Techies talk about working on Onam and other public holidays

After last week’s fun, flowers, sadyas and Mavelis, Technopark had an almost deserted look this week, with most of the 240 IT companies within the campus shutting shop for the festive season in Kerala, and with a majority of the 30,000-plus techies decamping for at least two days to spend the holiday with family and friends (some, such as those who work at Suntec Business Solutions, even got four days off for Onam!). But for a few techies, especially those working in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and those working on project deadlines, work doesn’t always come to a standstill when the calendar does, whether it’s Onam or Makar Sankranti or any other regional/national public holiday, for that matter. For these techies, usually, work holidays tend to be on the holidays in the ‘host’ countries, where their projects are based – July 4 (Independence Day in the United States) for those working on American projects, Bank Holiday Mondays for those working on British projects, being examples.

“Working when it’s a public holiday in India can be a bit of a dampener,” says Arun M., a human resources (HR) professional who was until recently working with a multi-national IT firm that handles a lot of West Asia projects. “It’s kind of suffocating, especially when you see empty bays in the office and realise you have to plod through the next eight hours at work while every one is away enjoying. You get this feeling that you are missing out on something…,” adds Arun.

Unlike Arun, though, surprisingly, most others who opened up to MetroPlus didn’t appear to be too concerned with working on public holidays. “You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. There’s no point in complaining; you have to know what you are getting into when you sign up for the job. It’s actually not too bad. While working on a holiday like Onam, the main thing is that you miss out on having sadya with family/friends and spending quality time with them. However, once you get to work you just don’t have time to think about what you’re missing,” says techie Uday Kiran, who spent last Onam at the office. Agrees techie Renjusha Varma adding: “Of course, it’ll be an unpleasant day at work! And sometimes not too productive a day. But it’s part of the job. I’ve travelled to client sites on Independence Day, Republic Day… However, I politely put my foot down, when I was asked if I could work on Onam.”

Says Anush Cherian, chief executive officer of Krossark Consulting Services: “I didn’t mind working on holidays while I was a bachelor. If we did work we would get compensatory leave and/or double pay, which I thought was great then. After marriage, though, my priorities changed and I didn’t look too favourably at working on holidays. In Kerala, Onam is by far the biggest festival of the year. I’ve found that it’s important for employee morale to give them a couple of days off. So while our other offices outside the State functioned, it was a holiday here.”

Across the board, administration services such as HR, marketing and sales usually get off on public holidays and it’s those who work in IT application and maintenance and BPO divisions and the like who end up working on holidays. “If such a scenario arises, everyone in a particular team won’t have to work. Generally, it’ll be pared down to the minimum numbers required,” says Anush.

However, this does not mean that IT firms are stringent with holidays. In keeping with labour laws in the country, it’s mandatory to give 10 to 12 days off a year. Most techies have weekends off and in some companies you get compensatory leave for working on Saturdays too. In addition, some companies also have a set of ‘restricted’ holidays where employees have the option to choose the public holidays that they want to avail themselves of . “It depends on your team and how efficiently you juggle your leave. For example, for a person from Karnataka, Onam may not be as important a festival as say Dussera. So if your team is working on some processes or applications, which need constant monitoring, then that team member may volunteer to work during Onam. Keralites in the team would step up when it comes to festivals in other States,” says Uday.

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