Pick something you love doing, experiment and put in effort in the early years but don’t forget your health, is the more nuanced consensus on the 18-hour workdays and hustle culture debate sparked off by Bombay Shaving Company CEO Shantanu Deshpande’s LinkedIn post.
“When you are 22 and new in your job, throw yourself into it. Eat well and stay fit, but put in the 18-hour days for at least 4-5 years,” he wrote in a post on the professional networking site earlier this week.
Start-ups, while holding a great attraction especially for the young employees for the workforce with their perceived flexible and casual atmosphere, pool tables and free food and drinks, are also known for their sweatshop-like working styles, especially closer to high-pressure deadlines.
“At start-ups, there is no expectation of hours of work. You are expected to take ownership & initiative, and get things done without being told or reminded. There can be periods when you need to put in long hours and periods when you would have the regular work hours, but honestly more of the former, especially if your start-up is creating disruption and growing gangbusters,” says T.N. Hari, co-founder of Artha School of Entrepreneurship, and former HR Head of bigbasket, says it becomes important to pick jobs which you will love so that long hours don’t burn you out.
Sanam Rawal, Partner at Passion Connect, the HR advisory firm of Blume Ventures, says that today founders, unfortunately, create a work ethic for themselves due to their goals of reaching the top and expect everyone else to believe the same which is not appreciated. “The chaotic and fast changing experiences of a start-up lead employees to believe it is ok to be working 18-20 hours a day for an outcome that is super blurry to them. This is where HR comes into the picture. To ensure that people don’t burn out, the HR needs to be there to mediate and guide founders on what is expected out of the employees," Rawal says.
After facing serious backlash for his post, Deshpande in another post on Thursday eventually apologised and said it would be his last post on LinkedIn.
The debate comes amid high levels of attrition in the IT industry, one of the largest employers of the country’s white-collar workforce, as well as coining of terms such as the ‘The Great Resignation’, ‘Quiet Quitting’ to indicate employee sentiments in the post-pandemic world of work where they have re-assessed their life’s priorities.
Rawal says the average working hours in the start-ups within Blume’s portfolio ranges from 10-12 hours. “Many of them have policies where you can choose to work for how many ever hours provided the outcome is what is expected out of the business. Companies also provide bunk beds and sleeping pods to ensure that in case you have a longer day, you take some rest to be productive enough. For instance, Locus.sh provides bunk beds at office for employees and an unlimited leave policy,” she says.
For most people, their early 20s is when they have comparatively fewer responsibilities, more energy and the ability to experiment a lot in their career, exploring various job roles and finding the one that they are passionate about, says Aditya Narayan Mishra, Managing Director and CEO, CIEL HR Services. “Although working 18 hours a day is practically not possible, the effort that you put in during this period will indeed play a key role in deciding your career path going forward. This definitely should not be at the cost of one's health, the young generation needs to find a balance between staying fit and pursuing hobbies and gaining a lot from their work by learning as much as they can.”
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