Work-life balance

I used to have a job that involved me doing something I was passionate about.  My boss knew this, and used it to manipulate me into working longer and longer hours.  Calls at night, meetings on Sundays, discussions at picnics.  It never ended.

And then, I was fortunate enough to move to a country where most professions (apart from the high-pressure ones such as investment banking and PR and journalists) packed their bags and headed off after nine or ten hours of work.  6pm and offices used to be empty.  Lunch breaks actually saw people head out to parks to sit and read.  And weekends really did mean two whole days.

It was … illuminating.  And liberating.  The range of options that opened up, the flexibility available for running errands and doing chores, the amount of leisure time possible … after a year of that, I vowed to fight my damndest to never again end up in a job which took that away from me.

Coming back to India has been even more illuminating.  It was bad enough when the country was simply a developing nation, with too many people fighting for too few good jobs.  Now, with the economy booming and growth in so many new sectors (recent hiccups to the contrary), there’s even more pressure for people to deliver more – to retain the good jobs they find, to make full use of first-mover advantage, to capitalise on the massive growth potential.

And so Friend A works till a 12-hour shift and commutes for 3 hours.  This is why Friend B is replying to emails on Blackberry at 1am during a birthday party.  This is why Friend C meets clients who are willing to travel to his residence at 5.45am.  And this is why Friend D has forgotten how to have an uninterrupted physical conversation without checking their tablet or PC or answering a call.

And everybody has health issues.  Blood pressures and sugar counts and cholesterol levels are high.  Spines are being distorted and are breaking down in complaint.  Physical activity is at a minimum, and stamina and fitness is non-existent.  Books lie unread.  Films remain unwatched.  New music is unheard of.  Friends increasingly become Whatsapp buddies.  Picnics and hikes and vacations are non-existent or rushed through.

And it’s not as if the monetary compensation is always worth it, either.

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It’s hard to say no to bosses.  There’s the fear of being labelled as difficult, or not a team player, or being upstaged by some brown-nosing colleague.

It’s hard to say no to more revenue growth for your business.  There’s the fear that some rival may swoop in for the contract, that employees will take advantage of your good-natured leniency, that things will not get done just right if you are not overseeing it.

And so everybody is pushing themselves harder and harder for longer and longer – and most crucially, accepting that this is a decades-long scenario.

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More people need to learn to push back more.

To say, there’s never going to be no work and what I’ve done is more than enough.  To say, would you rather I sit around till after dinner and secretly chat on Facebook or do all my work and leave at a humane hour.  To say, I have a life and it’s not filled with work and stop giving me that disappointed look because we’re not changing the world we’re bloody writing slogans to help sell more soaps.  To say, what’s the point of earning all this if I’m going to spending it all later on to deal with all the health issues I’m accumulating now.  To say, I want to stop being so tired all the time.  To say, I would like to enjoy myself out of office so that I actually start looking forward to enjoying myself in office.  To say, don’t tell me baking a cake and sitting down to eat it while reading a new book is not as important as the team off-site, because tomorrow there may be a tsunami or an earthquake or my car’s engine may short-circuit and then what would my life have been so just fuck off ok.  To say, there’s a reason it’s called a work-life balance.

And then to do those things.

Because work will always be there.  But friends and family won’t.

One thought on “Work-life balance

  1. A good rant this -about the importance of time and self preservation. It is hard to prioritize when everyone around you seems caught up in the madness-so thanks for the reminder.

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