Time And Again

Today, when I read this article, one sentence jumped out at me.

What I really struggle to understand is how making somebody work for 20 hours per day is “time-effective”.

This is something that has always bothered me. Our work culture is such that we appear to encourage the 20-hour day as a norm rather than as an exception. If someone leaves the office before sun-down, it’s seen as a breach of protocol rather than normal and sensible.

Sometimes I felt it was because of the fact that the average age of the employees is very less. Single folk (forgive the generalization) don’t mind spending a lot of time in office. For starters, they are at the beginning of their career, and the enthusiasm is still there. Another factor that contributes to this in my opinion is that most of these folks are away from home. They would far rather stay in the air-conditioned comfort of an office where you get good stuff to eat in the cafetaria, friends to hang out with, and (depending on the organization) access to the internet. Why go back to a dingy little room you are sharing with two other people and all its discomforts? Of course, I am tarring young employees with a rather broad brush, and I assure you that no offence is intended.

The other thing that contributes, in my opinion, to 20-hour days is the Indian style of project management. For some reason, Indian project managers (and I have been guilty of the same error) are a breed that brim with optimism. We apparently believe that we have superheroes at our disposal, so our estimates are often so optimistic that perhaps even superheroes would balk at them! Things which could easily take a week to implement are squeezed within two-three days, and two-three days are reduced to one day. The motives for doing this could be many, such as client pressure or low budgets. But obviously these unrealistic estimates result in 20-hour days. It takes time to do a good job, and there really can be no short cuts.

In case you feel I am against Indian project managers, let me assure you that it is not the case. I have worked with some really brilliant and effective project managers and learnt a whole lot from them. I’m talking more of a tendency here for us (and I’m including myself) to squeeze the estimate.

I haven’t worked in the corporate world for nearly ten years now. I am not familiar with current project management practices or how things are nowadays in most offices. Since I am an individual contributor, I have a fair say on my estimates. So I’m hoping that the 20-hour day due to project management is a thing of the past, or at least greatly reduced, and people work the 20-hour day because it is something that excites them. Now that would be an ideal world, wouldn’t it? 🙂

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