Is Working 70 Hours A Week The Solution To Improving Productivity?


(MENAFN- IANS) New Delhi, Nov 28 (IANSlife) Recently, Narayan Murthy asserted that young professionals in India should consider working 70 hours per week to help the nation catch up with countries that have made tremendous economic strides in the past two to three decades. His remarks triggered a fierce debate across social platforms on a crucial concern, the state of work-life balance in India and its implications on productivity and well-being.

In his interview, Narayan Murthy sought to express that India's youth has immense potential to drive the country's growth story. This sentiment is also reflected in one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speeches - "The whole world is looking at India's youth with hope because you are the growth engine of the country and India is the world's growth engine." However, India's per capita productivity falls behind on the global scale which is why Murthy proposed a solution, suggesting that until our young workforce achieves parity with its global counterparts, it should consider extending its work hours to improve productivity.

This necessitates the need to assess the current state of employee productivity in India.

According to a recent survey revealed by Statista in Aug 2023, a global data and business intelligence platform, a staggering 43 percent of employees in India spend most of their work hours being performative (appearing busy) rather than productive. India ranks first among the nine countries evaluated in this study, with Japan and Singapore following closely behind at 37 percent and 36 percent, respectively. This spotlights the need to enhance efficiency during our working hours.

Murthy correctly emphasises the need for improvement in work productivity. In spite of working longer hours than the global average, India's work productivity ranks among the lowest worldwide. This has been corroborated by various studies. According to The Lancet study, India's 'expected human capital', indicating the number of years an individual can work at peak productivity, is one of the lowest. India ranks 158 out of 195 countries, indicating that Indians work at their peak productivity for only seven years, in contrast to the top-ranked Finland, where the figure is 28 years. In addition, the data compiled by Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2015 revealed longer work hours don't necessarily translate into higher productivity.

Undoubtedly, low productivity is a concern that requires attention. However, is working 70 hours a week the solution to improving productivity?

According to a study conducted by ASSOCHAM, an alarming 42.5% of corporate employees in India exhibit symptoms of depression or general anxiety disorders. Furthermore, another report by ASSOCHAM disclosed that nearly 56% of corporate employees sleep less than 6 hours a day due to mounting stress levels. It is evident that we are functioning in a high-stress environment, dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic, economic recession, and periods of slowdown. As indicated by these findings, increasing the work hours will only complicate the issue further.

Therefore, while focussing on enhancing productivity, there is merit in facilitating a balance between productivity and employee wellbeing. So, what strategies can we employ to achieve this?

Flexible work arrangements can make a positive impact in managing work-life while engaging the workforce to deliver agreed goals. This is amply corroborated by a Gartner survey demonstrating a 44% reduction in worker fatigue, a 45% increase in intent to stay, and a 28% boost in employee performance in human-centric hybrid or remote work setups. These arrangements also save employees the precious time they would otherwise lose in commuting to the office.

Employers must continue to prioritise the overall well-being of employees, promoting stress management programs, offering coaching services, and creating a supportive, inclusive work environment. Creating ergonomic and comfortable workspaces, both in physical offices and remote setups can contribute to employee well-being and productivity.

Investing in comprehensive training and skill-based development programs like digital literacy can help improve on-the-job performance. By adopting this approach, organisations can enhance productivity without increasing working hours.

Streamlining administrative processes and reducing bureaucracy can save valuable time for both employees and organisations. Using cutting-edge technology such as AI to simplify tasks and reduce paperwork can significantly boost productivity.

For sustained national growth, the emphasis should be on adopting measures to enhance people's productivity, rather than resorting to extended work hours. By promoting efficiency, embracing modern work practices, and supporting employee well-being, India can establish a balance that not only enriches its workforce but also fuels its economic prosperity.

(Vandana S Ahuja is an Organisational HR Adviser and executive Coach (ICF), Executive Director at Metamorph Dynamics Consulting)

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Vandana S Ahuja /lh/tb

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