Those 3 endangered words – Work Life balance

21:30 hours – 40% of the office is still working hard, burning the midnight oil. Do you think the balance 60% not sitting in office are the lucky ones?

Wrong! Chances are that half of those at home would be working or coordinating work from home, while another 10-15% would be giving commands or negotiating deals over the phone to other unfortunate people. On one hand we keep saying that we need a work life balance, but on the other hand money and designation always win over family, friends, and hobbies. We work to fill our stomach’s, but we can neither find the time to sit and peacefully have a decent meal (even dinner or breakfast) or have accumulated so much money that we can feed an entire 20 storied building for a month, however, we just don’t quit.

Numerous colleagues over the years have cribbed about the work they do, their bosses, their co-workers, stating that they will quit in a months’ time. However, they do not have the drive to quit or have just fallen in love with their so called ‘work life’. It’s not clients that are to be blamed as much as the fault also lies with the top level management. In their quest to take the organization upwards, they often push their teams to meeting unreasonable deadlines and giving everything on a platter to clients. They only have one ambition, one hobby in life. Work. Or should I say two – work and making money.

Little do they realize that at the first opportunity the company that they work so hard and with such dedication, would not hesitate to cut off all ties with them if it would suit them. To the company all that you are is a money making machine. The moment the cash flow reduces or stops, you are not seen as being productive in the eyes of the top management.

Wouldn’t it be great if one would, in addition to working the mandatory 8-hour time lines, also hone a skill, nurture a hobby, or find the time to spend with those near and dear? Wouldn’t it help if they would let their careers take a back seat for 3 months (a paid sabbatical as most place now do have) and concentrate on looking at the natural color of the flowers, the white puffs of clouds moving across an azure blue sky or smell the Earth hit by the first rain showers?

No one stops us, but ourselves and our love for making more money than necessary.

With spouses (mostly the women of the family in traditional households) at home to do the house work, Indian men seem to be hell bent on raking up money and accolades by the truckload. And this doesn’t help those that want to have a life beyond the cubicle. But again money is the ugly monster that all want to tame, making sure that you must work to pay the bills, splurge a bit, and most importantly save for the future (since no government since Independence has ever rewarded the tax player).

In Japan, there have been instances of people dying at their work desks, with people so busy that they don’t even know the person next to them or realize that the person sitting next to them have left this world. In India we well be heading towards this work culture with people being evaluated with the amount of work that they get done, over the quality or creative content of that work.

So while our bank balances might get larger, our office space bigger and time spent outside the climate controlled glass structures lesser, our creative bent of mind is being suppressed each day, to the point of being killed. And we still don’t realize this, until we are at the ripe old age of sixty (if we live until then) and then crib about what we might have done differently if we only knew that money was not the answer to living life.

There have been times during my career in media, that clients pressurize the agency with unreasonable deadlines, stating that the outcome of the project is very critical. So I asked myself, what made this project achieve code red criticality, overnight? Didn’t the client know that there was a long weekend coming up? Or maybe he forgot that Republic Day falls in 26th January in India? Or, if the ad for the new fridge didn’t go up by Tuesday, instead of Thursday, consumer would not only switch to buying the competition, but never buy my client’s product ever again!

A wise professor in my college, once stated that even when you copy in an exam, put some thought to it. Just because the person ahead of you writes black as the answer, even if you are sure that it is the wrong answer, do not follow that person blindly. Alas, when we get confined to our glass enclosures, we forget this rule and blindly follow or adopt the strategy that the competitors put up, without thought that the strategy should be vetted first or if it works for the brand.

The result?

Within six months or less its back to the drawing board, the long nights on the agency and client end wasted without anything constructive drawn up.

If only our clients had a little patience, a little faith in their teams both internal and external; if only our bosses would not just be ‘yes’ men, but professionals who had the power to turn down meaningless work and put their team members first, then perhaps work life balance would become a reality and attrition rates at an all-time low.

But alas! We live in a world where the person next to you is willing to work at half the pay and double the hours, where weekends are just another two days to get work done and sleep can be caught up once you are dead. It’s this vicious cycle that is slowly putting work life balance on the endangered list.

Can we do something to stop it from going extinct?

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