How many hours a week should an individual work?
After software billionaire NR Narayana Murthy, the father-in-law of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, stated that young people should be prepared to work 70 hours a week to aid in the nation’s development, that is the question that has been posed in India over the past few days.
In a recent podcast, he claimed that India has some of the lowest rates of work productivity worldwide. “Unless we improve our work productivity… we will not be able to compete with those countries that have made tremendous progress.”
Thus, I kindly ask that our children declare, ‘This is my country.'” “I want to work seventy hours a week,” he continued.
Following the comments’ viral success, Mr. Murthy faced backlash from people discussing “toxic” work cultures and what hiring managers should look for in candidates on social media and in newspaper opinion sections.
Some of the criticism came from individuals pointing out that engineers at Indian technology companies, like Infosys, which Mr. Murthy co-founded, typically start out with starting salaries that are on the low end.
Others concentrated on the potential negative effects of working continuously on one’s physical and mental well-being.
“There’s not enough time for family conversations, exercise, socializing, or leisure. Not to mention that employers demand that workers return calls and respond to emails after hours. Then ask yourself, “Why are young people having heart attacks?” A cardiologist from Bengaluru named Dr. Deepak Krishnamurthy posted on X (previously Twitter).
Additionally, some noted that the majority of women worked far more than 70 hours per week, both at home and in the workplace.
The discussion takes place at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has caused people to reassess their relationship with their jobs globally. Many claimed that working from home increased their productivity, while others promoted a positive work-life balance.
There are advantages to this, according to experts, and not just for workers.
“Work-life balance policies help companies retain more of their current workforce, attract new hires better, reduce absenteeism, and increase productivity,” the International Labor Organization (ILO) stated in a report published last year that included data from a study of 45 US companies.
Indians already put in a lot of overtime; the ILO report states that prior to the pandemic, Indians worked an average of more than 2,000 hours annually, far more than people in the US, Brazil, or Germany.
Indian film producer and entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala wrote on X that “increasing productivity isn’t just about working longer hours.” It’s all about upskilling, creating a happy work atmosphere, and getting paid fairly for the work you accomplish. Work product quality surpasses logging more hours.”
In India, there are strict labor laws, but activists feel that more needs to be done by officials to enforce them. This is a sensitive topic.
A bill that would have increased factory working hours from eight to twelve hours was withdrawn earlier this year by the Tamil Nadu state government due to protests from workers and opposition leaders.
When Mr. Murthy proposed in 2020 that Indians work a minimum of 64 hours a week for two to three years in order to make up for the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus lockdown, he was met with criticism.
An additional Indian CEO faced backlash the previous year after advocating for young people to start their careers by putting in eighteen hours a day.
However, a few Indian business magnates concur with the guidance.
The CEO of Tech Mahindra, CP Gurnani, speculated that Mr. Murthy may have meant for the comment to be interpreted in a more comprehensive manner.
“I think he’s talking about more than just the company when he talks about work. It encompasses both your nation and yourself. Work 40 hours for the company and 30 hours for yourself is what he hasn’t said, not work 70 hours for the company. Put in the 10,000 hours necessary to become an expert in your field. “Sacrifice late hours and acquire proficiency in your area of expertise,” he shared on X.
“A rapidly developing nation of our size does not need a five-day workweek culture,” stated Sajjan Jindal, chairman of the JSW Group of companies.
While some developed nations have been experimenting with four-day work weeks, India is debating longer workdays.
Belgium amended its laws in 2022 to allow employees to work four days a week without losing pay. The goal, according to the nation’s prime minister, is to “create a more dynamic and productive economy”.
At the end of the trial, 56 of the 61 participating companies said they would stick with the four-day workweek, at least for the time being, and 18 said they would make the change permanent. Last year, a number of UK-based companies took part in a six-month trial scheme organized by 4 Day Week Global, which advocates for a shorter week.
According to a report evaluating the scheme’s effects in the UK, it provided “extensive benefits,” especially for the welfare of the employees.
According to its authors, this could signal a change in public opinion, making three-day weekends or midweek breaks the new norm.
Portugal is currently conducting a similar experiment.