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Forever working

Workplaces have become omnipresent, thanks to the developments in information and communication technology.

During Deepavali, some guests came to my home. We were very excited to meet after a long time since COVID-19 had halted such rendezvous. The guests stayed for about an hour and left. During this precious one hour, three phone calls ringed on my father’s mobile phone, two on my aunt’s and one on my uncle’s. All of these were from their respective workplaces. Anytime our conversation attained some engaging heights, a phone call disturbed the vibe.

Apart from attending the phone calls, these people were routinely checking their WhatsApp official groups for any important message. The last 15 minutes were spent discussing how mobile phones have increased the working hours.

Technically, nobody was working as they were neither in their offices nor working from home, but the deemed free time was getting wasted in the activities concerning their offices. The conventional norm of eight hours of work, eight hours of rest, and eight hours of leisure did not seem to be working out in today’s work scene. Productivity in post-modern societies cannot be judged based on quantified units such as “hours”, but still, there has to be a limit as humans have other needs as well.

Ostensibly, technology has facilitated revolutionary changes in our work culture. Work from home has become a reality. Video conferencing and webinars have penetrated even the minds of the technophobic. While technology has turned our houses into the workplace, capitalistic considerations have not transformed the workplaces into a home sweet home. Moreover, laptops, smartphones, and the Internet have made it possible even to work outside the working hours.

Work in modern societies is considered not just a means to earn a livelihood but also a means to express oneself. It is intricately fused with our very identities. It offers opportunities to attain work satisfaction as well, but not always. Neither is everybody getting work of their aspiration nor is everybody having autonomy enough to decide how to organise their work. Flexible working hours are welcomed by most of the employees but only so far till they do not overburden them. Here, I do not intend to demean the idea of work; rather I aspire to highlight the coercive aspect of the same.

The problem arises from the inadequacy of our legal codes which even today define work in a factory setting. What exactly constitutes work? Is it the time spent at the workplace or does it also includes the efforts made at home, outside the working hours? The tertiary private sector seems to be utilising this loophole very well to its advantage, not to speak of the informal sector. The question is, if your boss calls you late at night and assigns you a task, would you say “No”? Furthermore, is this not encroachment into leisure time?

Albert Camus opined, “The society based on production is only productive, not creative.”

Productivity is crucial in attaining work satisfaction, but to attain life satisfaction, creativity cannot be compromised. Work satisfaction cannot be attained in an exploitative atmosphere and to usher in creativity, leisure time is indispensable. The demarcation between work and leisure is getting blurred in present times, with work enjoying the primacy. Work is supposed to develop individual capabilities and add meaning to one’s life. To foster this in the present times, human resource management has to unleash innovative ways to synergise personal and organisational needs.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 12:15:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/forever-working/article33480512.ece

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