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Working More Or Overworking?: Is It Worth Spending Half Of Our Lifetime Working?

More from Manmitha Deepthi

Have you ever thought to yourself: I just wish I could quit my job and move to Europe.

Well, let me tell you something.

You are not the only one. A study conducted by the Association of Accounting Technicians found that the average British thinks about quitting their job 17 times in a year! Strangely enough, we even think about changing our careers 10 times a year. There is yet another disappointing finding by this study: each one of us is likely to go through 671 workplace-related arguments in our lifetime.

Start thinking of all the imaginary scenarios in your head right away! Funnily enough, it also mentions that you are expected to experience five office romances in the entirety of your work-life. Damn, so much for professionalism at the workplace!

Setting aside this delicate plate of facts based on research, I will head into the main course, i.e. the reason for droning on about willingly overworking myself. These days, it has become normal for many of us to work extra hours, have multiple jobs, or have every member of the family working — from the husband to the wife and even their 15-year-old kid.

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We live in a gig economy because our wants have surpassed our needs. Materialism has won over minimalism (for some of us, at least, who find it difficult to tread on the lifestyle of a monk). The whole crazy concept of being an ‘influencer’ would sound like a joke to a 19th-century worker. They would probably think the term is the name for a new plague, for all we know. I wish it were any different.

I loathe mathematics, but let’s bring here some numbers:

There are 8,760 hours in a year. We sleep for around 2,555 hours in a year (assuming we sleep exactly seven hours daily times 365 days a year), which leaves us with 6,205 waking hours.

An average worker (who works 40 hours a week) spends 2,080 hours at their job, i.e. 1/3rd of their wake time (40 hours/week multiplied by 52 workweeks/year = number of hours spent at job/year). Similarly, an over-worker (who works around 70 hours a week) spends 3,120 hours at their job i.e. 1/2 of their wake time).

These numbers repulse me and these facts make it difficult for me to swallow (takes a huge gulp of water).  Growing up, I definitely questioned the education system around the world, but never had I thought that the work system would be equally tantalising. Is there a solution?

A few countries around the world, such as the Netherlands, have implemented a four-day workweek, which has actually resulted in an increase in an individual’s productivity. The economy is booming and the masses are happy. One would wonder if the workweek has made the nation happier or is this because the Netherlands is an already well-off place to begin with to be able to afford the luxury of having shorter workweeks.

Contrarily, countries including Mexico, Turkey and South Africa continue to grind their workers more than they grind their coffee beans. On a completely different note, here are a few things I have learned during the four years of my work life in Canada:

  • It is essential to have a positive work environment.
  • It is equally important to have healthy relationships with one’s co-workers.
  • It is ideal to have an understanding management team that knows the A to Z of leadership.
  • Of utmost importance is the cooperative nature of the HR during a crisis (to see whether they side with the company or its workers).
  • The most important part that we often forget is ensuring that we work in a field we are passionate about (it might be really difficult to find one, but I am certain it is not impossible).

In an ideal world, you would wake up with a smile to go to work. It would undoubtedly make you feel like you are bringing a positive changet to your community, or the planet at large. However, what I just described might as well be a utopia or a parallel universe. Very few people I know would wake up with a smile; excited about work. It’s funny how like children dread school, adults dread work.

I recall ranting about my seven-days-a-week worklife that I recently bestowed upon myself on social media. What can I say, I like to torture myself for the sins of shopping that I commit regularly. However, to my surprise, I had a few friends who related to me. They were working long hours, too!

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One of whom was from India, who mentioned that despite over-working (55 hours a week, which was much lesser compared to his seniors), it can get difficult to make ends meet. There is also a major division on the basis of class (for a lack of a better word) based on your job status. There is barely any respect given to mazdurs or labourers. They could be an uneducated embroider who weaves magic with their thread but can be seen sleeping in a tattered house because they cannot utilise their skill to its full potential. Or they could be a house-maid who cooks the most delicious, divine meal, yet, remains an undiscovered chef. If you are not an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer, you are a black sheep in your family.

I remember my mother and grandfather teaching me basic morals as a kid. On different occasions, I had them teach me to treat everyone with the same amount of respect, be it be a 5-year-old or a 50-year-old, a beggar or a billionaire. They all should be the same in your eyes and they all deserve respect as humans. That, of course, stayed with me for life. I wish everyone followed that moral code. I was happy to find that Canada does not have a class system, well, not one that is as strict as the one back home (this is a whole other rant about caste, which I do not want to get into right now).

One of my friends from my college here in Canada is working two jobs as well (70 hours a week), just to make ends meet and survive by herself as an immigrant. And I know it is the same story for a majority of the immigrants who dream of a life that assures them safety with a solid standard of living. Most of us dream of settling abroad and companies love us for our work ethic because we are desperate to find a home in a foreign world, in turn, creating a new batch of diasporic minorities.

In the end, the most shattering discovery was acknowledging the fact that my very own mother was overworking herself as a teacher, to ensure I succeed in life. She was easily putting in 75 hours a week; teaching is her passion, but she feels that the time she devoted to it is draining her mentally, which I can assume is true for doctors and many other professionals.

I have come to realise that most of us go to work for the sake of money and to provide for our clan. I mean, of course, why else would humans spend time away from their loved ones, family and nature? But in the end, it makes you question: is it even worth it? Is it the correct system or does it need to be revamped to one similar to the Netherlands?

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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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