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Setting boundaries and limits

Archan Mehta |

In India, as in many other agricultural societies, the problem of work-life balance did not arise. This is because the rhythm in agriculture is consistent with the family life. However, as we enter into global competition, there is an increasing workstress.

A study by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations found that India’s rapid economic expansion has enhanced corporate profits and incomes but has sparked a surge in work place stress that only few companies have addressed.

In fact, this particular pressure is stressing our employees more than workers in any of the countries surveyed.

For example, 61 per cent of employees in mid-sized firms have reported higher levels of stress against 55 per cent in small business.

This could be due to the potential of downsizing. With increasing competition and no fixed hours, employees feel that they are losing balance between their work and family life. In this connection, Sarang Panchal of the Nielson Company said, “In the last few years, we have noticed a number of new opportunities opening up for the Indians especially in the service sector.

However, better opportunities along with good packages and growth prospects bring in a long work schedule leaving individuals with very little time to balance their work and life. Demanding careers have dominated the lives of many young Indians for some time now and it takes a toll on their family life. It is not a surprise then that most consider work-life balance as their biggest concern.”

The economic environment also emphasises a higher rate of GDP growth. India’s growth rate has increased dramatically from what was pessimistically referred to by economist Raj Krishna as the “Hindu rate of growth” of below two per cent in the 1980s to a rate of 7.6 per cent in2015- 2016. However, an increasing rate of growth does not come free. Working women are especially hard hit by the increasing work-life imbalance.

Many believe that even though they work outside the home, it is not their primary source of fulfillment from life. Although the employment and status has been changing due to the forces of modernisation and industrialisation, this change has been slow. There is also huge drop-out rate for women in the workforce.

Although there are no statistics who suffer from work-life imbalance, it could be logically argued that current trends in employment are against their improving work-life balance. It must be mentioned that workers in agriculture, forestry, fishing and the hunting industry seem to have a lower prevalence compared to all employed adults including women.

Organisational structures which are as yet hierarchical despite globalisation play a major part in employee stress caused by lack of control on the job.

Even though there is a trend for working from home in Western countries, this does not imply lesser conflicts. One has to finish work in a timebound fashion even if he/she works at home. They cannot abandon their accountability because of the working from home.

In the corporate world, emergencies frequently arise and require to work beyond regular hours. This form of conflict occurs when work demands make it more difficult to fulfill family role responsibilities.

Sometimes, the job is not well-defined and may involve the employee in multiple frustrations resulting in conflicts. Many organisations believe that work-life balance initiatives can be part of health and safety programmes.

For this, the suggestion is a strong health and safety policy for employees. But this solution is lopsided. Instead of merely focusing on such issues, it is important to look at holistic solutions. When people are asked to work beyond their capacity, they get frustrated. And there is no mechanism in the company for venting this frustration. There is also no “one size fits all” answer.

Psychologists have offered many solutions for job stress in the workplaces including the stress caused by work-life imbalance. They advised the employees to reduce job stress by practicing yoga, getting help from spouses and in-laws. Women employees are encouraged to use labour saving devices at home and cooking easy recipes for meals.

Thus, a more flexible schedule of work may ameliorate this problem. In many countries, there is a five day workweek with few public holidays. The new work arrangement has not reduced but increased the productivity.

In contrast, we have a sixday workweek in India, but more than 20 public holidays. Such excessive can be rationalised and the workweek may be reduced.

(The writer is a consultant and copywriter)