Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why We Should Go Home On Time

Mr. Narayana  Murthy is undoubtedly one of the most famous persons from Karnataka. He is  known not just for building the biggest IT Empire in India but also for  his simplicity. Almost every important dignitary visits InfoSys campus. He  delivered an interesting speech during an employee session with another IT  company in India. He is incidentally, one of the top 50 influential people of Asia  according to an Asiaweek publication and also the new IT Advisor to the  Thailand Prime Minister.

Extract of Mr.  Narayana Murthy's Speech during Mentor Session:

I know people  who work 12 hours a day, six days a week, or more. Some people do so  because of a work emergency where the long hours are only temporary. Other  people I know have put in these hours for years. I do not know if they are  working all these hours, but I do know they are in the office this long.  Others put in long office hours because they are addicted to the  workplace.

Whatever the  reason for putting in overtime, working long hours over the long term is  harmful to the person and to the organization. There are things managers  can do to change this for everyone's benefit. Being in the office long  hours, over long periods of time, makes way for potential  errors.

My colleagues  who are in the office long hours frequently make mistakes caused by  fatigue. Correcting these mistakes requires their time as well as the time  and energy of others. I have seen people work Tuesday through Friday to  correct mistakes made after 5 PM on Monday.

Another problem  is that people who are in the office long hours are not pleasant company.  They often complain about other people (who are not working as hard); they  are irritable, or cranky, or even angry. Other people avoid them. Such  behaviour poses problems, where work goes much better when people work  together instead of avoiding one another.

As Managers,  there are things we can do to help people leave the office. First and  foremost is to set the example and go home ourselves. I work with a  manager who chides people for working long hours. His words quickly lose  their meaning when he sends these chiding group e-mails with a time-stamp  of 2 AM, Sunday.

Second is to  encourage people to put some balance in their lives. For instance, here is  a guideline I find helpful:

1.        Wake up, eat a  good breakfast, and go to work.

2.        Work hard and  smart for eight or nine hours.

3.        Go  home.

4.        Read the  books/comics, watch a funny movie, dig in the dirt, play with your kids,  etc.

5.        Eat well and  sleep well.

This is called  recreating. Doing steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 enable step 2. Working regular  hours and recreating daily are simple concepts. They are hard for some of  us because that requires 'personal change'. They are possible since we all  have the power to choose to do them.

In considering  the issue of overtime, I am reminded of my oldest son. When he was a  toddler, if people were visiting the apartment, he would not fall asleep  no matter how long the visit was, and no matter what time of day it was.  He would fight off sleep until the visitors left. It was as if he was  afraid that he would miss some thing. Once our visitors' left, he would go  to sleep. By this time, however, he was over tired and would scream  through half the night with nightmares. He, my wife, and I, all paid the  price for his fear of missing out.

Perhaps some  people put in such long hours because they do not want to miss anything  when they leave the office. The trouble with this is that events will  never stop happening. That is life! Things happen 24 hours a day. Allowing  for little rest is not ultimately practical. So, take a nap. Things will  happen while you are asleep, but you will have the energy to catch up when  you wake.


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