Why Do Our Offices Glamourise Hectic Hours And Overworked Employees?

I am going to travel to places I’ve always wanted to go. I am going to read books that have been waiting on my ‘must read’ list for years. I will learn new skills, visit museums, enjoy being around friends and family… In short, I plan to LIVE.”

My father ended his retirement speech. After a round of applause, tears, and hugs, I turned to my younger sister. We joined an already ongoing conversation.

Weekend parties are the best, aren’t they?”

Oh! Hello, here are my nieces, she’s a CFA and works for one of the Big Four, and she is the elder one. Married into a business family,” said our uncle.

I am sure you can introduce me better, Uncle. Hi, I am an entrepreneur. I own a women’s fashion brand,” I said holding my hand out to everyone in the group. They shook my hand while looking at me slack-jawed.

She comes back home at 1 am, just made a lodging boarding out of her house, I tell you.”

My aunt cut the tension with one raised eyebrow, nose up in the air, and nodding in my sister’s direction. “Some kids have to work so hard, while…” she said frowning in my direction. “So, will we be getting the good news from you soon, Pooja?

This was my cue to smile and leave the group.

Being a professional, working odd hours, and earning a seven-digit package at 24 is apparently a big deal. Founding a self-sustaining startup under 30, and living life on one’s own terms is a no notice feat.

Image via Getty

If I finish work before sundown, have time for my family, time to pursue my hobbies, and am under 60 years of age, I am perceived to be doing something wrong. There is a pressure to be a part of this office-culture bashing brigade and to add to #MondayBlues on social media till one reaches their retirement age. Don’t employees and owners themselves give character and personality to any organisation that makes up this “office culture”? Why are we glamorising this toil and showing off unhealthy ways of living today? I am proud of my sister and her accolades, but I really think someone somewhere needs to address this issue of erratic working hours.

There are experts around the world who will agree. Adam Grant of the World Economic Forum, and a psychologist from the Wharton School, Pennsylvania, supports a four-day working week. He tells me, “I think we have some good experiments showing that if you reduce work hours, people are able to focus their attention more effectively, they end up producing just as much, often with higher quality and creativity, and they are also more loyal to the organisations that are willing to give them the flexibility to care about their lives outside of work.

I also spoke to Rutger Bregman, an economist, historian and author of “Utopia for Realist” about this. He says, “For decades, all the major economists, philosophers, sociologists, they all believed, up until the 1970s, that we would be working less and less. In the 1920s and 1930s, there were actually major capitalist entrepreneurs who discovered that if you shorten the working week, employees become more productive. Henry Ford, for example, discovered that if he changed the working week from 60 hours to 40 hours, his employees would become more productive, because they were not that tired in their spare time.”

Expecting a four-day working week may be incredulous and far-fetched. It could be impractical even, but how about addressing the issue of long and incongruous working hours?

I met my friend the next weekend for dinner, after a month. She works for an MNC in India known for its bonhomous work culture.

We now have a 9-hour working day.”

Wasn’t your CEO just in the news for shunning emails and proudly conversing on WhatsApp with employees to avoid delays?” I asked disbelievingly.

She gave a quick bark of laughter and exclaimed, “This is the usual scenario for the last two working hours, now.” She continued: “Picture this, a set of people staring blankly at the clock on the wall or incessantly and restlessly checking their phones. People in groups discussing what time they punched in and calculating how much longer it should be before they book a cab home. Most, like me, are Netflix-and-chilling by their desks to pass the last few hours after completing their day’s work. I am really into Korean Dramas now,” she chuckled.

How is this productive? How is this helping the organisation and its employees? We need to start giving importance to the quality of work rather than the quantity of work done. How about rewarding employees for completing their work and leaving office on time? Over-achievers should be identified for going beyond their work responsibilities and not their work timings; for excellence and not for toiling. I really hope we start giving importance to carving a full life while we work, instead of thinking we should start ‘living’ after 60. With growing life expectancy, here’s to an improved quality of life.

With inputs from the World Economic Forum meeting.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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