“Sorry we can’t hire you – you are from New Zealand. Don’t they finish work at 4pm over there. What do you do afterwards?”
Amazingly, I am not making this up. In the one year since I moved back to India I have regularly got the same reaction. Kiwis don’t work long hours so they musn’t be working hard is the general perception. In fact I came across a job advertisement that unashamedly mentioned that “please do not apply if you like to leave at the appointed leaving time” – a shameful HR practice if I may add.
But is working long hours the same as working hard? In my opinion, it is a myth.
In the Indian workplace there are generally three kinds of these so called hard workers a.k.a long-hours workers.
1. The Spoon – We all know this type. This boss ka chamcha actually only starts work once the boss is in the office. You won’t see him around much otherwise as he is downstairs having ‘chai’ or busy getting updated on the latest office gossip. Well, if you spend 4 of the average 8 hour working day simply chatting and wasting time it is no wonder that you need to actually “work” 12 hours.
2. Mr. Do-it-Later: You will spot him glued to his computer often with a look of intense concentration. Oh, he works so hard you think – yes he does. On his Facebook status, his Twitter feed and countless other useless things that need to be done. Basically everything except his actual job. I am a Gemini and known to be a type that can’t focus. When I act like Mr. Do it Later even I end up doing a 12 hour day.
3. The Focus-Locust: Focus is good. Attention to detail is good. But so is knowing when to stop and let go. While the founder or a new startup may find it hard to stop, it is important to do so. Rather than trying to do it yourself – learn to delegate. There is no glory in working 16 hour days non stop till you are 40 and then having a mid-life crisis as you don’t remember the last quality time you had with family.
The issue with working hard v/s working long is the mind-set. In NZ, if you don’t finish your work within the eight – ten hours you are given, you are viewed as being an ineffective and unproductive worker. Here, if you leave on the dot at 6.30 after putting in 9 hours of the day, you are seeing as someone that is letting down the team and going home early to enjoy. Well, isn’t that the point?
The eight hour workday was originally created with the intent that from 24 hours in the day, you devote 8 to work, 8 to play and 8 to sleep.
You work so you can live better not live so you can work more.
Yes, I regularly started at 8am and finished by 4 – but that was because I worked hard at being effective not hard at impressing the boss or working hard just for the sake of doing so. In fact research indicates that the brain cannot concentrate beyond 6-7 hours of intense activity and productivity levels drop by 50% after 8 hours of work. Remember the time when finishing the last part of the report seemed to take hours – it’s because of this. If you had quit at that point and started fresh in the morning, it wouldnt have taken those extra 3 hours and you could have had an enjoyable meal with the family instead.
Working long hours has also been linked to a range of heart diseases (notice how you always snack on those chocolates and vada pav’s once its 7pm and the team is still hanging around doing ‘work’). But it’s not only the tendency to eat junk it’s also because of the mental stress that comes with trying to focus when your brain is tired.
Globally, Indians are known to be the bees — those “hard-working” kinds that work for 12 – 14 hours a day. Next time you do a 12 hour day though think about it – working long is not synonymous to working hard. Or being effective.