The Modern Factories

by on March 7th, 2015
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Today’s youths dream jobs, air-conditioned hi-tech environment, modern lifestyle, handsome salary, and higher status – the elements of a typical IT factory. The above mentioned are marketed elements of present day modern factories. But the actual results we are getting because of IT factory are societal imbalances.

Directly or indirectly it affects the human space and the societal bindings which results in distress, anger, frustration, psychological disturbances, divorce and suicides. Those marketed elements are pictured only by the fresher’s, but the experienced pictures things differently which has highly negative aspects.

In India, most IT companies grade the attendance of their employees based on the number of hours they work in office, and not the number of calendar days. Even at times the Team heads stress the employees to work from home even during the vacations. I wonder that whether Corporate know what’s the meaning of vacation and the effective team management? Getting scheduled leaves sanctioned is a big issue. Thus many tend to work extra hours and balance the office attendance structure to earn the leaves. This attitude leads to serious health hazards and other societal problems.

People may argue that the IT industry is performing well in India with lucrative career setup but do they read distressed employees data? More employees who are under heavy stress were ranked from IT industry. Of course the industry plays a good role in national economy. But what’s in future? Don’t we need human values? Aren’t the corporate aware that high stress and high work pressure will leads to a catastrophic event?

The extended shift timings and on-call assignments are high stress inducers which dry up mental strength. If companies can’t avoid that processes, they should hire professionals to undertake those assignments in a team. An American sign off immediately when time is up, but only Indians sit and finish it. Is this to impress boss? For any promotions? No. It’s because of the fear of job security.

The IT companies are drying human brains, sucking their emotional balances in life and the professionals are being treated as literate slaves. Competition to perform well continuously under pressure, facing major escalation issues from client and/or management; performance-based grades are few reasons to build stress. When this is being pictured what the use of professional training for the employees is as the results are depleting the human values and add fear in life.

During the first week of Feb 2012 my best friend who is working in an IT giant “Bye-Bye” Consultancy Services (BCS) had applied for relocation to take care of her ill health parents and her Team Leader and Project Manager knows this. Despite of knowing everything they asked her to resign and tried to convince her that resignation is better than transfer. What a great management philosophy and HR principle followed in that company. Isn’t it unfair to force an employee to resign and even labor acts views it seriously. At this point a human heart will start trembling on what to choose, parents or job? This mental pressure cannot be expressed in words but it’s too serious that most IT companies never bother about human values.

Most experts agree to the fact that corporate stress has opened doors to high divorce rates. Delhi High Court is the only place where Mohit, who works for a successful IT firm, now gets to meet his wife. “We were working for the same company and fell in love soon. Parents negotiated and got us married. But soon after marriage we could not hold on to the love as office work became more essential, and workplace stress just landed us where we get to meet today,” sighs Mohit.

Adrija Chatterjee was married to Debdeep Ghosh, a 32-year-old senior Executive with a global BPO. “Ever since our marriage, we hardly got time to enjoy our union as he was mostly spending his time in office and even when back home, office remained his priority,” says Adrija who is now divorced.

It is not only divorce but also physical ailments, broken relationships, and growing suicide rates are also some of the effects of “corporate stress”.

Sanjay Goyal, a 58 year old Bank Manager with a leading private bank recounts the tragic death of his only son Akash Goyal, a 24-year old working with a leading MNC. “He used to come home often exhausted and dead tired. In the beginning we used to dine together but then he started coming home late and even kept working till the wee hours of the night. And this kept continuing for months, and then one day we finally discovered early morning that our son was lying on his bed but he was not waking up. After incessant calls we barged into the room and found him dead. The post mortem said he had a heart attack.”

The risk of heart attacks and high cholesterol levels are high among young professionals working in IT companies, BPOs and other corporate where work hours are very demanding. The alarms on health hazards led the health ministry in India to finally think of drafting an exclusive health policy for the IT sector.

Where is the understanding of hobbies for employed professionals? By that I mean taking up an interest that has nothing to do with your work, and pursuing it passionately outside work? It could be learning a foreign language, amateur theatre, gardening, script-writing, creative writing, learning about the stock market, whatever.

What about married couples? How often do they see each other? It is no wonder some married people in Mumbai are having affairs. Now, statutory maternity leave in India is three months. In the UK it is one year (nine months paid).

How can a mother possibly return to work after three months (and that is assuming she worked right up to the day she gave birth) – since she would still be breast-feeding then? Why do white-collar mothers in India have to be punished and forced to leave their careers when many have put so much into them and are very talented?

In Sweden and Norway you get 16 months paid maternity leave and in Germany, Estonia and Bulgaria, Spain you get three years unpaid leave as well.

There is also a worrying culture here of not using privileged leave and accumulating it as cash. It’s madness. Why would you not want to use your leave and go off and see the world, or at least visit your relatives and friends in other parts of India?

Is the reason to impress the boss – that wow, you are such a loyal employee you don’t take leave? Is there a social pressure on employees not to take vacations? What an odd boss to be impressed by that? How can someone be good at their job if they never relax and never take leave…? What knowledge of the world would they have? How would they be able to “connect” with say, a foreign client? Incidentally connecting with a whole range of people, from all walks of life, is especially important for any professional.

The six-day working week needs to be abolished in India. Perhaps you would argue that this will lead to a slowdown and the reason the west is in decline is because they have a five day working week. But there was a time when the west boomed on a five day working week and I don’t think it is the reason for the current downturn.

Why is a six-day working week the norm in India? I don’t know any other country where this is the case. In the rest of the world it is five days.

In India the average person works an 11 hour day six days a week = 66 hours a week !! Compare that to France where a 35 hour week is mandatory.

The Japanese are renowned workaholics and have been working themselves into the ground for decades hence the word ‘karoshi’ or death by overwork. Maybe Indian companies should look at Japan and take lessons of what not to do from them. As for people that employ drivers, nannies and cooks for seven days, they should be ashamed of themselves. How can anyone be expected to work seven days, week in, week out? This should be made illegal. It is not enough to have a colorful office with balloons hanging around to ensure the work environment is stress-free.

The solution is that the Indian Government brings the whole nation down on to a five-day working week, as France has done, and also makes a seven day working week illegal.

Then Indian private companies should start implementing work life balance policies such as:-

– Offering childcare financial assistance and/or on-site crèches

– Giving staff free membership of a company health club

– Compelling people to take a holiday

– Flexitime – offering flexible start and finish times provided the employee works the core hours

– Job share/part -time working

– Paid paternity leave

– Relocation – allowing employees to relocate to any branch in India or overseas to suit their personal circumstances e.g. if they get married

– Self managed working – employees manage their own working pattern and time to deliver outputs

– Allowing staff to work from home

– Term-time contracts – offering contractual working hours during school terms only and allowing parents not to work during school holidays

If the work is well organized, stress levels seem to be lower. Proper communication between management and staff also plays an important role. If you give a clear task as well as some freedom and liberty to fulfill it and give constructive feedback then we don’t see any reason for stress.

Experts say corporate stress has grown with global crisis. Some managers might think that it’s about the “survival of the fittest”, but others believe that only somebody who feels comfortable at work will be able to perform well for the company. The more you worry about your career, the higher your stress levels go up.

I’m not an IT professional but I could understand the pressure that my friends bear. Even my cousin who worked for a “Bye-Bye” Consultancy Services resigned his job after pressure from his wife since she started feeling isolated and hardly find time to share her feelings! It’s time for the corporate world to redefine the policies in a humanity manner and to implement human values.

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