Today, I have the pleasure of hosting my blogger friend, Rahul Bhatia, on my blog. Rahul has been a navy man and has practically traveled around the globe. He is simple, down to earth and blogs about issues of relevance to all of us. I especially enjoy his travelogues. He blogs at Rahul’s blogs and collections. Over to him

The boss is staying back till 10 PM.  I also have to stay even though I don’t have anything that can’t wait till tomorrow.  How many of us face this situation regularly?
I am sure this dilemma is faced by most Indians in their work environment no matter where they work. Each of us is reluctant to leave the office at the designated hour, lest it may be construed as not caring enough for work or not working enough! In my long years of work, this is one thing I noticed irrespective of the place of work.
Many years back, I worked in the Navy, and the kind of work we did was totally different and so was the work environment. One thing I can safely say is that in those places, whether in the field or at office, the seniors always stayed with the team and did not delegate the work to the junior to be done individually. If we were sailing on the high seas, the Captain would be perched on the bridge the entire day, and sleep in a cabin adjacent to the bridge. He continued to drop in at odd hours on the bridge while the rest of the team slogged in the engine room and manned other vital equipment.
During the training period too, the officers accompanied the trainees in the tedious exercises involving a lot of manual effort. The beauty of the time spent and the experiences gained in serving at different places and working odd hours is very difficult to express. While serving in Goa, for a period of six months, our timings changed from 5.45 AM to 12.45 PM in view of the runway extension being undertaken at the airport! So, I would reach the Briefing Room in the wee hours to brief the pilots flying assorted aircraft during the day. On board the ship, it was almost a 24X7 routine during the sailing period of the ship. 
Once I came to the Headquarters in Delhi, the routine was more like normal office hours! To my utter surprise, some of my counterparts preferred to stay back after working hours; whereas, I would pack up and leave unless there was a reason to stay back or an important meeting. The seniors would be busy in the meetings during the day, so they would catch up with their own work in the later hours. What prompted the sycophants to stay on is anyone’s guess. This prompts me to remember the famous Peter’s Principle that, “People rise in the organization to their level of incompetence.”
When visiting many public offices, I found people merrily chatting and indulging in gossip instead of attending to the customer. Some women even brought their knitting to their work desks. Callous as it is, “public servants” care two hoots, as their jobs are secure.
I got an opportunity to rub shoulders with professionals globally and never found the phenomenon of sycophancy afflicting the large populace! Most of the people left the office as soon as they had finished the day’s work at the appointed hour! In Europe, it would be strange to find people in offices beyond lunch hour on Fridays as most leave to enjoy the weekend with their families and beloved. It is much the same in other countries in the USA, Gulf, Middle East, and SE Asia. 
It is not as if the productivity increases by sticking around in the office beyond work hours for no apparent reason. This practice actually lowers productivity levels. Another crucial factor to remember is that a work-life balance is needed to keep the employee at optimum performance levels. If an employee is unhappy and unable to contribute time for home duties, the unhappiness and fatigue will likely spill over to the work performed. We should strive to fill in more work in the productive time.
I am reminded of C Northcote Parkinson who very aptly said, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” 

Do you find yourself being pushed to spending long hours at work? Do you really think you are more productive when you work long hours?

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99 Thoughts on “Are you Overworked?

  1. I would like to share a recent post by a fellow blogger making a similar point –

    The IT industry is the biggest victim of this syndrome. More often than not, unrealistic deadlines are agreed upon, because well, customer is the king and employees are labors.

    Otherwise, in normal circumstances, I don’t think people stay back at office to ‘work’ everyday. The stay back to enjoy free dinners for people staying late, free internet and air conditioned environment and for the lack of anything better to do!

    • Thanks Akanksha, for sharing the post! Every industry is afflicted by this syndrome. There are no free lunches or dinners in life and the price we pay is devoting lesser time for our own homes and family by staying late!

  2. I have had both type of experiences. Our sign off time at office was 5.30 pm and this boss, would come to our cubicles by 5.45 pm and shoo us away, if we were found to be lurking at our workstations. Of course during product launches and important meetings, we were allowed to stay late. 😀
    And then had a lady boss, who had clearly laid the rules that you can’t leave office till she left. That was another matter that she was unmarried and stayed at Virar (Mumbai) and going late suited her well.
    Its ok to stay back late if the work demands, but staying late to please somebody is terrible and pathetic!

  3. I know what you mean, Rahul. It is a fashionable thing to work late after dawdling during the day when one could easily have completed the work. Deadline bound work is understandable or when one has to work with overseas partners whose time zones are different, but when the normal babu does ‘overtime’ it is usually for the extra money earned for it 🙂

    • Unfortunately Zephyr, the people who dwadle around during the productive time do not realize the value of the most important resource called ‘Time’ which in India is stretchable! By the time they realize its value,it is too late:)

  4. Wohoooooooo Rahul sir!!! AWESOME Post the examples, the language the quotes everything is just so perfect for a Gues Post Fantastic one Rahul sir 😉 pssst I want to send it to my 🙂 (you know whom) lol

  5. Very pertinent topic Rahul…a lot depends on the work culture and the top boss. Qualitative work is more important than qualitative work. No such hassles for me…I am a Freebird.

  6. I work with Japan and over there leaving before your manager is sacrilege !
    People stay on in office even till mid night but never ever leave before their manager .. even if they have no work !

    • We have a long road to travel before we reach anywhere near Japan in terms of basic honesty at heart and work! What they practice is to make a better world and not for just their own selfish end, Ruchira!

  7. It will depend very much on your level/ position in the organisation.
    When I was reporting to a Sr manager in the co I worked with,I used to leave soon as I would finish work,which would be almost at sign off time.
    But,as I grew in the organisation,I was reporting to the CMD directly.Yes,during those days I was expected to stay on while the Boss was in the office.Reasons were genuine,being in the Sr position,one could be needed at any time during the meeting Boss has been having….And of course,it’s always good to be in Boss’ good books .

    • BK, the perks of holding a Senior position warrants staying back as required! However, in a Lala culture company, most people are staying back just to grind their own axe!In MNCs it is mostly a functional hierarchy and not bureaucratic one!

  8. Every working individual can relate to it to the core. India has a bad work culture and I don’t know why its considered good when you spend extra time in office though you may be doing nothing substantial.

    I had a lady boss and she would leave the office on time, the other colleagues would always laugh at her and blame her that she hardly does anything, though they could never prove. I would always look up to her and later more when she was selected as one of the few to get into IIM-A for the executive batch. She was a real manager, could manage her time perfectly.

  9. I work in the IT industry and I have worked with both kind of bosses. The problem with IT industry is that most of the times, the deadlines and the assessment of the timeframe in which the project has to be done is so screwed up, that it trickles down to the engineers (labourers) and they end up working their ass off. It all boils down to a good understanding boss which is as hard to find as an honest politician.

    • Can understand your predicament Amit! Bad project managers do not plan the time and resources well hence the team suffers to work overtime! It is a case of a round peg in a square hole:)

  10. hmmm well my job is such that even if i want to leave on time , I am sometimes now able to .. get stuck at the last moment.. although I have nothing like I have to stay till my boss is there .. There have been times when I have finished dot on time and gone ..

    I think this culture of working till boss etc is more so in our nation .. here I have not felt pressurised to stay .. yeah is there is work and I ma in the middle of it I have stayed back for as long it takes ..

    I guess to impress the boss many do it that way 🙂
    in actually if I am spending tooo much TIME , I can be told that health and safety and what not 🙂

  11. Oh… I totally agree…
    Stretching beyond the work hours is done more as a fashion… To face the peer pressure… I am overworked and I am unhappy… If there was no blog… I would have said, “I have no life”… Coz these days… All i do is WORK and BLOG….