and did some work he did not like. For him, the work is a pressure, and home is a place where he rests. There was no ME time for him or his loved ones. He worked more than 125 hours a week, consuming him a lot. One needs to understand that doing something that we do not like but continuing to do it even more takes a severe toll on mental health. There needs to be a balance in what we do. He did more work less rest, and it consumed him. Most people do not understand what they do, but they do it anyway because it pays. Spending our energy on something we do not like consumes it double time. We get drained faster, take out the frustration on our loved ones, and eventually give up once the toleration level reaches its peak.
My father took a relaxed approach to doing his own business than getting employed. He took time off during the day for himself but still worked on Sundays because it was his own business. He spent time with us late evening at times when he was not working, and Sunday evenings were dedicated to the family. He did not pursue anything for himself other than the business or learn anything particularly. He pushed the thought of being employed to myself rather than business because he faced too much pressure running a business alone without much support.
Starting my career in IT with two days off every week, I was more relaxed. I spent my weekends with the family and had enough time for myself. I could continue higher studies during the weekend and do all I wanted for myself. I had a more balanced life than my dad and my granddad. My son will be even more so.
I chose to be a trainer and a coach a few years back. I knew there wouldn't be many weekends for me because most of the pieces of training happen on a weekend. So, is my work-life balance a hit or miss? First, I wanted to be a coach and a trainer, so it's my passion, and I won't call that a work or job. Many coders/programmers do programming as a passion because they create something and like what they do. It is never a job for those who love what they do. As part of handling operations for my company, I talk to clients, send proposals, attend demo calls, create learning programs, shoot some learning videos, read more books, provide content for marketing, and so on. My ME time is what I do and further towards what I want. So, even if it is 24*7, it never drains me, and I will be happy doing what I do. My work is integrated as part of my life, and I don't need balance from work.
When helping our team at work, we help them identify their passion as we hire them. We help them integrate their work into their life so they don't feel burnout. They work for outcomes, and we do not measure the number of hours at work. They can take off without announcing the reason but take ownership, so they inform their team about their absence, and the work doesn't stop. They also learn on the job to face more challenges, which helps them with more knowledge. We encourage them to take up some physical activities and help them with the accountability for their fitness. It all comes as part of life because it is integrated. They also pursue some activities like dancing and painting, which get acknowledged by work friends. Balancing work and life is not so hard when you know that what you do is part of your life and for your improvement & growth.
My family knows that whenever I get free time, I sit on my laptop or mobile and read something I like. Most of the time, it will be related to what I do. Many people I see these days are like my grandfather, doing something they do not like, burning out quickly, and living only for the weekends. Willing to get burned cannot be attributed to less or no choice because choosing something to go with is their choice. You can read my other article about choices here.
Blue-collar workers still work nearly 70-80 hours a week to provide for themselves and their families. Sometimes, they do not have time outside work to upskill themselves or even think about doing something else. If they want to choose a different profession/career, upskill, or do something else, they will contribute more than 100 hours a week.
How many people in an Organization are skilled enough to do their job efficiently? Most people join the organization and stay stagnant without showing any improvement. Over a while, it becomes lethargy. The willingness to put additional effort into completing a task isn't even there. They exist in the organization doing the bare minimum. We call them quiet quitters. The reason is that the organization did not take care of them, or they don't like what they do. Only those who want to shine in their career will skill themselves up. Only those will create excellent outcomes that benefit the organization and, eventually, the country they belong to.
Take the example of people who want to be entrepreneurs. They will work for money elsewhere but keep building things for themselves apart from their work hours. It will take more than 100 hours a week. However, what they make will eventually help them build a better life. They may even give employment opportunities to other people by becoming an entrepreneur. That is what Narayana Murthy did earlier. Getting skilled will not only help people do a better job at the workplace but also help them in becoming a better person. Continuous learning is critical for growing and helping others around.
Take the example of kids these days. They take up a sport and practice every day. They also go to school and study the subjects, do extracurricular activities, and do something for themselves after school. Going to school is like the job we do; however, by doing only that, one cannot achieve greatness. It's about what you do after work that is more important to get you to do better at the job. Calculating the hours we spend outside work that helps us do the job better, we always cross 70 hours a week. If I am learning something to grow in my career, it is related to my work and gets added as part of my working hours.
Clocking 70 hours "for work" differs from "at work." Spending more time improving ourselves to become a better version helps us, our organization, and our country.
What is the verdict?
So, what is the final verdict? Should I work for more hours? What about my passion as a traveler? What if I like to spend time playing music? What if I want to cook and bake?
There is no final verdict. There is no work-life balance. It is up to how one manages things and gets better at it. If you are an entrepreneur, your life and work become one because the organization you create is a family. If you are an employee but passionate about what you do, anything you do outside to help you get better at work and the workplace isn't something you will worry about. But for those who think the workplace is only a place to earn and don't worry about a career as such, this will be a different ball game. Everyone's choice, way of life, and what they want are different.
Most entrepreneurs who have gone through the 70-hour work life to build something new for themselves will undoubtedly agree, and they have decided that 70 hours would still be ideal. Gen-Z would never agree because they are still in the early stage of life. They are still figuring out what they want, which will take time to finalize and move on.
You are already a step ahead. Keep learning and growing!