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  • khangaonkar

The debate: working 70hrs-week

Recently Mr Narayan Murthy, billionair former CEO of Infosys said that youth in India need to work 70hrs/week for a developing country to compete with more successful countries. This started a fierce debate between those supporting Mr Murthys suggestion and those against it.


Those against the suggestion raised issues like

  • mental wellness

  • exploitation

  • work life balance

  • What does this have to do with country

  • Easy for a retired billionair to preach

Those for the suggestion said:

  • To be successful you have to put in time

  • Work hard or face the consequences

  • Whats the problem in working hard ?

  • Other countries became successful by working hard.

In the end, it degenerated into a pointless discussion with both sides mocking each others.

In reality both sides of the argument has value. We need to look at it objectively. The main message should have been that we need to work hard, we need to be passionate and we need to be committed. High productivity does not mean more hours. It means more output in the same number of hours. And how many hours a week are required in not the point. If you are committed and delivering, does the number of hours matter ?

What does working 70hr-week mean ?

Let us look at some numbers for an average person. Let us say he/she sleeps at 11pm and wakes up a 6:00am, getting 7 hrs sleep.

  • Sleep - 7 hrs

  • 3 meals - 1 hr

  • bathroom/shower/dressing - 1 hr

  • family - 1.5 hrs

  • exercise - .5 hrs

With the basic stuff , we have used 11 hrs. We have 13 hours to do stuff. With 7 days, maximum available time in the week in 91 hrs. There are no more hours. With 6 days a week that is 78 hrs. You take either Sunday all day off or if you are like me , you might work few hours on Saturday and few on Sunday. The remaining hours on Sunday or Sunday are free. So let us cap it at 78.

That brings us to the interesting question. What exactly is work ? Does it mean you are continously doing physical labor or if you are a programmer, you are continously typing away at the key board ? No !!

Does work mean only work for our corporate employer ? No !! Mr Murthy was talking about making the country better. So it has to include things other than work for corporate profit. I do not think he meant 70 hrs a week, all for your employer. I think he mean work long hours at whatever you are passionate about and anything thing that leads to a positive contribution. In reality, if you love what you are doing, we do not even it think of it as work.

Rather than calling it work and not work, Let us call it productive time and non productive time. Some examples of Productive time includes

  • work for your employer

  • administrative personal stuff (bills, rents, hospital visits, taxes, legal stuff, investment)

  • Taking care of kids , parents, family

  • Volunteering for good causes

  • helping others

  • Personal development / education

  • Side projects ( Absolutely yes !!)

Some examples of Non productive time of this age are

  • social media

  • binge watching tv

  • pointless gossip

  • Sleeping more than 8 hrs a day

  • Sitting idle

For working individuals the goal should be to maximize productive time and minimize non productive time. And employer work does not mean 100% of the time in front of a monitor typing at a keyboard or hard physical labor. I can be waiting for a train and in my head planning for an upcoming meeting or designing a feature. So we have 78 hrs a week to use. Let us put as much of it as possible to good use. If you are stuck in job that you hate, then yes by all means, put in the minimum hours required to earn the salary. But use the rest of the time productively to get to something you can be passionate about.

For employers, managers, CEOs: If you have kids or have been a teacher, you will know that in this day and age, you can get more out of people by motivating them, by being compasionate, by showing that you care. It is understandable that you would like to get most of the "productive time" available to an employee. But you have to create an environment where employees want to give most of their available productive time to you. The worst way to get someone to work more is to publicly call them out.

In summary, I want to conclude by saying that this 70/hr week debate was a lost opportunity for a constructive discussion on work and life. The message should be that people should strive to maximize their productive time. And if we are talking about the country, it includes more work than working for the profit of one company. Most importantly, if you love what you are doing, it is not even "work". Lastly, motivated individuals are already working more than 70 hrs-week. They don'nt need to be told to work more. What they want to know is what are the things they need to do to achieve the level of success Mr Murthy has achieved ?


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