The famous 70 hours/week work debate!


I vividly recall my initial work experience in Europe. I was stationed at our partner office in Helsinki during the harsh winter months of January and February, where temperatures dropped to -15 degrees. The office demanded everyone’s presence by 8:00 AM. It was a routine of grabbing coffee mugs while exchanging nods and greetings, followed by a quiet ambience occasionally disrupted by the buzz of phones and the tapping of keyboards.

If a group discussion was necessary, it was prearranged with a set agenda. Colleagues would sporadically communicate through short messages or emails on our internal messenger for inquiries. By 5 PM, as a few left, the workplace would gradually empty while the outside world remained freezing. However, inside, the office was warm and tranquil.

At the end of each day, I consistently felt an immense sense of satisfaction and contentment. It seemed as though I had accomplished a lot more than I anticipated.

In contrast to the structured and focused environment of the European office, the setting back at our office in India was entirely different. Upon arrival, the initial half-hour was spent settling in. Colleagues would often take breaks for coffee, tea, or smoke, and although I didn’t smoke, I joined them to ensure I wasn’t excluded from office discussions due to peer pressure.

There was hardly an hour of uninterrupted desk time before the lunch break, followed by strolls. Attempting to settle back into work in the afternoon was frequently disrupted by colleagues approaching for various concerns or conversations, derailing the planned work. Around 4 PM, a group from the office would call for a break, but it would take 15 to 30 minutes before the break commenced as everyone gathered.

This cycle persisted until one realized that the crucial tasks for the day were far from complete, compelling individuals to extend their working hours, often pressuring the respective teams to stay back. Many would leave work complaining about the pressure and the unhealthy work environment. These distractions were just one example among numerous daily occurrences that had become accepted as a norm in the way the world operates.

We charged clients 40-45 hours per week, yet our team dedicated over 60 hours weekly, even on Saturdays. However, the actual productive or billable work amounted to only 40 hours. Internally, it was widely acknowledged that productivity standards in the West and India differed significantly.

Narayan Murthy addresses this exact issue. Instead of instantly reacting and getting caught up in mere one-liners, I urge everyone to respect the speaker for his experience and wisdom and listen to the entire interview. The focal point here is productivity. Murthy also discussed corruption and the importance of making timely decisions. To progress as a nation, he emphasizes the need to collectively reevaluate our efficiency from the grassroots level to the governance level.

In my current role within creative services, we don’t bill clients based on hourly rates. Our gauge of daily productivity revolves around prioritizing client needs. However, amid the ongoing discussion about working hours, I watched the interview in its entirety before feeling compelled to articulate these thoughts. It became evident that culturally, not just in my workplace but in many Indian work environments, similar habits have been cultivated concerning breaks, wasting office time, and individual productivity.

Regarding the aspect of well-being, our overall quality of life and mental health hinges on the harmony we establish with ourselves and our surroundings. Whether in our professional or personal lives, a fully engaged, albeit overworked day, tends to be more fulfilling than leaving early without having accomplished any productive work. The quantity of hours becomes irrelevant when we genuinely enjoy and are passionate about what we do, tapping into our creativity and honing our skills to the best of our abilities at work.

In their pursuit of striking this balance before achieving this harmony, the younger generation is inadvertently causing personal distress while impeding the collective output of the team and the company.

I align with Mr. Murthy’s sentiments and encourage the drive to propel the younger generation beyond their limits and standards. This collective effort is the pathway towards constructing formidable enterprises and fostering a stronger economy for our nation.

Let's Connect