Let’s stop the Overworking Culture

When an Infosys techie was murdered using a computer cable by a security guard at their Pune campus, besides feeling extremely shocked and sorry for the young lady, the first thought that came to my mind was ‘ What was she doing at work on a Sunday?’ But that’s not a very difficult question to answer. Indians generally love to overwork and unfortunately Indian employers love to extract the last drop of blood from a willing employee. Its almost a genetic Indian entrepreneurial trait. Leading to an organisational culture that encourages working beyond office hours, and working beyond the working week.

A 25-year-old woman was found dead at her workplace in the Hinjewadi IT Park near Pune.(HT File Photo)

More often than not, people do it to get ahead of the rest quickly, to see fast promotions or fast increments without realising that it is not worth it.

Of course, we are not the only population in the world that has an overworking culture. The Japanese, for example, are fairly well known for it. The head of the Japanese advertising giant Dentsu who resigned after the suicide of a junior employee on December 29, 2016, was linked to a company culture that required staffers to work huge amounts of overtime. Dentsu president and CEO, Tadashi Ishii, stepped down as a result of the suicide after its January board meeting. Dentsu, which employs 47,000 people and operates in 140 countries, has been in the spotlight following the suicide of an employee on Christmas Day in 2015.

Yukimi Takahashi, the mother of Matsuri Takahashi, a Dentsu employee who committed suicide in 2015, with her attorney Hiroshi Kawahito

Of course, it does seem like some professions work harder than others. Investment bankers, advertising executives, software engineers? I worked in advertising and it was common for my Chairman to typically convene a sudden urgent meeting at his residence on a Saturday or a Sunday. Besides of course upsetting your work-life balance and getting your family terribly angry for not being there for a Sunday family lunch, I used to come out of those meetings thinking how unnecessary they were and how easily they could have been managed as part of the working week.

But most people in the group that attended the meetings at the Chairman’s residence were perhaps thinking about them in quite some other way. That they were the chosen few whom the Chairman thought well off, and that as a result of working on Saturday and Sundays this would ensure their rapid progress in the company. On that following Monday people would be showing off to other employees about how the Chairman had called them to his residence to show their progress into the ‘ inner circle’.

But what I have realised is that a hellish work culture typically breeds bad work. There is no way that you can strive for excellence if you are constantly overworked. But more importantly, you almost always regret ever having had to go through this phase a few years later.

One of the things that have always puzzled me is how Indian companies make their employees work six days a week. Or at least alternate Saturdays. For most employees who have come out of a multi-national work culture, it is a big shock to work on Saturdays. But often the lure of money and rapid career progress most people think outweighs the disadvantages of working a 6 day week. Is that right?

Wrong. If you are in this mode of overwork you will realise ten years later, that you would have been a happier man or woman just earning a little less, you will regret all the time that you didn’t spend time with your family, and all the evenings you came home after your children went to bed at night. Unfortunately, you can never recover the time you lost doing things for yourself and your family.

So think well before you work your next late night or your next weekend.

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Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc (solsarc.org ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( whiteboardindia.org ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.


  1. I am fully agreeable to the contents. Personally I had the experience of working 6 days a week that too from Sunday to Sunday leaving Monday as the weekly holiday and got deprived of the pleasure of being with my family on weekends and this went for 27 years. I can’t relive those days.

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