I Work Hard, Don’t Waste My Time, And Yet I’m Judged For Leaving Office On Time

Posted on October 25, 2016 in #FutureOfWork
ILO logoEditor’s Note:With #FutureOfWork, the International Labour Organization India and Youth Ki Awaaz are coming together to explore the spectrum of issues that affect young people's careers and work lives. Join the conversation! 

By Vinitha Ramchandani:

I’ve been working full-time since 1996. That’s 20 years of work, and what I have noticed consistently – whether I was single or, now that I am a mother — people who leave on time are judged. If you left on time from work, a trail of jibes would follow. I’ve rarely seen men leaving on time, but when they do – hats off to them – the derision attached to on-time leavers is huge. However, if you are a woman, I feel it is worse.

In the last five years that I have resumed full-time work (I worked part-time after the birth of my second child), even telling my prospective employers at the time of joining that I would leave dot on time, meant first dealing with my own sense of shame,and then being prepared to see the look of disappointment in their eyes. Despite having reiterated multiple times that my work output will remain unaffected and that in cases of a crisis or emergency, I will put in extra hours – whenever I leave work, I feel everyone is watching me.

As if leaving on time means that work is suffering or you are less committed to your work life. This, despite the fact that I actually am deeply involved in my work and I don’t mind putting in a few hours whenever needed. I start work at 8.30 a.m. sharp and leave at 5 p.m. sharp. I don’t take lunch breaks and I often clear all the work on my table by 11 – this is the time some of my colleagues start to trickle in. Then I start my meetings for the day and firefight most issues and clear them off my to-do list by 1 p.m.

I take no chai/coffee/smoke breaks – things my colleague indulge in generously. Nor do I dawdle over one-hour community lunches – where food in spread out, sampled and everyone takes their own sweet time to discuss everything under the sun. I work continuously and this is fine by me. To all those who think that putting your head down and working cannot help in creative outputs and that one needs to listen to music, scroll endlessly through the web for inspiration – I say bollocks!

I have friends, women friends, who are educated, and in senior positions in the media. They are single and believe that I am “lucky” to work “part-time” (because I leave on time) and draw a hefty package. No amount of explanations seem to convince them that I in fact work full-time and am getting paid less than the industry standard because of the same perception.

I have another confession to make. I feel really jealous that my husband gets to put in longer hours every day at work, and on odd days when he has to support me, he comes back home with his laptop and carries on his work from home. I cannot do that. Leaving from work means end-of-work-for-the-day for me because it also means that now I’m on my next shift – parenting and childcare, both use probably the same amount of creative and cognitive skills that I use at work. Moreover, it certainly does not give me any chance to take office work home. There are days I find myself feeling envy, thinking, “If only I had put in longer hours at work, where would I have reached in my career today?”

Dear working woman, we want to hear your story. Write to us. Tell us about YOUR career aspirations, the struggles, discriminatory practices you want changed, your expectations from your workplace, skills mismatch and wage gaps, and your unique experiences in starting your own business. Join the conversation and let us strive towards making decent work a reality for all!