7 Professionals Reveal What’s Deeply Wrong With Our Workplaces Today

Posted by Merril Diniz in #FutureOfWork, Education, Taboos
February 14, 2017
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! 

In the coming decade, our labour force is set to grow by over 8 million per annum, mostly driven by the youth entering the job market. Hence, it’s important for our policymakers, more than ever before, to introduce policies that nurture progressive working conditions at our workplaces.

But what are those issues that really need fixing? We got seven professionals from diverse walks of life to tell us. Here goes:

Photo of Priyanka Tadipatri
Priyanka Tadipatri

Priyanka Tadipatri
Public Relations & Communications Consultant
Agency life is often glamorised to have a ‘great culture’ for ‘creative bad-asses’, where ‘everyone loves what they do’. But for me, there was a clear expectation-reality mismatch. I come from an engineering background and love to write. So, a technology PR job seemed like a dream come true.

Instead, I hated that 90% of my job was collating reports. It took me a couple of years to graduate to a role where I’d actually get to write. Secondly, as an entry-level employee, you need to make a lot of people happy. The difficulty is that it becomes an everyday thing. There are journalists, who do not want to speak to you and clients who do not want to listen to you. On top of that, you’ll have a team that makes promises that are impossible to keep.

In some other countries, PR is a highly respected job and companies depend on professionals for managing good communication, crises and making sure that their storytelling is interesting. But in India things are different. The industry is very short-staffed and highly competitive. I recall a time where I ignored health issues for weeks, so I could keep up with the pace; work-life balance is not something we think about at all. Last but not the least, most agencies pay peanuts, and individuals always wait for a corporate (client-side) job to move into a well-paying role.

Last but not the least, most agencies pay peanuts, and professionals always wait to move into a corporate (client-side) role, that’s well-paid.

As for me, I work independently now. And love it because for the most part, I get to choose the clients, and only work with brands I believe in. I have also grown my skill-set beyond PR to offer a wider range of services. And fortunately, I found clients that believed in me, and would also invest in me.

Dr Souradipta Chandra, A Flying Doctor
Dr Souradipta Chandra

Dr Souradipta Chandra
Emergency Medical Services/Medevac Officer With East West Rescue
As per WHO norms, there should be one doctor per 1000 population. As far as I remember, India has one doctor per 2000! Hence most hospitals are severely understaffed. Considering that our population is exploding and shows no signs of slowing down – India needs to increase the number of doctors, hospitals, and specialists, exponentially.

We also need to pay attention to working conditions in hospitals. In India, 24-hour work shifts (or more) are the norm. But if you’re expected to be at your best when handling human lives, you need to be adequately rested. I believe we should have 12-hour shifts, instead.

Secondly, we need to treat junior doctors as human beings. They are the ones bearing most of the weight of the hospitals while consultants make a grand two-minute visit to patients and then scoot off! I genuinely believe that if your team is well-informed, and you communicate among each other well, you’ll save more lives.

Another major issue doctors struggle with is hygiene; while hospital staff are to be well-trained in this area, there must be strict rules against spitting, littering and dirtying.

Our Government needs to realise that a healthier country is a more successful country, and to achieve this, not only do we need to increase the number of postgraduate seats, and evaluate whether we really need a quota system even after MBBS, we also need to acknowledge that doctors must have the opportunity to choose a specialisation that genuinely interests them (which is the case abroad). In India rank decides what you do; a skilled surgeon may get Microbiology, while a medicine enthusiast may be forced to study Gynaecology. No wonder so many doctors choose to leave.

Rashida Khan*
Development professional working on public health

In the kind of NGOs I have worked in, no one comes to make money. They come because they have a passion for the work. Having respect for that and the knowledge that your boss and team trusts your capacity, is the most important thing for me. Instead, a lot of senior leadership in small and mid-sized NGOs tend not to trust employees and therefore provide very little space for growth (this may not be typical to all NGOs but it is common).

Secondly, you may have your heart in the right place and the best of skills but being able to multi-task and deliver on time is critical. This may seem true for all sectors. But in the development sector particularly, the structures are not as clear as in corporates, and usually, everyone is dealing with and responding to a host of different issues, at any given time. A little more structure can be helpful, but not too much as then you function more like a corporate, with little heart.

Another major thing I have struggled with is the pressure to “be available” at all times. Most organisations do not have a system to recognise and address burnout. However, this is extremely critical as the work is very taxing – emotionally, physically, intellectually. Instead, signs of burnout are often seen as “weakness”, or lack of capacity to deal with pressures. Nothing is more from the truth.

 

Sherene Aftab, a lecturer
Sherene Aftab

Sherene Aftab
Assistant Professor at a management college in Mumbai

Ever since my college days, I have wanted to be a lecturer. Now, when I interact with my students, I feel like we are developing a new chapter of life together; I help by guiding and counselling them through their issues and questions, and they, trust and give me an opportunity to make a positive difference in their life stories.

While I enjoy every bit of what I do, a major pitfall is the remuneration, which is just about enough for survival. Sometimes lecturers don’t even make enough to support their families. This is unfair, and I really fail to understand why teachers are not remunerated at par with other professions. Better remuneration and benefits for the best in the industry, would only encourage passionate youngsters to seriously consider teaching as a profession.

I also feel that there is a lack of professionalism across the education industry. To help improve working conditions, colleges and schools should actively encourage teachers to attend seminars, do add-on courses and certifications. This encouragement should be in tangible forms. For instance, the work pressure should be relaxed when a teacher is pursuing a course. Financial aid or sponsorships of certifications is also a wonderful benefit. Additionally, I strongly advocate for better infrastructure at colleges – from Wi-Fi accessibility for teachers and hygienic canteens, to cleaner, well-maintained toilets for women faculty.

Dinesh Gehlot, Vice President Axis Bank
Dinesh Gehlot

Dinesh Gehlot
Vice President at Axis Bank

The financial sector is very dynamic, and there’s a high level of expectation from professionals at all levels. Achieving fiscal targets on strict deadlines is challenging because targets may not even be realistic! You also need to keep pace, on a daily basis, with new jargons, terminologies, technologies, and regulatory changes by central banks like the Reserve Bank of India, not to mention, then transfer this knowledge to customers.

Though the rewards are equally attractive in financial terms and growth, for those professionals who make it, expectations only rise, leading to burnout and premature aging. The fact is that not all people are cut out for this. Hence hiring people with the right competency as well as ability to acquire, learn and adapt to the required skill sets is critical. It would also help if the industry was more flexible, with more work-from-home opportunities, and

A fact is that not all people are cut out for this grind. Hence hiring those with the right competency as well as the ability to acquire and adapt to the required skill sets is critical. It would also help if the industry was more flexible, with more work-from-home opportunities, and

It would also help if the industry was more flexible, offering more work-from-home opportunities and also measuring your output with actual work done as opposed to the time clocked in. Lastly, all human beings need change. After being in the same job for a certain period of time, allowing professionals to be part of, or lead a new project, can help challenge and build leadership qualities. The finance industry is grappling with a high attrition rate, and by improving working conditions, I believe, we can help bring this down.

Carla D’Silva*
Communication Coach with a Fortune 500 company

When I left my first job, the Human Resources representative spent an hour trying to understand why I was quitting and to see if she could make the workplace better so I would reconsider my decision. However, these days HR don’t seem to care; if you leave, there are 10 people willing to work for a much lesser salary.

Another major problem is the lack of transparency when it comes to important decisions in an employee’s life. Managers get away with harassment because HR and ethics committees tend to be governed by spineless, unethical people themselves. I believe strict action must be taken against anyone who harasses or bullies their people, as it is only when managers and so-called “leaders” are made accountable for their cruel treatment of employees, that workplaces will improve.

However, for this to happen, HR representatives need to start speaking to employees in the lowest rungs and not just the managers, and hen they do, discussions must be kept confidential, which isn’t always the case. I once approached my HR with a grievance and voila, I was

I once approached my HR with a grievance and voila, I was penalised during appraisals for ‘skipping hierarchy’ and not having ‘interpersonal skills’. Now, why would I trust the HR after that?

 

Sanghamitra Das, Fashion Designer
Sanghamitra Das

Sanghamitra Das
Fashion Designer & Consultant

I studied fashion design at NIFT Delhi, one of the most premium institutes in India. But many reality checks followed when I started working. First, you are attracted by the glamour, then you realise how much hard work goes into it.

Another realisation was that our industry is super disorganised, not very transparent, and employee-friendly. For instance, there is a no structure in pay scales or rates of products. Many companies simply run on the whims and fancies of the owner, who is not bothered with the welfare of employees.

Unfortunately, our institutes don’t teach us about the labour rules. Hence companies flout them, even though international garment companies force export houses to be compliant with the laws. This spoils the way international people treat Indian companies.

All of this really starts to bother you as you gain experience. That is perhaps why I ended up starting my own solution providing company. My venture gives me an opportunity to help other companies organise their systems, better. My hope is that this will help make a difference in working conditions at these companies.

* Names changed upon request

Dear millennial, we want to hear your story. Tell us about YOUR career aspirations, the struggles and discriminatory practices you want changed, and your expectations from your workplace. Start writing here (and don’t forget to include hashtag #FutureOfWork!)

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