“India’s work productivity is one of the lowest in the world. So, therefore, my request is that our youngsters must say, This is my country. I will work 70 hours a week for the next 2-3 years. I will not spend my time going to movies or doing other things. I will work 70 hours a week and I will make sure that my country becomes a great power.” Narayana Murthy made these comments during a podcast interview with former Infosys CFO Mohandas Pai. Little did he know that his comments would become a topic of national debate, but here we are! Murthy’s comments have been met with mixed reactions. Some people, such as Sajjan Jindal, chairman of the JSW Group, Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO of Ola, Ayushmaan Kapoor, founder of software development firm Xeno, Harsh Goenka, chairman of RPG Enterprises, CP Gurnani, CEO of IT company Tech Mahindra, agree with Murthy that hard work and long hours are necessary for India to compete on the global stage. Others, such as Vivek Mudaliar, who has had more than 20 years of human resources experience in globally known companies, Somdutta Singh, founder and CEO of Assiduus Global Inc, Dhirendra Vashisht, director-India operations at Bastian Solutions have argued that working 70 hours a week is not sustainable or productive in the long term. Labour unions and health experts have also criticized Murthy’s comments, arguing that a 70-hour workweek is illegal in India and would hurt employee health and well-being. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has also warned that a 70-hour workweek could perpetuate gender inequality, hinder diversity and inclusion efforts, and negatively impact employee health and well-being. However, Murthy has defended his comments, saying that he is not asking people to work 70 hours a week indefinitely. He believes that India can become a global economic superpower in 2-3 years if its workforce is willing to work hard during this time. So, the question remains unresolved – Should we work 70 hours a week?
Why should we work 70 hours a week?
People have given a variety of reasons to support working 70 hours a week. Some people argue that working longer hours leads to increased productivity and output. This is because workers have more time to complete their tasks. Working longer hours would lead to a more disciplined and hardworking work culture in India. This is because workers would be more focused on their work and less likely to engage in unproductive activities. The extra time from a 70-hour work week can be used to develop their skills and knowledge. This could help them to advance in their careers and earn higher salaries.
As per the 2019 Time Use Survey, individuals aged 15-29 in India allocate more than 7.2 hours daily to employment-related activities in rural regions and 8.5 hours in urban areas. When scrutinizing various states, it’s apparent that in urban Uttarakhand, young people, on average, dedicate 9.6 hours to work each day. Countries like Germany and Japan, which have traditionally had long work hours, as examples of how a 70-hour work week could be beneficial for India. These countries have achieved high levels of economic growth and productivity. Some people argue that a 70-hour work week would help to improve India’s labour productivity, which is currently one of the lowest in the world. This would make India more competitive in the global economy.
By 2030, the proportion of India’s working-age population to the total population is expected to peak at 68.9%. With a relatively youthful demographic, boasting a median age of 28.4 years, India gains a competitive edge in its workforce. There is a pressing need for a committed labour force, particularly among the youth, who are willing to dedicate 70 hours per week to contribute significantly to the nation-building endeavour. In a globalized economy, businesses are constantly competing with each other. Some people argue that working longer hours is necessary to stay ahead of the competition and maintain a competitive advantage. 70 hours a week would also help to achieve their personal goals, such as earning more money, getting ahead in their career, or starting their own business. Some people are passionate about their work and feel that they are making a difference in the world by working long hours. This may be especially true for people who work in fields such as healthcare, education, or social justice.
Why we should NOT work 70 hours?
Research consistently shows that productivity declines significantly after 50 hours of work per week and drops further after 55 hours. This is because workers become fatigued and less focused. Long work hours can lead to burnout, reduced job satisfaction, and an imbalance in work-life equilibrium. Workers may have less time for their families and friends, and they may be more likely to experience stress and health problems. Long work hours can have several negative health implications, including sleep disturbances, increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Working longer hours can be especially challenging for working mothers, who may have to juggle work and childcare responsibilities. This can hinder their career progression.
The pay gap between top management and bottom management in India is one of the highest in the world. A 2019 study by Hay Group found that senior managers in India are paid 11.7 times more than lower-level workers. This is much higher than the global average of 6.4 times. The pay gap may favour the senior management due to skills and experience, demand and supply metrics and the corporate cultures, however, the high pay gap between top management and bottom management in India is becoming a major problem. While it is unfair to lower-level workers who often work long hours and contribute significantly to the company’s success, it also leads to resentment and dissatisfaction among employees. 70-hour work week further deteriorates the situation with the ratio of the number of hours and pay worsening further. People arguing against a 70-hour work week believe that companies should first fairly pay their employees based on their skills, experience, and contribution to the company, regardless of their seniority. Companies should offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting and flextime which can help employees to better balance their work and personal lives. While this is often available to those in senior management, the same is not available to the middle and lower tier of the organisation.
One size doesn’t fit all
In the realm of professional pursuits, it’s crucial to acknowledge that not everyone is cut from the same cloth. People harbour diverse aspirations, each paving their unique path to success. Expecting all individuals to conform to a standardized working model, whether it’s the figurative 70-hour grind or the more balanced 40-hour week, is an oversight. The number of hours put in doesn’t necessarily equate to a person’s work ethic, and assumptions based on this metric can be misleading. Life is a dynamic journey, and the approach to work should be adaptable. While pushing hard during certain periods may yield substantial results, it doesn’t dictate a lifelong commitment to a specific work intensity. It’s unreasonable for employers, especially in top corporations, to demand 60+ hours without commensurate compensation. Disparities in work hours and remuneration are both glaring and unacceptable.
A businessperson’s commitment to nearly 70 hours a week stems from ambition and a sense of responsibility. Being the first to arrive and the last to leave showcases dedication. However, a key realization is that such a rigorous schedule may not be suitable for everyone on your team. Understanding that individual aspirations differ is paramount. Not everyone shares the same level of ambition or finds fulfilment in the pursuit of professional milestones. Examining the broader landscape, public figures often championing the 70-hour workweek may have different perspectives rooted in varied experiences. Respecting achievers like Narayan Murthy is essential, but it’s equally crucial to recognize that their success narratives were shaped in a different era.
Technological advancements, particularly in artificial intelligence and machine learning, have altered the professional landscape, making certain aspects of work more efficient. Achieving significant goals requires dedication and effort beyond the norm, a sentiment echoed by those who have made noteworthy accomplishments. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that happiness and contentment can be derived from diverse sources — be it ambitious pursuits or personal hobbies. The insistence on toiling for success should be balanced with an understanding that not everyone aspires to achieve monumental feats. In essence, the choice to work 70 hours a week is just that—a choice. It should not be imposed as a mandate. Recognizing the individuality of aspirations and work preferences creates a more inclusive and supportive professional environment, where success is not measured solely in hours worked but in the holistic well-being and fulfilment of each team member.